Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tough Love

On the heels of the success of Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker, VH1 has created its own matchmaker reality show, Tough Love, featuring mother/son “Master Matchmakers” from Philadelphia. The show mostly features Steven Ward, the son and Chief Executive Officer of the family dating business appropriately titled “Master Matchmakers.”

This is my favorite reality show of the moment mostly because I hate its nonchalant sexism so much that I can’t stop watching. Steve, expert on “knowing what women are thinking,” sorts through the female contestants’ “dating issues.”

In episode one, Steve gets to know the women, and begins to counsel them on how to get men to actually care about them. He imparts such wisdom as “men can’t fully care for anyone until they have a child” and “flaunting your ‘fun bags’ won’t get you a serious relationship” or, my favorite, “if you keep dressing like that, you’re going to get raped.”

Aside from giving dating advice, Steve also confronts the oldest woman for having never been married. He plays the usual cards: she’s too into her job and she has “serious control issues.” One of this woman’s potential dates explains his uneasiness with her by stating that he would rather be with someone who had at least been divorced once, because then he’d know nothing was “wrong with her.” Since, you know, some dude had at least liked her enough to marry her.

I have long tortured myself by being an avid reality TV fan. So, I know that it goes without saying that music-based cable channels aren’t exactly coming up with groundbreaking material, but this show in particular bugs me. Mostly, I think it’s because it takes a pretty benign subject – helping people find a date - and turns it into humiliating women. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling show concept. They take a bunch of women who have already explained at length that they have had a bad history of dating and then blame selective, stereotyped “scary” girl personality traits for giving them the dating trouble. Steve hooks them up with guys who want to make it work for the sake of the show and the airtime they receive and there you have it - guy knows best.

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