No, You Are Not

***This post was one I was planning a few days ago but ended up going to sleep before posting. Here, it appears in its entirety. Now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.***

I’ve posted about reality television before, and my love/hate relationship with it over time, but the current state of reality television is deplorable.

Reality TV used to be so cutting-edge, trendy. You had the community building shows of Survivor and The Real World.

And then, other things happened. I’d thought I’d seen the worst of it, from My Super Sweet 16 to The Anna Nicole Show to anything starring Paris Hilton, a Kardashian, or a Real Housewife.

But these were all just mile markers on the road to Hell. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, but we’re getting close with MTV’s Are You The One? It’s a show where 20 young, pretty and serially single people (10 male, 10 female) are sent to a house in Hawaii. The prize money: one million dollars. The task: find their “true matches” among the group, decided by some combination of “personality tests, interviews with friends/family/exes, computer analyses, and matchmakers (and oh yeah, some producers).”

Normally, right about here and now I would post a picture of something pertaining to the show here, but I can’t even bear to look at it, so here’s Adam Levine with his thoughts on what I’m about to share with you:

Nearly everything about this show is wrong. Completely, categorically, ethically, morally, genuinely, physically, wrong.

Let’s not even start with the people; let’s just start with the concept and given circumstances.

The concept of the show is simple: it’s basically like Concentration, only with human beings instead of cards. There are potentially 1000 (don’t quote me) combinations of housemates. More on that later. But what is MTV trying to prove? There is absolutely no reference to any sort of independent verification that these “couples” are anything other than arbitrary – for all we know, they could be changing them every week just to screw them over and confuse them – no statisticians, no named advisers, no Pat from Ernst & Young with the results envelope. It’s as shady, opaque, and nonsensical as a television show concept can get. This concept might be meant to give viewers at home the impression that “hey, anyone can find love!” but it comes off more as “these attractive people can find love because we picked them to spend every waking moment together for the next few weeks during which they will pair off, sooner rather than later!” Like many other dating shows, it engages in what I’d like to term single-shaming. What I mean by that is that it gives off the message that 1) being single is not okay, 2) if you are single, there is something wrong with you, 3) everyone’s first priority should be to hook up with someone, 4) that someone is worth more if he/she is attractive, 5) hooking up is more important than getting to know someone and 6) if you are sexually promiscuous, you merit one million dollars.

As most MTV shows are, it’s a tropical location in Hawaii, in which most of us can’t even fathom living. And of course, there doesn’t seem to be any food in the house, but more alcohol than a frat party. The above two facts are pretty much staples, but what takes the cake is the bedroom situation. There is only one, gigantic bed for 20 people. Granted, there is a private room with a bed for two, but that’s clearly meant for something else, something that is probably going to happen in the other bed. It’s a tossup as to what MTV is glorifying more in this setup: a bordello or an orgy. Basically, MTV is begging these people to have sex with one another when the whole show is about finding one’s perfect match. If you knew your perfect match was there, would you want to know that he/she has done every other member of the opposite sex in the house? That’s just a setup for major disappointment, pretty much ensuring that none of these relationships will last.

Then, there’s the people.

To start with a positive note, there is plenty of diversity among the group, which is a good thing; only about half of the cast is white. The rest are a mix, however, in true MTV fashion, no Asian males are represented, and the only Asian female could just about pass for white. On the negative side, look at their bodies. All the women are shorter than the men, skinny, toned, and with long hair. All the white girls except one are blonde. All the men are built like athletes, and I believe that all but one or two has tattoos. Not one person on the show is overweight, underweight, has body hair, has any sort of physical disability, and aspires to be anything other than a model/actor/musician/DJ/dancer/singer. Nor are there any homosexuals, when statistically, there should be at least two. And none of them have an ounce of self-respect.

How they’re playing the game is completely wrong. What is more important, getting drunk and having sex on MTV’s dime (which will eventually go away, and soon) or trying to beat MTV at their own game and win the million dollars (which will last longer and have a much bigger impact on their lives, either as couples or as individuals? Obviously, the second, but nobody here is using their brains. They get several chances to discover who the couples are with the “truth booth” and the moonlight ceremony-thing, but it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to get a pen and paper, make a chart, and plot their guesses rather than taking shots in the dark. Seriously, people? Prioritize.

The “competitions” are the height of lameness and laziness. The first competition did nothing but promote flaunting one’s body, by taking selfies of any part of their body (some of whom merit TV blurs); an activity that is rewarded here, but is seen as shameful in the outside world. Ogling over each other’s pictures and guessing which body part belongs to whom is an exercise in one thing: physical beauty is the only thing that matters.

