A Dose of Reality: Joe Millionaire
by Amanda Jones
Published: January 7, 2003
It seems so elementary, doesn’t it? You meet someone, you overcome circumstance and obstacles that are in the path of every pair of people, you fall in love. The equation is a simple one when reduced to that boiling point. Money’s of no real import; it’s not a catalyst, normally, or at least it shouldn’t be. I would venture to guess that for most people, this is the case. If, however, you find yourself in a situation where television producers (who, I must point out at this time, are not necessarily always known for their honesty) have told you that you will be meeting a person whose net worth is in the neighborhood of $50 million dollars, your expectations are far different than they would be if you were simply trolling for guys at you local wing place. The women contestants on Joe Millionaire, for the most part, are not bad people, I am sure. They have been lied to from the onset of their adventure, and will be lied to until its conclusion. It is horrifying; the difference between $50 million dollars and what you or I will ever see in our lifetimes is more vast than I can truly comprehend. This experiement is going to end badly; hearts will be broken, time and time again as the women are whittled down to a field of one lucky winner. It will shake the very core of trust in the woman who wins, as she is clued in to the lie she has been made to live on national television. Most importantly, though, this show will capture the American viewership like a bear whose leg is caught in a trap; making us wonder as a nation if it is worse to admit to yourself you’re stuck, addicted to the impending carnage, or to chew off your leg and run from the TV? I’m on the couch.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Your Bachelor
Evan Wallace (Marriott) rides up on a horse (Note to producers: How freaking hard would it have been to get the man a white horse? Have you people never read one of those damn fairy tales you purport to be scripting currently?) to the entry of a chateau in France where 20 women of varying ages and degrees of cattiness await his arrival. What they’ve been told is that he’s recently inherited the aforementioned fifty mill, but that he feels that his life is really incomplete because he has nobody with whom to share his inheritance.
We at home have already had our chance to see Evan in his native garb and his native land, doing what Evan does. Evan is a construction worker. Evan eats fries from McDonald’s four at a time while on break from his construction worker job. Evan drinks beer. Evan’s coworker/friend voices over for us that he’s a nice, sweet guy, and that his shyness precludes him from doing very well with the ladies. We see shots of Evan shoveling dirt, driving tractors. We hear Evan tell us that he’s been told by women that he’s “not ambitious enough.” He seems somewhat frustrated by the dating scene. Frustrated enough to sign on to a show where he gets to lie to twenty women about his bankroll to get revenge over the gender who has pretty well on a whole dismissed him for not being a doctor or a lawyer, as he tells us so candidly? I guess yes, that he’s that frustrated.
I don’t buy the Evan-as-nice-guy schtick very much. It’s easy to understand how tortured the show’s producers want us to believe he is over his situation (mainly because it’s brought up constantly, but I do get that that’s the point of the show – if there weren’t a lie, there’d be no show, right?), but what my friends seemed to be missing as they phoned me during commercial breaks was that Evan-the-nice-wholesome-guy signed up to screw these women over. He signed up to be a lying bastard. He signed up to be the lone queen in a game otherwise stocked well with pawns, and any pity I’d feel for him otherwise flies out the window as he gripes about his grappling with the guise – “You asked for this, you moron. It’s not you, by a longshot, for whom I’m feeling sorry right now.”
I can buy Evan-as-Pretty-Woman, though. His etiquette lessons, while not as Pygmalion-esque as I’d been led to expect by reading internet spoilers prior to watching the show, were quite amusing. Watching him dance with himself, choke on his wine, ruminate about licking the hand of his assigned etiquette coach, and lament over all that darn crystal is amusing in part because Evan is basically a hired lummox and in part because we’ve all had moments (and if I can admit this, so can you) where we were unsure our Emily Post skills were up to par with our company. His mild distress as he’s quizzed about what sort of wine to serve with which dishes is almost endearing. His uncertainty, however, that salmon is a fish made me flounder – where did they find this oaf?
We meet the women, one by one, and some stand out as stereotypes we recognize. Heidi, for instance, shapes up quickly to be the queen bitch, Melissa M. shapes up to be the down-home girl with a nice smile, but for the most part, they lump well together into a group of moderately attractive women who are trying too hard to win the affections of a man, they have been told, whose checkbook and future are bright with promise. “I don’t want to be the breadwinner,” says one woman, who, unfortunately for her, winds up getting picked to advance to the next round. In their testimonials, almost all of the women obsess at least some about the cash. I’m pretty sure we’re meant to be horrified by this, but with even a modicum of understanding about their situation (you know, prostituting themselves on national TV, having a $50 million carrot dangled in front of their noses), it’s tough to be angry about this. All we are, really, is embarrassed for them.
