How Low Can Reality TV Go? By Mrs Vera West
When I read the headline about a reality TV show where “men compete to impregnate a woman,” it made even me a bit feministy. I thought that each week some guy would win the right for sex, and then we would see who lucked out in the great sperm wars. No, it just shows how this job of reporting the decline can get to one, But, no doubt, a program like that is down the track:
“Let’s watch, shall we, as a woman struggles with one of the most common sources of distress for the modern middle-aged woman: fertility. She’s got good eggs, some of them frozen, but what she needs is sperm, and the body in which that sperm is contained. Despite being pretty in a Getty-stock-image kind of way, and despite being a successful holistic health and beauty expert, Kristy has not yet found her fantasy husband. So, she has turned to reality television programming to help her out. That’s the premise of the new show Labor of Love, in which 15 men compete to be the “one” honored with impregnating the show’s heroine. As I watched her journey toward motherhood unfold, I thought, finally. Finally, someone has found a way to make a buck off the fracturing of the American family. Of course I don’t mean Kristy, who clearly isn’t being paid enough to live in this McMansion that is decorated like an inspirational quote rendered in brick, tile and cozy synthetic-fiber throws. I mean the host – Kristin Davis of Sex and the City fame – and the production team, the executives at Fox and all the pharmaceutical companies advertising the mood stabilizers that suddenly look good to me at the commercial breaks. The show is traditionally structured, with a group of one gender vying for the heart of this pinnacle, this paragon of the other gender. Kristy’s defining feature is that she is a woman, and like all girls, she is not like other girls. She’ll be a cool mom, still able to get into skinny jeans and levels of Instagrammable cuteness. She’s just looking for someone who will be a real partner to her, you know?
The men are all types, and that type is what kind of dad he’ll be. There’s the Republican dad, the fun dad, the dad who is only interested in male offspring. They compete with each other, they flex and they make it abundantly clear by the time the first episode has finished why family life eludes them. They must prove their readiness for husbandry by completing a series of humiliating tasks, like ejaculating sperm into a cup and then having your fertility results announced to America, and being attacked by a bear, and if they complain about any of these tasks it will make Kristy cry. Marriage is an increasingly scarce resource that one must compete for on the marketplace of love, so why not make it into a show like all of the other competitive TV shows, like the one where you are running and a big foam bumblebee knocks you into a mud pond and everyone laughs, or the one where you have to get to the top of stairs covered in ice and you almost get all the way up when you slip again and you slide all the way back down to the bottom and everyone laughs? But instead of a little bit of money and some attention, you get like a baby or a life partner or whatever. And why wouldn’t Kristy trust a production team mostly looking to edit the mess of life down into contrived suspense and stereotypes – an angry outburst by one of only three black men on the show keeps getting previewed as “coming up this season” to keep all those white people watching. Plus there’s Kristin Davis, who is a celebrity – maybe? Are you still a celebrity if you haven’t done more in the last several years other than adopt black children and give interviews about how the racism they face hurts your feelings as a white woman?
Anyway. The allure of the spectacle is clear. We’ve all been humiliated as we try to scramble up the icy stairs of Tinder in hope of finding our soulmate, so it’s easy to enjoy the catharsis of watching someone else experience that humiliation for our entertainment. In the same way that it’s a pleasure to watch the “underclasses” attempt sophistication and real feeling on Love Island from our bourgeois comforts. In the same way it’s enjoyable to watch the dehumanizing process of immigration and the stark loneliness of romantic failure and alienation in a foreign culture on 90 Day Finance. It must be a coincidence that so many of the people asked to entertain us with their train-wreck lives are already marginalized and otherwise shut out of the culture.
The men compete with each other, they flex, and they make it abundantly clear why family life eludes them
That appearing in these shows is associated with apparent suicide (and suicide and suicide), addiction, self-harm and mental illness needn’t worry the executives who are just happy they can rake it in with a steady stream of content, nor the audience who so loves to gawk. Attention is good, our economy runs on it. But the stress of being looked at even causes zoo animals to self-harm. So yes, let’s watch the development of intimacy and the birth of a new family. And when one of these contestants inevitably loses their minds, they’ll be sure to get their own show and we’ll be able to follow their journey of recovery and healing. We’ll binge-watch it, and then meet on Facebook to discuss.”
Sorry, on this one I must agree with the feminists that this is disgusting and degrading. But, no doubt it will get the ratings as people will be eager to see what bag of sperm wins. Degrading for both men and women, but that is the agenda.