There is not one iota of truth in any of the interactions or confessionals shown on TV. Usually, on shows like this, sometimes genuine emotions slip in, and sometimes the editors are smooth enough to fool the viewers. Here, nobody’s fooling anyone. Every single thing looks manufactured. One of the episode’s subplots involved two girls fighting over a bed, encountering drama at every turn and involving every single person in the house, regardless of where they were at the time and if they had a stake in – or even knowledge of – the actual problem. When another girl steps in to “help,” you can almost hear the producer whispering in her ear, “hey, go follow her, talk to her, and when she starts to talk, don’t stop and listen, just get louder, and if she won’t stop, just clap your hands at her.” Another subplot was the theft of one of the guys’ personal diaries. It seemed like everyone in the house except for the victim knew where the diary was and who took it. In fact, in one of the confessionals, a girl even says to the camera who did it, thereby killing any sort of suspense. Then, they switch over to the guy who did it, whose reason for doing it is so lame and rehearsed that even a first-grader could make up a better answer. Of course, the diary is found when the camera scrolls to the love seat in which it’s hidden, and the incident completely disappears from the rest of the episode. Oh, and then there’s the fact that the night vision cameras in the “private bedroom” have put things on TV that wouldn’t even appear on the Spice Channel…

I can’t even. I just can’t even. I can’t believe I actually watched this crap. It made me feel dead inside. Screw you, MTV, I want those two hours of my life back.

15 thoughts on “No, You Are Not

  1. I think you’re opinion of the show is very understandable-here’s my two cents to add based off your take:

    1. The show does definitely have the vibe of “Real World/Road Rules” meets “Big Brother/Hell Date”. I think the producers wanted a way to recreate the drama from their classic flagship shows while making it appear as if they’re doing something fresh. As you stated, all the tried and true reality tv hints at orchestrated chaos are prevalent, and the way the show is edited leaves you not having a good idea of the chemistry amongst the group as it pertains to potential matches, but more so who is willing to do the most to keep the attention of the cameras.

    2. While yes there is diversity in the cast, the show proves, if anything, underlying issues in dating amongst the minority community, especially when the “interracial” dynamic is put into play. To make my point I’ll use the “John/Simone” match as a a case study in relation to the group. Looking from the vantage point of the typical Americana fraternity crowd, both would be on the bottom of the totem pole (John being the socially awkward nerd with a party streak-and Simone the boisterous, aggressive, quintessential definition of a new-age “hood” black girl). Their immediate bond can be easily mistaken for simply jungle fever with a shot of tequila, when in actuality it was an attempt at gaining power in the house/game by both. Simone, like many women of color today, see showing interest in white men as an opportunity to buff miffs, experiment, establish credibility as a desirable co-ed amongst the masses in social environments, and in the case of the mtv show, gain attention of the black male participants in a vain attempt of forcing them to compete for her affection (more on the compete word later). For John, the premise is simple: get brownie points for “pulling” anything with breasts early on in the game, thus getting a chance of moving up the totem pole. In turn, the female/females he actually IS interested in may look at him differently, thus reciprocate his sophomoric attempts at courting (I.e. Jacy). Other signs can be traced to the “schoolyard kickball” approach the group uses to pick their potential match each week. The 1st week saw Coleysia, the smart southern belle with a demure persona, picked last by default by the one male who made a point of highlighting the racial dynamic between he and Ashleigh in a portion of the first episode where the bunch were first introduced to each other, Dillan (after Ashleigh essentially asked him to give her his first impressions of her). The elephant in the room could not have been more obvious at this point, especially considering for the first two rounds that the males chose, none of the black participants picked their racial counterparts. Even while seeing the non-black cast besides John stick to the “americana” script when courting/flirting, the black members of the show seemed to almost make a point of staying away from each other (particularly the males). As of the third episode, the only exceptions were when Coleysia chose Wes during the first female selection round, and this week when Dre chose Ashleigh. Of course, it shouldn’t be a rule that each black person on the show automatically is the match for the other, nor should it mean that they shouldn’t explore possibilities in matches with any and every one of the opposite sex involved. It does, however, say something that there are 3 equal counterparts racially of clear African-American descent. Considering the objective for them all is to find who they are most compatible with, and when also observing the way the group tends to see each other from a chemistry standpoint (and hook-up), it is rather dissapointing that the black cast members are doing the exact opposite of their non-black cast members and not using their innate similarities to their advantage at the very least.