We learn from our host, Alex McLeod (who is as useless and robotic here as she was during her stint on Trading Spaces), that a ball will take place with only the twenty women and Evan in attendance. The women seem terribly excited, but for those of us following along at home, it seems a markedly bad recipe for a party: nineteen women standing around in formalwear, snarking at their competition, while one woman at a time spends quality time with Evan. How is that fun? If you invited me to a party starring myself, nineteen other women, and one measly man, you can bet your ass I’d rather stay home and watch reality TV than attend. In addition to the miraculous outline above, an additional catch is that only twenty dresses will be provided, from which each contestant much choose one. One poor woman, whose body type is “different” (per another contestant) is left with the final dress, which simply will not, any amount of tugging withstanding, fit her. She is forced to swap with another girl for her own blueberry monstrosity, which is only marginally better. You could practically hear the others laughing at her misfortune.
The last laugh, though, belongs to the devil in the blue dress, as she is one of the lucky (??) twelve to advance to be given a pearl necklace by Evan, signifying that she will advance to the next round. Eight of the women are mercifully dismissed from the charade, with, surprisingly, only one of them being reduced to public tears. It is noteworthy that one woman appears to be stealing a bottle of wine as she moves back towards the real world: “I went on Joe Millionaire” and all I got was this lousy bottle of wine!” Our queen bitch and girl-next-door both advance as well. It’s most interesting to note how differently the contestants are viewing this experience; it’s those with cavalier attitudes about the game for whom I’m finding myself rooting, not those who are obviously prepared to fight tooth and nail for the booty – well, and the booty. The more insouciant women seem to be not as interested in winning the money, and truly interested just in winning the heart of the guy (the cash is just a big bonus). Really, that’s what the show is supposed to be about. The guise is that the show’s all about love, the hook is that it’s actually all about money, and for poor Evan, the guise is the truth. There’s no way anyone can really win here. There’s no way it’s not going to end badly. And there’s no way in hell I’m missing this show next week.
And now, in what will become a small addition to every recap of Joe Millionaire, Jim Van Nest will chime in with the male perspective on the show.
Ok, so I started seeing commercials for Joe Millionaire and quickly dismissed them as the worst type of reality tripe known to man. But the problem was, I wasn’t listening. It was a couple weeks before I heard the big catch…our millionaire isn’t a millionaire. Suddenly, I’m interested. Suddenly, I’m wondering if the Gods of karma could possibly grant me one wish…get Darva Conger for this show!
Ok, my thoughts on the show itself. Well, right off the bat I had one huge problem with it. This construction worker inherits $50mil, right? So, like any other guy would, he immediately learns to ride horses, waltz and learn his royal place-settings? I think not. I’d have NFL, MLB and NHL season tickets. I’d have a home theater in my basement that would rival Mann’s Chinese theater. And I’d have an Olympic sized swimming pool in the back of my $2mil home. I certainly wouldn’t be flitting about the French countryside figuring out what wine goes best with poached salmon, ok?
Before I get to the girls, I feel the need to bring up one detail Amanda left out. At one point one of the girls asks Evan his middle name. Simple enough question, wouldn't you think? Well, apparently not. The producers of the show decided to use Evan's middle name (Wallace) as his last name. And amazingly enough through all of the show's prep, and through all of the riding lessons, dance lessons and ettiquette lessons, no one stopped to think of what Evan's new middle name shoud be. So, he's left in front of 20 women and a television audience to look like even more of a rube by not knowing his middle name. Frankly, if he makes it to the end without blowing the lie, I'll be nothing short of amazed. Now on to the women.
The first thing that comes to mind is that I find myself rooting for the most despicable people we’ve seen so far, which pretty much means Heidi. I don’t want to see Zora, the school teacher with the dress problems, win. She seems really sweet and nice and I’d hate to see her torn apart when he has to tell her that he has no money. But Heidi? I’d revel in watching her hopes of wealth being shattered. Jeez, what does that say about me?
At any rate, I can’t comment too much on the ladies as we really didn’t get to meet many of them. What I do know is they will be whittled down from 12 to 5 next week and that’s when it should start getting interesting. Here’s hoping that greedy, gold-digging Heidi makes the cut.
For those of you not aware, Joe Millionaire airs on Fox at 9pm EST on Monday nights.
Joe Millionaire Recaps at The Trades: Episode 1 |
Joe Millionaire on the net: Fox's Official Joe Millionaire Site | SirLinksALot.net