A theory about reality show contestants
I’ve been working on a theory about the contestants who appear on reality shows, in particular those in which the ostensible object is to find “love.” On shows like “Rock of Love,” “Flavor of Love,” and “I Love New York,” contestants behave in, let’s say, odd ways. Irrational ways. Often it seems that the characters come to believe that the “reality” of the show is the actual reality, and they really are there to change their lives in a meaningful way. Now, that might be nothing more than to get fame for themselves, fame that they hope will transfer with them once they’ve left the show.
This leads to a sort of desperation. Every emotion, be it anger, sadness, lust, or even love is felt with greater intensity. Anger becomes rage, which leads to absurd name-calling and an unwarranted sense of betrayal when one character uses strategy to win can be seen as a “snake” who has “knifed you in the back.” Sadness becomes grief, as the character sees his chance to win the game slipping away, he desperately flails at anything that might help him win. But the sense of “love” is the worst of all.
How many contestants on “Rock of Love,” “Flavor of Love,” and “I Love New York” have hurled accusations that another contestant “isn’t there for the right reasons,” or “isn’t really there for Bret” (this season on “Rock of Love Bus,” for instance, Taya the Penthouse Pet has had to contend with this throughout the series- even her “friend” Mindy has accused her of being there strictly to promote her career as a model or, as of last week, a singer, instead of being there “for Bret”), as if that were necessarily bad.
Who in their right mind would appear on a reality television show to find “love” with a rock and roll celebrity, while competing against 20 other women? In what world does it make any sense to put yourself in a situation where one man gets his pick from 20 other women? And why oh why would you get “jealous” of the other girls who are in the exact same situation as you- a situation you yourself agreed to when the show started?
Here’s my theory: When the contestants have been on these shows for a little while- and it might only take a few hours- they begin to buy into the “reality” of the show. It seems possible they might actually be able to find a soulmate in these absurd, tawdry circumstances. Whatever they might have felt, be it a desire to promote themselves (it’s been shown that more and more young people “want to be famous” as a life goal), or lust for the object of the show, or whatever, becomes, in a twisted and roundabout way, a feeling that they mistake for love.
And as the end of the show, and the end of the “reality” of the show gets nearer, the contestants become desperate. Unable to envision a reality outside of the context of the show, they come to see the show as their one chance of happiness. If they do not win, their lives will be a failure. If Bret or New York or Flavor Flav or Real or Chance or Ray J or Daisy picks one of the other contestants, they’ve lost their shot at Happiness with a capital H, and anything else would just be settling.
I’m calling it “Flavor of Love Syndrome.” I expect some enterprising young psychiatrist to present a real paper to an actual medical journal about this, since I myself am not “qualified” in any real sense (other than the fact that I watch a lot of reality shows) to write such a paper. Or maybe it’s just that I’m lazy.
Within the context of “I Love Money,” I present as my evidence the strange case of Frank the Entertainer. This is the man who sucked on New York’s toes on a past season of “I Love New York.” Why would he do such a thing? Toe sucking is fine, if that’s what you’re into, but it’s something you do with someone with whom you have an exclusive romantic relationship. It isn’t something you do with someone who’s dating you and twenty other guys she’s trying to pick from.
Unless you’ve got Flavor of Love Syndrome.
Now consider Frank the Entertainer’s first appearance on the original “I Love Money.” He spent much of his time on the show canoodling with the lovely Destiney from “Rock of Love 2.” There is no way that such a woman could not do better than a toe-sucking 37 year-old man who lives in his parents’ basement. Think about this: Is there any other circumstance, outside of a “reality” show, in which Frank the Entertainer could get to even first base with a woman like Destiney? No, there is not.
Unless she’s got Flavor of Love Syndrome.
Frank the Entertainer with Destiney. The tragic Flavor of Love Syndrome in action.
When Destiney left “I Love Money,” she and Frank assured one another they’d meet again, when everything was over. The implication was that they would continue their romantic adventure in the reality of the real world. How long do you think that lasted?
Now, on “I Love Money 2,” Frank the Entertainer is again canoodling, this time with Becky Buckwild. Again I ask you, is there any way Frank the Entertainer, the toe-sucking 37 year-old man who lives in his parents’ basement, could get to even first base with a woman like Becky Buckwild (assuming, of course, she's not blackout drunk)? No, there is not.