    3. Too many of the cast members are competing with each other for them to actually complete the task of finding the perfect match for all contestants. While so far in the show Chris S. seems to be the main culprit of this fact-quite a few of the women are also guilty of this as well, hence more squabbling amongst the females than males have been on display at this point. With Chris S. being the outright winner of the latest challenge, one would think that he could take on, at least to a minor degree, the role of de facto match making leader. Using his limited knowledge of a good amount of the females, he, along with candidates such as the charismatic Dre and physically desired Chris T., could work with all the other males like a team, comparing/contrasting interactions with all the women and taking a record of each selection rounds’ results in an attempt to identify each person’s ideal match. So far, they are doing the exact opposite, with multiple examples of the cast stepping on each other’s toes (I.e. Wes/Ryan & Kayla) for personal gain, even if it is a fleeting carnal encounter that more than likely proves they are not a match.

    In conclusion, I feel that while my perspective on the show’s execution may be slightly different-we both agree that e-harmony on cable it is not…

    • Peezy,

      Thanks for your in-depth comment! Wow. Okay.

      Let me start by saying that I was truly interested in the concept and watched the second episode followed by the first, sometimes with the television muted so I could focus on my work, and sometimes because I couldn’t stand the sound of their voices or what they were saying.

      1. Thank you. The producer bias is indeed pretty appalling. Granted, it’s hard to give adequate screen time to 20 people in an hour, but you could tell just who wanted that attention (Shanley, Chris T., Simone, John, Kayla). The fact that these are the only five I can recall off the top of my head says something about the show.

      2. Here’s where I’m kind of puzzled. I do agree that John/Simone do seem like they’re the oddballs of the group, but I think you’re giving them way too much credit. From what I remember, they seemed to click pretty early on, and then stage a fight for the cameras, solely for the purpose of screen time. I do not think that either of them is smart enough to pull something like what you described; after all, the whole show is basically about hooking up and getting attention, period, not working your way up the chain. If they indeed came up with that strategy, they’re smart in the sense of getting what they want, but stupid in terms of sabotaging the game and screwing their way out of a million dollars. As far as the race thing goes, I don’t really find many problems in the cross-racial pairings, nor would I find fault in the 3 African-American guys pair up with the 3 African-American girls. I’d like to think that MTV is PC enough to look beyond skin color since the cast is certainly willing to do that. While skin color is a factor and it might be something worth considering for the 6 of them, it’s not a be-all end-all.

      3. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, none of them understand how to play the game.

      But you know what would be an interesting twist? For one of the guys to be gay and one of the girls to be lesbian, and for every round that they fool the house into thinking that they’re both straight, THEY get $1000 added to their pockets, and if they get sent to the truth booth together, they’re out of the game for good. That would be fun to watch, esp. seeing the guy/girl hide their opposite-sex attractions and using their knowledge of their own sex to play mind games with them.

      • I hope that did not sound like an attack. It was not meant to be. Folks know when I’m in attack mode and this was not it. In my head I was agreeing, it just did not reach my fingers before I pressed ‘post comment.’ And if I were to rephrase my comment I would say ‘I gave up on MTV about 2 decades ago in terms of quality programming, as did they!’ – that’s the slant I was aiming for, more general terms, not pointing the finger at you specifically for watching it and reviewing it.

  2. This is the definitive comment on reality shows. What everyone seems to forget is that there are cameras and crews standing all around filming these shows and directors overseeing and suggesting lines. Reality? One that continues to succeed and is shot about five blocks away from me is “Big Brother.” Oh, brother! I want to chase them out of the neighborhood.

    • Thank you, English Professor. My deepest sympathies on your Big Brother neighbors. At least they’re probably confined in a well-contained, security-patrolled area where they can be corralled and controlled if things really get bad.

  3. I think I watched the first Survivor eons ago and just not even remotely interested in any of the fabricated REALITY since. I cant even remember when the first Survivor was it has been that long… I concur with it being SO SO wrong, and appreciate your details. Sad that people are interested and actually entertained by it.

    • The very first season of Survivor was filmed in 1999 and it aired in 2000. It’s actually fascinating to watch episodes from the original season today; it’s an entirely different show. Sure, those episodes seems slower-paced, but it’s closer to a documentary/social experiment than the game show it is today. Jeff Probst’s role is a LOT smaller, the game wasn’t all about tribal council/alliances (which didn’t even really exist yet) and the editing actually showed 16 three dimensional people that had their bad sides and their good sides. And of course, Susan Hawk’s unforgettable snakes-and-rats speech that made television history.

  4. Seriously, I can’t make it through one of those shows. Well, there was this one time, but I don’t count that. Survivor and Big Brother, I guess that’s twice.
    Thank you for making your post an informative and entertaining experience 😀

  5. I’ve never heard of that show. It sounds like I’m not missing much. I’m surprised that you’re surprised they had anything but very attractive people on there. TV is not known for putting people who look like the rest of us (who aren’t TV stars) on TV! 🙂

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