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Pop Culture, Scourge of the Onelies (cross-listed as Guilty Pleasure no. 72x.5): Millionaire Matchmaker February 20, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, Dating, Heteronormativity, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys.
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On Wednesday, Christina wrote a confessional post — and now it’s my turn: Ladies and Gentlemen, I must confess that sometimes, after a long Thursday, when I just want to kick back, have a beer, and relax in front of the TV, I watch Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker.

OH I KNOW — you can stop throwing tomatoes at your computer screens (seriously, STOP – your computer will crash and I want you to read the rest of this post!)… I admit it, I’m horrible!! But it’s like … looking at the sun: The show just oozes with so many god-awful heteronormative-hole assumptions, I can’t muster up the strength to look away!

Here’s how the show is set up: Patti, the matchmaker, gets paid by millionaires to help them find intelligent, beautiful, successful, funny women to date. But here’s the catch – in order to stay in the “Millionaire’s Club,” the millionaires have to stick to her rules, which include: 1) Planning and coordinating all dates (taking the “lead,” as a “real” man should); 2) No sex for the first three months; and 3) commitment to basic life changes/communication habits, such as, don’t talk about yourself all the time when on a date (duh!), and get rid of the butler and start answering the damn door yourself! Patti calls all of this “courtship,” and she demands that her millionaires also commit to future goals of marriage and (sometimes) kids/family.

Already, the premises are glaringly flawed according to the Onely (feminist and queer) perspective – on a basic level, it’s clear that Patti is working to promote and maintain American nostalgia for the “traditional family” and the “naturalness” of heteronormative coupling practices. The show, and Patti herself, serve as perfect reminders of how these beliefs about sexuality and “the way things should be” remain normalized in popular culture today: Patti’s insistence on the “naturalness” of heterosexuality trickles down from the rich and powerful, helping to shape everyday beliefs and practices.

But there’s more – not only does Patti insist on what Adrienne Rich would call “compulsory heterosexuality,” she is willing to ignore red flags and probably bad matches for the sake of “getting the job done.”

In the episode I just watched (with great guilt, alleviated only by the fact that I was taking notes so I could write this post!), Patti stood her ground against one 45-year-old’s hangups about age (he only wanted to date women in their 20s) by throwing out this telling non-sequitur:

Peter Pan doesn’t end up wih the love of his life at the end of the party!

Oh, so that means we should couple up even if we don’t end up with true love?

And now, I’m going to go hide in a cave somewhere, I am so overcome with shame and regret for consuming this junk-TV d-lite. Even with a beer in hand, I’m not so sure it’s worth it.

— L

Oh, and P.S. — did anyone notice that I never even had to specify that by “millionaire” I meant “male” for you to know what I meant?


1. Vanessa - February 20, 2009

The recent promos for the show promote the basic concept you describe (and I have watched the show in the past but that lady bugs the shiz out of me, so I can’t stand more than a few minutes at a time). Anyway, at the end of the promo they say something along the lines of “and this season we even have one millionairess”! WTF? Since when do women millionaires need their own appelation? OK, scratch that, I just looked it up on the OED and apparently millionairess was used in the late 19th century. Anyway, the surprise in the promo at the fact that either (a) a millionairess actually exists (b) she would need such a service or (c) she’s actually attractive was insulting.

2. Special K - February 21, 2009

Crap, Crap and more crap, this show and other shows attempting to artificially pair up people SOLELY because they are single. Being single DOES not mean you need to be fixed up. I HATE these shows, as I HATE overall women’s magazines. Why don’t we have a show about matchmaking for friends? Because honestly, both women and men in their later years tend to SUCK at establishing intimacy and community platonically…

3. bobby - February 22, 2009

I have to say, I’m glad that I haven’t caught the show yet! I do watch other “reality” type shows, but for the laughs 🙂

4. onely - February 24, 2009

Vanessa — thanks for the commentary about language! The “millionairess” episode was actually the one I watched before writing this post — it was so ridic, b/c she got paired up with a millionaire instead of with a “commoner.” And the millionaire was supposed to be in charge of everything in order to fulfill the appropriate gender role. BLECH.

SK — Matchmaking for friends ==> excellent idea!! Though there have been some recent bizarro shows such as Paris Hilton’s “My New BFF” and Bromance, starring Brody Jenner. How do you feel about those?! 😉

Bobby — good call; don’t bother with MM. Terrible, terrible show 🙂

— Lisa

5. Singlutionary - February 24, 2009

Onely, I love you again! I sometimes wish I were stupid enough (and skinny/big boobed enough) to go on a dating show. I wish that all I wanted was a man to make my life complete and to give me a diamond ring while down on one knee, to marry me in a big huge traditional marriage festival steeped in sexism and then, at long last, to impregnate me with his 12 children which he (the millionaire) will pay to support while he finds solace and sanctuary with his mistress with the virgin uterus.

It would all be so simple if I could just accept the status quo on all fronts. I’m sure I’d get some rockin’ wedding presents including maybe *gasp* a yacht? Plus diamonds are forever/a-girls-best-friend.

Unfortunately, my best friend is a dog. And I’m against diamond mining.

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