Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Michelle Cottle, who apparently covers the "men are pigs" beat at The New Republic, is now complaining about the misogyny of "Joe Millionaire". The "reality TV" series presents a bevy of women attempting to win the heart of a fabulously wealthy heir--who is in fact a penniless construction worker set up with a mansion and butler by the show's producers. To Cottle, the scenario "plays to the basest stereotypes about...the shallow, bitchy, gold-digging, back-biting ways of women." (Andrew Sullivan agrees, although he considers the women's gold-digging to be defensible as "self-protection" and "prudence". Then again, he doesn't have to worry about offending a wife or girlfriend.)

Now, I haven't seen the show, nor have I even discussed it with anyone who has--and perhaps that's the point. While I'm not much of a television watcher in general, there are few shows that I would be less interested in watching than this one. And without having studied the Nielsen demographics, I'd be shocked if the gender breakdown of "Joe Millionaire"'s viewership weren't roughly approximated by that of its cast. Reality TV-minded men--if any exist--are surely much more likely to check out "The Bachelorette" for tips on scoring with a hot ex-cheerleader, than to watch a bunch of shallow, bitchy, gold-digging, back-biting women fight over some loser. (Not that catfights can't be entertaining, of course--it's just that they have to be the right kind....)

If I'm right, then Cottle has no business pointing her accusing finger at the network that serves this stuff up, when all it's doing is catering to the millions of women who are flocking to watch it. Besides, the show could have been much crueler; for example, it could have offered the women the chance to date a penniless construction worker, only to reveal him later to be a multimillionaire computer nerd. Now that would have been a nasty deception!

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