Becky Buckwild has succumbed to Flavor of Love Syndrome. It’s only fitting, given the fact that she made her VH1 reality debut on “Flavor of Love.”
The contestants who do the best on “I Love Money” tend to be immune from this. Megan, for instance (who really should have won last season) made it all the way to the final four by turning the opposing alliance against itself. White Boy and Real turned against each other because of feelings for Hoopz, who herself seemed immune to their charms.
This season, Tailor Made seems immune. Prancer and Ice are going along with him, as is Myammee (I seem to recall Myammee having strong feelings for Buddha, but I might be confabulating that. regardless, he's off the show now). Angelique has it bad for 20 Pack, but 20 Pack has (rather rudely) made it clear he has no interest in her, so she seems to have given up on that. Saaphyri is a wild card- she seems smitten with It, but she’s also been able to see through Frank. It is inscrutable. Cali is a cipher. 20 Pack is clearly not bright- he broke his own hand while celebrating a victory in the boxing challenge, and has taken his “rivalry” with Tailor Made far too seriously. With Frank gone, perhaps Becky Buckwild will become sensible.
But none of them are safe from Flavor of Love Syndrome.
“I could lure you in, I'm so clever with it.
There's really nowhere to run so you can just forget it.
I set a trap and ooh, look how I caught you in it.
I'm an animal, ani-ani-ani.”
-Chris Brown, “Captive”
PART SECOND: A digression:
From my “I Love Money 2” fan fiction / slash fiction piece- a work in progress:
Tailor Made wondered why it was that Saaphyri didn’t excite him. She contained all the qualities he looked for in a woman- velvet skin, voluptuous curves, piercing eyes, fierce intelligence. But he could not bring himself to trust her.
Ironically, it was as he was handing out the checks, seeing her standing there beside the pitifully loathsome Frank the Entertainer that it hit him:
She reminded him of New York.
On his previous reality show experience, “I Love New York,” he had come to believe that the lovely and airy New York was “the one,” the true love of his life. Yes, Frank had sucked her toes in the bathtub, but ultimately she’d chosen him, Tailor Made, and they had ridden off into the sunset together.
But when the sun rose, a mere eight months later, they were apart. Heartbroken, wondering where the next challenge lay, he got the call from VH1 to appear on this, the second season of “I Love Money.” And now here he was, the paymaster, with the fates of Frank the Entertainer and Saaphyri in his hands. Who would get the check?
It couldn’t be Frank, could it? He couldn’t send Saaphyri home- just because she reminded him of his past, of that heartbreaking failure with New York.
He inhaled deeply, felt the dull ache in his chest- the same dull ache he always felt when he thought of her. “I love New York,” he thought, bitterly.
“Frank, come up here, please,” he said. The statement was followed by more words, more justification, but even he wasn’t listening to himself. Fighting back the memories that were becoming increasingly bitter to him, he announced that Frank’s check was to voided.
Whatever the justification, whatever he’d been through to get to this point, he knew he’d made the right choice. Frank, the man who’d sucked on his beloved New York’s toes, was banished to his parents’ basement.
Saaphyri- the woman in whom he saw an echo of New York, he just couldn’t help himself- would remain. Did he keep her because she reminded him of that lost love, or did he keep her because it made the most sense strategically?
Becky Buckwild leapt into Frank’s arms and began passionately kissing him. The mumbled to one another, empty promises of some future rendezvous. Tailor Made was hardly interested, but they were directly in front of him, as if to flaunt their passion.
Did they think he really cared-
Wait. Did Becky Buckwild look him in the eye? As she kissed Frank, she glanced at Tailor Made from the corner of her eye; he was sure he saw it.
Becky Buckwild knew it was wrong, this feeling toward Tailor Made, but seeing him there, with Frank’s fate in his hand, holding himself with such dignity and power, she couldn’t help herself. She felt that all-too familiar stirring in her crotch.
No, she should be lamenting the loss of Frank! Ignore Tailor Made- he is the snake! The enemy! The leader of the rival alliance!
Frank was nothing more to her than a distraction. A welcome one, to be sure, but just a distraction. He was big, his body felt good against hers in bed, but there was so little going on in his head that he could have been almost anyone.
Frank the Entertainer was just an entertainer. Seeing them all now, as Frank was being eliminated, she realized that Tailor Made was the real man. That his brain was bigger than Frank’s muscles.
