I have something to confess: I am a huge fan of Bravo’s reality show “Millionaire Matchmaker,” and I have a crush on its star, matchmaker Patti Stanger. Usually a feeling of relief accompanies a confession. But I am ashamed. I feel like I should staple my palm to my face. Bravo TV is a slick circus of self-loathing, and no heterosexual man should ever be caught watching its grotesque programs featuring werewolf beauty queens eating each other. But then there’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” a show that by all accounts should be as bad as “The Real Housewives Of Hades.” It’s not what I thought it would be, namely a show where socially awkward, self-absorbed millionaires are paired up by a sassy pimp with potential prospectors and their gold pans. I mean, it totally IS that. But it’s so much more. Patti Stanger is like Cupid, if Cupid used his bows and arrows as offensive weapons.I am having a hard time admitting that I watch this reality show. First of all, it’s reality television. Men don’t watch reality television, unless it’s the amazing show “Mantracker,” a show that is wholly self-explanatory. I know that holding my nose and pooh-poohing reality television is blogger boilerplate. Low-hanging fruit to be picked by those of us who try to convince the world that while everyone does in fact have an opinion and an a-hole, our cocoa winker is above-average, as are our opinions. A reality TV program is just as much a contrivance as a scripted show. When I watch “Law & Order” (which I do ever since I retired, started collecting social security and moved to Florida), I am unconsciously playing a game of make-believe with the cast, writers and creators. Likewise, reality television is another lie we all pretend is true. Reality television is the same thing as Grandma’s cooking: good, but not really as good as a restaurant. The most disturbing thing about reality television is the troubling notion that it might actually be projecting actual reality, a reality where all of society is hopelessly narcissistic. Reality television is a mirror, mirror on the wall.
If I want reality, I’ll watch a man track other men in a game of survival, or I’ll watch two bleeding, muscle-bound MMA fighters punch, kick, and then collapse into each other’s arms. Yet, I watch “Millionaire Matchmaker,” and I do despite its tacky set-up. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not above schadenfreude. I would like to be. Too much schadenfreude can make a person a moralizing bore, someone who can do no wrong and is constantly wronged. I enjoy seeing greasy napoleons with fat throats fail to purchase genuine affection from another human being. But what I like most are some of the simple messages Stanger is able to sneak into a show on a network that would be played on Big Brother’s telescreens in the book 1984 if Big Brother were a cross-eyed, woman-hating jester in a tailored suit.
I also adore Patti’s two cronies – the freaky Destin and his nerd dream-girl fiancée, Rachel. These heavy metal hobbits are in love and proof human souls still haunt the hallways of network television. But the single message I love that Patti tries to reiterate as much as she can is, if I can boil it down into my own words, that love is an active verb, not a noun. It is something you do, not something you take, or wait to be given, or, really, even buy.
As for my crush on Patti, I don’t know where that comes from. She’s hot? I know she’s a 49-year-old ball-buster who can come off as emotionally volatile on national television. But she has thighs that can crack walnuts. And sexy bangs. Sweet Zeus, I know she has had something injected into those lips … but she is one crazy ball of sexual energy. Maybe, as a media consumer, I just buy her onscreen passion. Who knows what she’s really like once the camera crews go home. She could molt out of her skin and personality and turn into a hairless, ageless witch with one eye. But the Patti Stanger I watch on television is a brassy, curvy madam who is turned on by turning others on to one another.
Oy. Maybe men do watch reality television.
Get more of John DeVore’s preening narcissism on Twitter.