The sucker is you
Hi. My name is Amy, and I'm watching Joe Millionaire, and yes, I know I suck.
I realize that there's a special place in hell for people like me, and that there's no such thing as pleading "But it's the only 'reality show' I've ever watched! Ever!" Claiming that exception has more in common with "But I didn't inhale!" than it does with any semblance of truth, and it gets you no free ride into any of the slightly cooler circles of hell.
I know this show has to be scripted, or at least planned out to the nth degree, and yet Jeff and I finish up coding tasks on Monday night and scurry into the living room to watch it as soon as our TiVo has recorded enough of the show for us to fast-forward through the commercials.The only guiltier pleasure I've ever found is sticking my index finger directly into a jar of Nutella, swiping out a bit, and then putting the jar back on the shelf. I haven't done that in a couple of years; I'm trying to reform, see?
But it's so easy to revile these women - it's like shooting fish in a barrel, except far easier and far more sinfully gratifying to my ego. It's awfully easy for me to sit on the couch, with my spouse sprawled out on the love seat next to me, while giggling at women who thought their best chance at love would be prostituting themselves for [someone they believed was] a millionaire.
Greed can turn us into truly appalling beings.
They make it awfully easy for us to turn into holier-than-thou couch potatoes: all these women, knowing nothing about the man in question, choosing to put their lives on hold to present themselves as future mates to some Very Rich Man. After all, money makes dreams come true, and, along those lines, an inheritance of fifty million dollars is likely to gloss over all but the most grotesque of social or physical issues.
I'm equally fascinated and repelled by the show. Much of that duality has to do with my beliefs about women's roles in society. Unlike some radical feminists, I don't think I'm innately better because I'm female. I don't believe in 'grrl power' or 'ovaries über alles' - I just want the ability to choose the direction of my own life without gender-related hindrance or prejudice.
Truth be told, that qualifies as feminism, but standing under that umbrella lumps me with a lot of women that I wouldn't want to find waiting for me in the back of a dark, deserted alley.
Somewhere, women like Gloria Steinem are seeing the premise of Joe Millionaire and are desperately trying to avoid beating their heads into the nearest wall. I can't say that I blame them, really; at the turn of the last century, American women were trying to explain to their husbands, fathers, and sons that they were capable of casting a ballot or requesting a divorce.
Unfortunately, the decisions by the women competing on Joe Millionaire are ultimately part of what feminism was about: giving women the right to self-determination that has historically belonged only to men. It's very similar to defending free speech: it means defending not just your words, but the words of people you don't like. Words you hate, often said by people you wish would mysteriously disappear from the planet.
The same is true about feminism: it was about being able to make our own choices, even if they are counterproductive, wrong-headed, or just excruciatingly stupid. In the end, that's why I'm watching. These women are on this show of their own free will. For each, the decision to appear - and compete - was of her own volition.
I could never compete on such a show. Of course not - I'm married. Strike that. I would never compete on such a show; it goes against my nature and my beliefs.
However, it is not against my nature, nor my beliefs, to sit on my couch and watch a group of women make complete idiots out of themselves on national television, while they compete for the attentions of a man 1) that probably isn't worth competing for and 2) under pretenses that virtually guarantee no true, honest relationship would ever form.
Jeff and I know it's not unscripted reality TV. It's likely that the women on Joe Millionaire have been coached, to one degree or another, of the roles that they should play over the course of the series. It's probably equally likely that Fox has an ace up their collective sleeve - a network willing to lie to their show's contestants would also be equally likely to cast a lie or two in the direction of the audience, as well.
I've decided that I'm waiting on the 'gotcha!' to come in the last episode. Sure, he might be a 'poor' construction worker (and, realistically, competent construction workers can make pretty good money), but wouldn't it just be smashing after a) he confesses his lack of money to the Chosen Woman and b) she says she cares for him anyway that ...
c) Fox, in a generous gesture for their willingness to appear on the show, gives each of them tidy, wealth-inducing sums of money as 'payment for appearing on the show.'
You know the rule: if you're playing poker, and you're looking around the table and can't find the sucker, the sucker is you. Fold your cards and go home - or, in this case, pass the popcorn and tune in on Monday nights.
Here's to human stupidity, and waiting for the secret plot twist that's probably already on its way to our TV screens.