Now the felt the moistness between her legs. Oh, help her- she was falling for Tailor Made!
As Frank’s check was voided, she rushed into Frank’s arms, as if feeling his physical presence, pressing his body against hers, would somehow protect her from these feelings for Tailor Made- the snake. She pressed her lips hard against Frank’s (those same lips that had so lovingly sucked on New York’s toes, she thought fleetingly, unable to help herself) but her eye wandered.
Tailor Made was there, not more than three feet from them. The look on his face- the look she’d mistaken for smugness, the face she’d wanted to smash just a few hours before- she now realized was one of quiet confidence and intelligence.
Look away! Back to Frank- It was Frank who was making her wet, not Tailor Made! Kiss him harder. It is Frank. Frank- Frank-
As they went back into the house, Becky forced herself to look disappointed. She forced herself to glare at Tailor Made. She forced herself to shout insults at him. For a few minutes, she even managed to convince herself that she hated him, that she resented him for eliminating Frank.
She moved close to him, her face next to Tailor Made’s, and shouted at him. She felt his breath, hot against her face, and resisted the urge to kiss him. Her passion was rising- she disguised it by shouting at him even louder, by calling him every filthy name she could think of.
She wanted him. If he didn’t want her, she would hate him again. She hoped he didn’t want her. She desperately hoped he did want her. Oh, god, how much longer?
Tailor Made wondered why she felt the need to be so close to him as she shouted at him. He could have heard her from across the room. As it was, her voice was like a physical presence, pressing against him. Her breath, heavy with the sweet odor of tequila, covered his face.
He wanted her on his face.
No- they were enemies. This was insane. She hated him. She had pledged herself to Frank. Frank the toe-sucker, who lived with his parents. Frank, whose hubris had caused him to fail at this game for a second time. Frank, the man he’d vanquished in two reality shows.
Becky Buckwild would be his.
“Listen, Becky, if you want to discuss this rationally--”
It was what she’d desperately wanted to hear. “I don’t wanna talk about nothing with you, you lying turtle-faced snake in da grass!” she shouted, as if the volume would make it true.
“Well, then stop yelling at me.” Tailor Made’s voice was calm, confident. How much longer could she resist him?
“Don’t you tell me what to do!” she shouted. Tailor Made wondered how much longer he could resist this passionate, beautiful and voluble woman, whose voice was like angels farting.
He grabbed her arm. “We settle this. Now,” he said, intensity reflected in his eyes. He pulled her into the bathroom, away from the cameras. Slamming the door behind them, he pushed her against the sink. “One way or the other,” he said. Their lips were so close… close enough to…
Their mouths were pressed against each other, tongues tangled, lips dripping with saliva, they kissed hungrily.
He removed her shorts and bikini bottoms, and she told him, “Wait, stop a minute,” and before he had a chance to tell her he couldn’t wait another minute, it was like torture, she removed her tampon and threw it against the wall, where it stuck.
“Now, get in that box,” she said, pulling him close to her.
Their lovemaking was intense and frenzied. It was so wrong, they hated each other, they were rivals, they were lovers, it was so right.
Why can’t I imagine a scenario in which Becky Buckwild and Tailor Made hook up? They’re perfect for each other, and it’s not like either of them has made any great romantic decisions on these VH1 reality shows in the past. Seriously, Buckwild has gone after Flavor Flav and Frank the Entertainer, while Tailor Made has gone after New York. They could both do a lot worse-- they both already have.
“I Love Money 2” synopsis for the March 30, 2009 episode:
Remember when Prancer spared Cali, and sent Milf home? Remember when Myammee wore this outfit?
Overall, a sense of listless melancholia has fallen over the house. With Frank gone, the volume has turned down, and with the dissolution of the "green" and "yellow" teams, certain characters seem to be floundering.
But we've still got the alliances: Tailor Made has dubbed his group "The Underdogs," a brilliant bit of politicking (who doesn't love an underdog?): Himself, Myammee, Prancer, Ice, and It. Their opposition is "The Bullies," which consist of 20 Pack, Cali, Angelique, Frenchy, Saaphyri, and Becky Buckwild.
20 Pack's main objective: get that snake Tailor Made out of the house.
Cali's main objective: "slide and glide" through to the end. Cali of course is the true snake, betraying Prancer after she'd spared her, hoping to ride 20 Pack's coattails to the end. This is what is known in the world of VH1 reality as "foreshadowing."
