Monday, August 31, 2009

Week of 08/31/2009

Fauxmance Versus Real Misery
– by David Matthews 2

They claim to be real. They claim that it IS real.

It’s about as real as a three-dollar bill.

I’m talking about so-called “romance reality shows”. All of those so-called “reality” programs where you have large numbers of either men or women (or in some cases both) competing for the “affections” of just one person. Rat maze shows with “the girl” or “the guy” as the ultimate prize.

I’ve talked about these shows at length previously. This isn’t the first time I’ve blog-hated on this genre of television programming.

But this time more than hearts were broken.

This time an innocent life was taken.

The innocent in question was Jasmine Fiore, a former bikini model, and ex-wife to VH1 reality TV contestant Ryan Jenkins. According to police reports, Jenkins strangled Fiore to death, presumably after a fight, then pulled out all her teeth and cut off her fingers to prevent identification, then stuffed her body in a trunk. The police had to identify her through her breast implants.

When the police started to hone in on Jenkins, he fled to Canada, where he killed himself in a motel while still on the run.

This came not long after Jenkins started appearing in the VH1 series “Megan Wants A Millionaire”, where dozens of single men with a net worth greater than $1million would compete for the “heart” of a materialistic and determined trophy-wife wannabe named Megan. It also happened after Jenkins was paid for a SECOND VH1 series called “I Love Money 3”, which has previous reality show contestants coming back to compete for more money.

After the death of Fiore and after the police named Jenkins as a “person of interest”, VH1 cancelled the “Megan” show and later killed “I Love Money 3”, ensuring that it would never air on television. They also pulled any mention of the “Megan” show from their website, On Demand cable service, and iTunes subscriptions.

But that didn’t free them from the inevitable questions that came once his history came out. A history of repeated violent behavior, including a charge of criminal battery against Fiore just prior to her death. If bloggers could pick up on that criminal past, why couldn’t the producers behind the two VH1 shows spot it when they ran background checks like they were supposed to?

Maybe because they were only looking for felonies? Or maybe they were looking for charges in America, not in his home country of Canada?

Or maybe… just maybe… they just weren’t looking.

It’s possible. Maybe they were in a rush, they just looked at the personal references and said this guy couldn’t hurt a fly. He did, after all, fool a lot of people.

Or maybe someone with some stroke in the show said “Unless you produce a dead body, this guy is on the show, period.” It’s all completely possible. He was, after all, charming and disarming. He was skilled at fooling a lot of people into thinking he was harmless.

Coming from this, one thing needs to be pointed out: Jasmine was NOT involved with VH1, and neither VH1 nor the company that produced the two shows in question had anything to do with her death. The fault in this tragedy falls squarely on Jenkins, an apparent short-fuse that finally consumed himself, but unfortunately not before taking the life of someone else.

It is also regrettable that it would TAKE a tragedy like this one to kill off a pseudo-reality show like “Megan Wants a Millionaire”, and only on the premise that a killer should not profit from their crimes. If anything, shows like this one have been doing the very same thing.

These dating shows are all based on illusions and gimmicks. They’ll say that “looks don’t matter” and that “age is just a number”, but you’ll notice that in these kinds of shows, when they bring IN the people that supposedly “prove” their claim, they are the earliest ones eliminated from competition.

In “Megan”, you had a kindly old man who would have been the kind of sugar-daddy that the girl in question would have sucked up to easily. No doubt he was there to prove that “age didn’t matter”… and yet he was one of the first people eliminated.

This goes all the way back to my personal blog-hate target, NBC’s “Average Joe”. In each of the three incarnations of that cruelest joke, the contestants were selected from the worst of the worst, on the premise that they would have a shot at winning the heart of the “beauty”. And what happened? The worst of the worst, the oddities, the ones that they used for all their commercial spots… they were ALL the first ones eliminated.

The ones that survive, of course, are the ones that “look good”, or at least better than the rest. And in the first two of those three incarnations, they had a chance… until the boy-toys arrived. The boy-toys that had all of the advantages and ended up with the beauty. In fact the only way the “average guy” won in the third and final incarnation of that sick joke was at the very end when he had help.

But that, of course, is just the extreme example. All of the others are glorified and dressed up, but they still follow the same pattern. The ugliest and oldest ones are eliminated, the pretty ones survive and win the girl or guy, and we’re led to believe that they will have a happily-ever-after.

And in most instances it’s all for show. You can count the number of times such pairings have translated into REAL marriages with one hand, and not even using all five fingers!

Sadly, though, this isn’t even new or original. Reality has plenty of instances where there have been marriages of convenience or that were held together even though they are nothing more than illusions at that point. If the shams were made public, they were often the talk of tabloids or made-for-TV movies which would highlight how WRONG they were.

But now, let’s get brutally honest here… thanks to television producers, this kind of intellectual and emotional fraud can be marketed, glamorized, and glorified for all the world to see. Now it’s no longer shunned… it’s celebrated and idealized.

Not only that, but it is REWARDED. Even if you don’t “win” in that initial fraud, if you’re a good enough “character”, you’re allowed to try for money and stardom in other pseudo-Reality TV shows, and you may even get lucky and be rewarded with a fauxmance all your own.

I would love to think that this tragedy, while only connected on a peripheral sense, would cause television executive to re-think their love for such programming. However I seriously doubt they would. Reality TV is nothing more than the fast food of programming. It’s relatively cheap to create, it gives a false feeling of satisfaction, and it allows its viewers to waste countless hours instead of thinking about the real problems in our world. And as long as someone doesn’t DIRECTLY die from reality TV, they’ll continue to serve up their fast-food regimen to the eager masses.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Though I'm glad that the little gold digger isn't getting any more fame, it's a shame what happened. Other than Joel McCale making fun of those shows on The Soup, most of them are useless.