Episode 21 – 90 Day Fiance

 

This episode: 90 Day Fiance, Season 4, Eps, 1-6, 14.  Watch it on TLC.com (cable sub required).  Purchase it on Amazon Instant Video.

Next episode: Behind Bars, Season 1, Eps. 1-8.  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

[A brief note from Mike: I had replaced my mic – fruitlessly, it turns out – and since I’ve had to record at my parent’s house with no immediate access to Audacity, due to a technical problem with my brand of mic and the Win 10 Creator’s Update, I didn’t realize my gain was too high.  I was able to more or less fix it in a similar fashion to our episode on Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai when I had a similar audio issue, but like that episode, the audio is a little shaggy at points.  My apologies.]

We are back with yet another reality TV extravaganza about the topic of love and romance (albeit a conception of ‘love and romance’ that may be a little bit more mercenary), this time with the infamous TLC show 90 Day Fiance.  With the assistance of an excellent article on the figure of the ‘mail-order bride’ in popular culture, we situate the different couples from each storyline within the dominant stereotypes of commodity, victim, or victimizer (or how, in some cases, they run counter to them).

We also discuss larger issues of different cultural definitions of marriage as either a vehicle for romantic love or as a straightforward legal and economic transaction, the show’s ‘male gaze’, and the show’s depiction of foreigners and foreign cultures.  Finally, we return to our usual staple topics of the show’s authenticity, worldview, and appeal, along with a brief discussion of the role of technology in facilitating (and ‘nurturing’) these long-distance relationships.

Show Notes and Links

1:15 / Mike floats an idea for a spin-off

1:52 / Introducing this month’s show

3:20 / The show concept and episodic structure

6:25 / Mike wasn’t bitter about purchasing this one (Mike mentions two lowlights – Monica the Medium and TOWIE)

7:23 / Our previous experiences with the show

8:36 / Introducing this month’s article: ‘Mail-order brides’ in popular culture: Colonialist representations and absent discourse, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 15, Issue 4, by Bonnie Zare and S. Lily Mendoza

11:02 / The stereotypes mentioned in the article: commodities, victims, and victimizers

12:07 / JS makes an amusing Freudian slip (the idiotic conspiracy theory Mike is making fun of is covered here by Snopes)

12:36 / Jorge and Anfisa’s storyline (Amy’s Baking Company is covered on our episode on Kitchen Nightmares)

16:44 / Jorge’s anti-feminism made him much less sympathetic

18:05 / This was the most stereotypical of the storylines

19:07 / Returning to the article – Russian women as “victimizers”

20:21 / Russian sex ratio imbalances (Wikipedia article and article on Russian-Chinese marriages)

22:02 / Discussing Jorge and Anfisa on the tell-all episode

23:24 / Matt and Alla’s storyline

27:31 / Contrasting cultural differences around marriage between Alla and Matt’s family

29:37 / Is Alla a “victimizer” stereotype like Anfisa or is this different?  Is the “victimizer” stereotype rooted in anxieties about the modern conception of marriage?

31:40 / The presence of the child makes the couple more sympathetic

33:20 / Chantel and Pedro’s storyline

35:40 / This storyline runs counter to the traditional ‘mail-order bride’ narrative

37:03 / Mike makes a brief digression to their storyline’s continuation on Happily After Ever

37:37 / Discussing the show’s ‘male gaze’ (particularly in regards to Chantel)

39:30 / Are we more sympathetic towards this couple because of our cultural bias toward romantic love?

42:15 / Returning to the article – this storyline runs counter to the racial and gender ‘script’ that the article references

44:06 / Although this storyline goes against the grain in many ways, the couple is still traditional in their conception of gender and marital roles

45:53 / Nicole and Azan’s storyline (we mention the websites OkCupid and Omegle)

50:34 / Mike was surprised that Azan was surprised about Nicole’s weight; JS has a personal story about online dating

52:44 / We thought Azan wasn’t someone who came off as “eager for a green card”

54:15 / Talking about the cultural differences regarding religion, public displays of affection and the role of husband and wife

56:17 / Contrasting the show’s depiction of their families

58:23 / Mike praises the show’s portrayal of Morocco and how it countered stereotypes of foreign countries as (to use the parlance of our racist prez) “shitholes

58:57 / Transitioning to the eternal question of authenticity; Mike contrasts the visual style of the tell-all episodes of the main series and Happily Ever After (the article Mike mentions about the ‘scripted’ line is here)

1:00:12 / Chantel’s meltdown on Happily Ever After (check the outro for the clip) and other over-the-top moments made Mike question some of the authenticity of the main series

