What retrogressive messages does the formula of this sexist dating show put out to the modern woman? Laura Clancy watches and finds it’s as if feminism never happened.
I have discovered a guilty pleasure. Lunchtime ITV2: The Millionaire Matchmaker. This show features ‘expert’ matchmaker Patti Stanger, a woman whose 50-year-old face seems to be miraculously frozen at 30, who runs the ‘Millionaire’s Club’- a Los Angeles-based dating service which matches (predominantly) male millionaires to the girls of their dreams. After meeting the men and discovering their likes and dislikes (the latter, unsurprisingly, being the significantly longer list), Patti and her team interview women to find the closest compatible match. The millionaire then partakes in a ‘mixer’, where the best matched (read: best looking) women all come together in a bar, apparently falling over themselves to speak to the middle-aged millionaires. Following this, the millionaire chooses one ‘lucky’ woman to take out on a date, which he usually uses as a chance to showcase his wealth to the woman and the public, after which the couple decide whether they would like to see each other again.
As strange as it is compelling, the show may as well be subtitled “Feminism? What’s feminism?” The more episodes I watch, the worse it seems to get. Patti, a notorious figure for feminists, seems to value superficiality and traditional gender roles above all else. In the initial interviews with the men, Patti asks them who their celebrity crush is, what hair colour they prefer in women and their racial preferences. The responses range from marginally concerning to downright depressing. One particularly chauvinistic millionaire announces he wants a woman with no career aspirations so she can follow him around the world at the drop of a hat when he needed to travel for business. Another man, aged 58, announces he wants children and would therefore require a woman of childbearing age, “preferably in her twenties”. Let’s not mince words here: what these men are after is a trophy wife. Invariably, men come on and ask for intelligent women. One requests someone who is educated to Masters level and not below, but when it comes to the mixer he chooses the best looking woman over a roomful of intelligent, thoughtful women with PhDs.
This is nothing compared to the ‘screening process’, however. Despite the men’s best efforts to be the most sexist and misogynistic people on the show, they fail miserably in comparison to Patti. The poor, unsuspecting women are brought into Patti’s office in groups of three to be judged by Patti and her team. What follows is a rigorous, acrid and vicious physical assessment. If you have red hair, you’re unfortunately dismissed immediately. If you’re not wearing a tight-fitting cocktail dress, you are informed you have no style and are ordered to change. One woman, visibly older than her counterparts, is told she looks older than she claims and ordered to go and get her driving license to prove her age. If Patti disapproves of an outfit or hairstyle choice, the woman in question is threatened with exclusion from the mixer, unless she overhauls her appearance. And, even more depressingly, the women comply: arriving at the mixer plucked and preened to within an inch of their lives. Patti’s word is law and, as Patti isn’t usually on the side of the women, this doesn’t usually work out well for them…
1. A smiling Patti Stanger wearing a white fitted suit and holding a gold bow and arrow. Two groups of three, appearing to be split along gender lines, stand behind her. The female presenting group (left) are dressed in figure hugging clothing and posing in a stereotypically sassy and somewhat contorted way, with one member looking back at the other group with her hand on her hip and another leaning forward towards them. The male presenting group also pose (though arguably more subtly). One member is wearing smart-casual attire while holding a mobile phone, one wears a suit and another wears shades and a leather jacket. White background. This is taken from the cover for the DVD for Season one of Millionaire Matchmaker and has the words “MONEY CAN [underlined in red] BUY YOU LOVE” in black, “THE MILLIONAIRE [gold letters] MATCHMAKER” (in black) and “SEASON 1” (in black) at the top.