Suddenly, Being A Trophy Wife Doesn’t Seem So Bad
From TV to TikTok, pop culture is obsessed with women living the good life.
When Mrs. Daphne “I Don’t Watch The News” Sullivan sauntered onto The White Lotus with her Prada ’fits and placid smile, fans expected to either hate or pity her. After all, the acclaimed HBO series became famous in Season 1 for its satirical roasts of its wealthy and privileged characters. And yet, by the end of the season’s eight episodes, Daphne instead came out a hero — a problematic fave, sure, but someone who illustrated an alternate narrative to the sad, unfulfilled trophy wife trope many viewers expected her to represent.
Daphne (in a star-making turn for Meghann Fahy) may have initially seemed unaware of the infidelities and general ickiness of her toxically masculine husband, Cameron (Theo James). But as fans came to learn, her ignorance was a conscious choice. (“Don't feel bad for me,” she told Aubrey Plaza’s cynical Harper. “I’m not a victim.”) By the time she’d revealed she had a “trainer” to keep her occupied and satisfied, fans had realized Daphne wasn’t a helpless housewife stuck placating herself with spa days and shopping sprees — she’d decided what kind of life she wanted and what she’d tolerate to live it.
Contrast this with The White Lotus’ Season 1 take on a similar archetype: After spending her entire honeymoon questioning her life choices, newlywed (and newly wealthy) Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) decided to stay married to her husband, Shane (Jake Lacy), a disappointment to fans who’d been rooting for her to ditch the bratty man-child and pursue her journalism career. Where Rachel was criticized by the show and viewers alike, Daphne came off like a domestic genius. The dichotomy between the two storylines is just one piece of evidence that a new era of trophy wife is upon us, and the girlies are celebrating her.
The move to embrace the modern trophy wife isn’t just seen on TV. Hypebae dubbed “trophy wife brunette,” a rich, shiny brown hue, the hair color of 2023. TikTok’s #TrophyWife hashtag, which has more than 228 million views as of Jan. 26, is filled with videos of wealthy women documenting their daily routines and less wealthy women (some jokingly, some totally straight-faced) sharing their dreams of quitting their jobs and finding someone to financially care for them. New brands of trophy wife are also cropping up: The “stay-at-home girlfriend” has arisen as a trendy Gen Z lifestyle within the past year. (See also for those a bit older: full-time mom with a full-time nanny.) However you spin it, it’s never been more *in* to be a privileged person who enjoys the benefits they reap from having a wealthy partner.
Obviously, the trend isn’t without its discourse, much of which is merited. For starters, not everyone is obsessed with Daphne’s brand of blasély enlightened trophy wife. Pop culture commentator Cat Quinn posited in a December 2022 TikTok that Daphne wasn’t living her dream, but rather, she simply did what she had to do to feel better about her circumstances. “Daphne is doing all she can to avoid the emotional and cognitive discomfort that she’s feeling in her life,” Quinn said, quoting psychologist Jaime Zuckerman, Psy.D., to illustrate her point. “Avoidance impacts your ability to be present, to maintain and forge new relationships … and down the road, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and isolation.”
Others take issue with the glamorization of relying on a spouse for financial support. Speaking about the rise of stay-at-home-girlfriends last year, wellness influencer Laura Henshaw said, “This is really dangerous because it means the person who stays home is very likely to have zero financial independence … [which is] one of the key contributors to financial abuse.”
All over TikTok, young women attempt to reconcile their trophy wife urges with their feminist ideals. But as gender equality evolves over the decades, so too should the conversations surrounding being a trophy wife. The term has long been used derogatorily to describe a woman — often young and conventionally attractive — who marries a wealthy man. But if someone finds a life of leisure more fulfilling than a career, and they’re able to make that choice with her eyes wide open, without sacrificing their wants, needs, and safety, maybe they don’t need to be immediately shamed. (And hey, maybe they can use some of their abundant time, money, and resources to help others who are in less privileged circumstances.)
Ultimately, being an honest-to-goodness trophy wife isn’t feasible, nor even desirable, for most of the population. But watching these women unapologetically live their lives — on TV, TikTok, or IRL — provides a fun, exciting escape from everyday life. Because after a day of grinding away at your 9-to-5 for a paycheck that’ll barely cover your weekly Sweetgreen splurge, what’s the harm in daydreaming, just for a moment, about a rich investment banker whisking you away to live in a gorgeous home, take luxurious vacations, and get spoiled with gifts?
Perhaps 2023’s version of the trophy wife isn’t an actual title to embody but rather a state of mind. With popular low-lift lifestyle trends like goblin mode, quiet quitting, and soft living ushering out the hard-hustling ~girlboss vibes~ of the 2010s, stigmas surrounding rest and leisure are finally falling by the wayside. People from all walks of life should feel free to claim trophy wife energy for themselves — even if they work for a living, even if they’re single, even if they don’t identify as a woman. These days, being a trophy wife may just be as simple as being a person who demands — and receives — the life she wants to live, whatever that may look like.