1:01:32 / JS’s instinctive read on the show’s authenticity

1:02:44 / Mike gives some examples of possible producer manipulation (The reality TV deal Jorge and Anfisa supposedly inked is here and the $45,000 dress is covered here)

1:03:58 / Mike’s Grand Unified Theory on the show’s authenticity (Our episode of Bridezillas is here and an article providing more fodder for Mike’s theory on Jorge and Anfisa is here)

1:04:57 / A brief discussion of technology on the show, particularly the role of FaceTime and other video chats

1:07:32 / Closing with the usual discussion of the show’s appeal and our personal reactions

1:08:32 / JS thinks the show’s appeal lies in its generally authentic portrayal of both success and failure

1:10:35 / Mike thought the most interesting portions of the show were when the relationships were more ambiguous than the straight success/failure dichotomy

1:12:01 / Does this show have a message regarding these kinds of marriages?

1:15:58 / Debuting our totally original rating system

1:16:11 / Our upcoming episodes (our episode with Dave on Hell’s Satans is here and our first episode on America’s Most Smartest Model is here): The Fashion Hero and Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jail

1:18:49 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review us, and subscribe

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Episode 8 – Bridezillas

 

This week’s discussion: Bridezillas, Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 19-20.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Kitchen Nightmares, Season 5, Eps. 1-6, 16.  Watch it on Hulu.

We are back with our usual twosome, after another close shave with our schedules, to bring our loyal listeners the long-teased episode on Bridezillas we’ve been talking about. To summarize the show in a sentence, it was, quite frankly, probably the most entertaining show we’ve watched for the podcast so far.

We start out by hitting the highlights of the individual episodes and reliving our favorite tears and tantrums before going into why we believe this show may not quite be a completely faithful representation of ‘reality’ and talk about its overall evolution from playing it relatively straight to going over the top.  We then praise the gonzo and hilarious sound design and graphics post-production as well as the snarky narrator, who has a near endless supply of catty one-liners.  Finally, we wrap up by going beyond the humorous aspects of this show’s appeal and explore what it has to say about our modern conceptions of gender and marriage.

Show Notes and Links

1:03 / JS makes his triumphant return

1:45 / Introducing this week’s show

2:46 / The ritual summary of the ‘high concept’

3:35 / The typical bride’s story is divided into two episodes (which we thought was brilliant)

4:37 / We were surprised that more reality shows didn’t adopt this format

5:35 / Identifying the larger tropes and stereotypes of the show

6:48 / Typical Bridezilla – is super demanding, but not in an efficient way, has to be incompetent as well to be on this show

8:05 / We both found this show highly entertaining

9:30 / Briefly covering Haley and her in-laws

10:16 / Summarizing Ariel and Brook

12:34 / Ariel and sexual ‘TMI’

13:40 / Talking about a questionable piece of ‘creative editing’

14:08 / A detailed breakdown of the episode as a template for the show

16:28 / Mike gives an example of a minor variation

16:56 / Transitioning into Dezjuan’s arc

17:26 / A ‘romantic’ dinner gone wrong when Mom shows up

19:00 / Talking about Dezjuan’s grandma – who we both thought was great

20:11 / Discussing Dezjuan’s trainwreck wedding

21:14 / The show’s tendency to try to tease us into thinking weddings will fall through

21:37 / Amanda from Texas – where JS began to suspend his disbelief

22:46 / She was pretty frank to the producers about faking an illness

23:38 / Making a jump to Episodes 19-20 and going over Angela’s arc

25:44 / The main theme of her story – conflict between the bride and the groom’s sister

26:13 / The highlights from the second half of Mai-Lee

26:55 / JS liked the more laid-back, carefree grooms on the show

28:02 / Mike’s favorite Mai-Lee moment

28:25 / Breaking down Adrienne and Waylon’s episode

29:15 / Waylon was a highlight – zombie weddings and waxing

30:18 / This show may not be meant to be taken at face value

31:09 / The interview with Angela that Mike references

31:48 / The show sets up moments and does retakes

33:15 / How the show has evolved since its perhaps more ‘realistic’ beginnings (We both mention a lawsuit)

34:45 / By Season 10, everyone is clearly in on it

35:52 / Discussing the financial compensation

36:46 / The weddings filmed for the show are based on the optics of the narrative being pushed (particularly around social class)

38:00 / Mike noticed a reoccurring character who shows up at opportune times

39:05 / The fights seem to be patched up rather quickly for ‘reality’

39:45 / A call back to our discussion of ‘scripted reality’ in Episode 2 (This is how it’s done, TOWIE!)