The challenge this week was called "Under the Bus," in which contestants must throw mannequins representing each of the contestants (and a few representing Craig, the host) into a target zone, which will then be run over by a truck. It's a wonderfully literal representation of what all of these characters have done at one time or another.
"The Bullies" prove their stupidity. At some point, I'm sure Tailor Made has got to start thinking, "Man this is just too easy." They do not coordinate. Their actions make no sense.
The "Dead-Last Loser," whose check automatically goes into the box, is pathetic Cali. The last three standing are all "Underdogs," Tailor Made, Prancer, and Ice.
Ice, by the way, proves herself a great competitor, remembering where the dummy for 20 Pack is located, running right to it, and eliminating him.
But the important thing is, TAILOR MADE IS PAYMASTER AGAIN!
20 Pack is pissed off!
Becky Buckwild is pissed off!
Tailor Made modestly states that it's time for him to exercise control of this game; start planting some seeds to get rid of 20 Pack. Tailor Made has had control of the game from the beginning.
He goes to Saaphyri, who states that she is playing both sides, and will tell Tailor Made whatever he wants to hear. She then states that she thinks he's "kinda sexy" (a serious understatement at this point) and asks him what kind of breasts he likes. Tailor Made demurs-- he wants her to help him get 20 Pack up for elimination.
20 Pack, meanwhile, is trying to figure how to save his own ass. He goes to Saaphyri, who suggests they offer Cali up as a sacrifice, and vote a couple of other "Underdogs," It and Myammee, into the box.
Tailor Made goes to Cali. Just sit out the vote, he tells her. Don't raise your hand for anyone, and make sure 20 Pack and another of the "Bullies" gets into the box, and you will be safe. Cali, the snake, mumbles something about "going out the loyal way."
Tailor Made says that unless Cali is a complete idiot, she's not going to vote against any Underdogs. Of course, Tailor Made has overestimated Cali's intelligence.
She makes Frank the Entertainer look like It. Cali is that dumb.
She votes for Myammee and It.
Tailor Made then ruins the suspense by stating, before the Power Outing: "Cali is an idiot. All she had to do was nothing. And today, she's leaving Mexico."
20 Pack feels that Tailor Made "owes him something." His logic is not logical. Cali, who is stupid, must use her understanding of 20 Pack's logic to convince Tailor Made to change his mind.
During the meal, Cali forgets all the great stuff that 20 Pack told her. Tailor Made was wrong in this sense: Cali is not just an idiot, she's also inarticulate. TM gives her one more chance, agreeing to spend his alone time with her, so she can plead her case. Cali tells him that 20 Pack will work with him, if he keeps Cali around. TM wonders why 20 Pack doesn't tell him this himself.
Cali pointing out her only two assets. Perhaps she should have emphasized those during her Power Outing.
After the Power Outing, back at the house, 20 Pack goes to Tailor Made and makes that case. He emphasizes Cali's loyalty to him, apparently forgetting that Cali the snake has already betrayed TM's good friend and ally Prancer. There's a manipulative flashback to "I Love New York," to It's betrayal of TM by taking credit for the flowers TM ordered. There's another flashback to "Flavor of Love 3," in which Myammee did- well, something, I don't remember what.
Tailor Made seems to be wavering. Uh-oh.
By the way: It's great to see Myammee in the box, because she wears only a bra and panties. Wow oh wow is she hot. I mean, she is smoking hot.
There is no way Myammee could be eliminated; just look at her.
It is wearing a cape.
First check to Myammee, who as I have mentioned is hot, and who tells TM that he is her dog, or perhaps it's spelled "dawg."
Ever the showman, Tailor Made calls both Cali and It to the box. He says he's not going to void Cali's check--
I wanted a picture of Prancer, and I found one with Myammee in it. They're both hot.
Cali betrayed Prancer. She voted for Myammee and It. She is a moron who cannot stay. Prancer gets her revenge.
Tailor Made is so far above all the other characters on this show, it's almost pathetic. He is the greatest VH1 reality show character of all time. By contrast, the very hot Myammee calls Cali the dumbest one on the history of VH1's reality shows.
Quite a statement, but it's hard to argue with her.
Cali seems to agree, as in her exit interview she says she already regrets it. She should. You can find nude photos of her here.
Anyway, for one more week, Tailor Made is in charge, and all is right with the world.