40:35 / Segueing into the topic of humor and the show’s post-production

41:10 / Going over our favorite sound production moments

42:45 / This show has an awesome narrator

44:10 / Mike relives his favorite quips

45:04 / The music and graphics are also really funny

46:50 / Discussing an unfortunate Bridezilla who got into legal trouble because of the show

48:27 / Mike found Angela’s reaction to the final product amusing

49:36 / Mike’s theory of this show’s appeal: It deals with our cultural anxieties about marriage

52:43 / By taking these insecurities and blowing them up in a humorous way, this show achieves a type of catharsis

53:25 / JS thought the relationship between bride and groom reminded him of the relationship between husband and wife in traditional sitcoms (JS mentions the show The King of Queens)

55:55 / Talking about how this show reflects real-life anxieties and stresses about wedding planning

57:20 / The sexist nature of the ‘Bridezilla’ stereotype and its relationship to our gendered expectations around weddings

59:13 / How this show both subverts and reinforces our idealized views of weddings

1:00:43 / Mike’s ‘wedding planning’ experience and JS’s actual wedding planning experience

1:02:07 / A perennial 42 Minutes of Reality observation: Watching these trainwrecks can make us feel better about our comparatively milder shortcomings (Is this a public service?)

1:03:39 / Introducing the show for our next podcast

1:04:55 / A quick scheduling announcement (actually posting more like Sunday evening, though Mike said Monday)

1:06:00 / The usual announcements: email, rate and review, (and also subscribe, even if Mike forgot to say it)

Episode 7 – The Millionaire Matchmaker

 

This week’s discussion: The Millionaire Matchmaker, Season 5, Eps. 6-11, 13 (+ Season 2, Ep. 6; Season 3, Ep. 3; Season 4, Ep. 8).  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Bridezillas, Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 19-20.  Watch it on Hulu.

Unfortunately, we had to postpone our discussion of Bridezillas for another couple weeks due to some scheduling issues on both our ends (JS was busy last weekend and I’m busy this weekend).  However, my friend Ross was graciously willing to step into the breach on short notice in order to discuss one of his favorite reality TV franchises, Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker.

The format is a bit more freewheeling this week (a bit of a throwback to our first episode) but as we process our different takes – Ross’s veteran experience and unabashed enjoyment and Mike’s hot-off-the-presses gut feeling and conflicted opinion – we cover several issues, including: the show’s glamorization of lavish lifestyles, the host’s control-freak personality and strange old-fashioned worldview regarding gender and romance, the show’s ideology of individual responsibility, and the bizarre courtship rituals of the ultra-rich.  But don’t worry – we don’t forget to bash the inane douchebags, laugh at the ridiculous dates and awkward mixers, make fun of Patti’s stable of pseudoscientific ‘experts’, discuss awkward first dates and break down that moment when your crazy-eyed prospective ‘husband’ offers you that glass of fermented sea urchin with a side of duck embryos (mmmmm…tasty!)

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Mike introduces his new sidepiece and they engage in some mandatory ballbusting of a certain absent co-host

1:58 / Introducing this week’s show

2:45 / The show’s high concept

4:10 / Summarizing the episodic formula

7:20 / Starting off with our impressions of the host, Patti Stanger

8:26 / Ross does his best Kellyanne Conway impression

9:28 / Mike was not a fan of Patti, didn’t think she was any good at her job

12:05 / Discussing the elephant in the room: the fact that these people have tons of $$$

14:00 / Akin to a high-end escort service – only for marriage instead of sex

15:03 / Patti’s old-fashioned worldview of gender and romance

16:45 / Some of her advice is good – but she never follows it!

17:50 / Discussing the show’s treatment of Patti’s personal life

19:42 / The show’s relentless superficiality – quite odd for a show supposedly based around ‘true love’ and marriage

21:33 / Patti emphasizes change: both superficial and personal, but there is no give in terms of meeting her clients halfway

23:16 / Ross makes the argument that Patti’s coaching, although off-base at times, can nudge the client towards a subtle positive change

24:43 / Is the show about fairy-tales or disasters?  (Hint: that’s a rhetorical question)

26:39 / A fairy-tale episode with a real-life prince

27:28 / Segueing into the structure and presentation of the dates themselves

27:40 / If a millionaire has an issue, their date will inevitably bring it up (perhaps some coaching?)

29:12 / The dates are often edited to emphasize that the failed dates fail because the millionaire doesn’t follow Patti’s advice

30:20 / Each unsuccessful date often has an ‘explanatory moment’ that shows why and when the date goes off the rails

31:36 / Two ‘hot tub’ moments, two different results

34:00 / Patti’s annoying self-righteousness about a client’s criminal past

35:05 / A brief comparison of the two openly religious clients

36:45 / The one time Mike liked Patti – making fun of Mr. ‘Bibles and Boobies’ (and why he didn’t like her more often when she acted similarly towards other douchebag clients)

38:50 / The two categories of millionaire clients

40:20 / Patti’s issues with introverted men

42:45 / Instead of personalizing her matches, Patti tries to push people into predefined roles

43:35 / Discussing awkward moments on first dates

45:20 / Patti has ‘a great relationship with the gays’ (just like Trump has ‘a great relationship with the blacks’ – Really!)

46:42 / These dates seem like job interviews (Also, why is there so much talk about marriage and kids on the first date?)

49:12 / The novelty of extended dating before marriage (which is also easier to do if you are younger)

50:18 / Ross offers Mike a nice pint of hemlock

51:02 / Patti’s philosophy is reminiscent of ‘The Rules’ (Mike also mentions its even dumber male alter-ego ‘The Mystery Method’)

52:56 / Mike loved the awkwardness of the fake smiles and applause at the mixers

53:47 / Pro-tip: Don’t ask the women you’ve just met how ‘sexual’ they are

54:09 / So much for karmic justice…

56:18 / Douchebag guys are portrayed as learning their lesson – but we’re skeptical

56:40 / Mike’s brief aside on the bullshit occupations on this show

57:10 / The awkward pool party mixer

58:28 / Patti’s gendered double standard about ‘gold-digger’ relationships

59:05 / Patti and her dumb ‘tests’ (Mike managed to dig up the abstract of the study he was referring to)

1:00:27 / Patti’s tests give her the opportunity to blame her clients for failure

1:00:50 / The cardinal sin of this show: challenging Patti

1:01:30 / Starting our discussion of Shauna the ‘crazy cougar’

1:02:30 / Some producer magic in Shauna’s entrance?

1:03:40 / Another tip: Don’t send your blind date a dress to wear

1:04:25 / Mike discusses his impressions of the ‘reunion’

1:05:57 / Ross drops his knowledge by summarizing the various tie-ins with other Bravo properties

1:06:48 / Mike thinks they’re both horrible, but at least Shauna knows how to do image management

1:07:13 / Ross goes on a tangent about Patti’s reboot, Million Dollar Matchmaker

1:08:21 / ‘A very special guest’ (who has something she wants to share with you about vaccination)

1:09:15 / Laughing about all the stupid shit that Patti believes in

1:11:20 / Talking about the creepy investment banker and his disaster date

1:12:42 / Getting all the freebies while you can

1:13:28 / Duck embryos…dude

1:14:17 / The satisfying comeuppance (which, according to Mike, Patti herself failed to deliver)

1:17:05 / These suitors seemed more interested in status than love and personality

1:18:58 / The ‘new money’ background of these millionaires

1:19:25 / Mike discusses the high-end escort service in Floating City (which he mentioned briefly in our episode on Divorce Court)

1:21:01 / The women on the show struck Mike as similar to the escorts depicted in Floating City (The TMZ article he cited)

1:22:39 / The façade of the ‘career woman’ in elite circles

1:23:35 / Show’s philosophy reflects American norms about individual responsibility

1:24:08 / Ross alludes to Pygmalion; Patti often tried to suppress people’s personality quirks

1:24:48 / Wrapping up with a discussion of the show’s appeal

1:24:57 / Mike had conflicted feelings about this show, wonders if this is Bravo’s brand? (Mike also mentions the show Vanderpump Rules)

1:26:00 / Ross explains what he found distinct about this show compared to Bravo’s other reality shows?

1:26:57 / Mike felt Patti was the millstone around this show’s neck

1:27:43 / What Mike would want from an alternate host of this type of show

1:28:54 / The show could have worked with Patti, but it needed more authorial distance and less taking itself so seriously

1:29:55 / Would a more sincere matchmaking show be as successful as this one?  (Our original conversation about success and failure in reality TV took place in our first episode)

1:31:07 / Mike found the episodes where the clients with potential seemed set up for failure to be unrewarding

1:32:23 / Bravo sells a certain lifestyle (Would the show have worked better if the show honed in more on clients who fit that image?  Or do you need the diversity?)

1:34:53 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate and review us, and subscribe