Jenna Jameson, you are better than this show. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
If you haven’t tuned in yet—and we really can't blame you if you haven't—VH1’s Couples Therapy takes a group of people famous for being famous (it’s not called Celebrity Couples Therapy for a reason) who are in various stages of relationships, then throws them together in a pretty house in the Hollywood Hills, where they receive group, couples and individual therapy from Dr. Jenn Berman.
It’s not exactly a secret that "reality TV" is a flagrant misnomer, as most of these shows, Couples Therapy very much included, have highly produced storylines and footage edited in whatever way will create the most drama and highest ratings. And what, pray tell, did producers decide would bring in the biggest numbers on this show about couples? Why, extreme gender stereotyping of course!
Color us not surprised.
The Hottest Mess
The most famous cast member this season is porn star Jenna Jameson, who is on the show with her boyfriend of three months, UFC fighter John Woods. To fill you in on their relationship, they got together when Jameson’s former partner, Tito Ortiz, was cheating on her with Woods’ wife. Gulp!
It’s sad, but Jameson’s entire persona just screams “S.O.S.,” the sad result of years of drug use and heavy drinking. (Perhaps she should have jumped on the Celebrity Rehab bandwagon a few years ago instead?) And so it is that the woman who built a porn empire and made over $30 million in 2006 is featured on the show as a sad-sack debacle scrambling to reclaim her life.
While this is an unflattering portrait, you can’t really blame the producers for Jameson’s decline, though. What you can blame them for is getting her involved in the (as I call it) "Goldilocks Storyline." Recycled every season (last season, it was Taylor Armstrong, Real Housewife of Beverly Hills), the most perceivably rich female cast member, often from humble beginnings, has an issue with the accommodations—which are undoubtedly luxurious, but not Ritz-Carlton-suite level—and threatens to walk off the show. Ultimately, someone ups the thread count on the bed sheets and bleaches the toilet, and Dr. Jenn convinces that person to stay.
The entire cast, Dr. Jenn and the viewers know the threat isn’t about fluffed pillows; the accommodations are just an excuse for the woman to not to face her relationship problems. Seeing as how only women are cast in the role of "scared, spoiled and rich," it's hard not to surmise that the producers believe only women could fill this role.
Another spotlighted couple this season is the controversial Juan Pablo Galavis and Nikki Ferrell, both from The Bachelor. Their storyline isn’t fun to watch; it’s just maddening on every level. Basically, Nikki is in the role of "clingy desperate woman," while Juan Pablo is "aloof asshole who won't show his feelings." Nikki is perpetually frustrated that Juan Pablo won't say “I love you” to her, he's perpetually frustrated that she's pressuring him, and, well . . . you know the trope.
Meanwhile, every moment Nikki is on screen, she whines, cries and shows no redeeming qualities (I’m sure she has some), making viewers side with Juan Pablo . . . who isn’t exactly Prince Charming. Is this misogyny? Reality? Maybe a little bit of both.
Not Shore About This Guy
In the case of Deena Cortese of Jersey Shore and her boyfriend, average dude Chris, the stereotype is all about money. Deena makes more than Chris does, and he has problems with it—and himself—because he's a man and he should support her (obvs). This storyline isn’t something edited by producers; her superior financial status is a fact. And the way the show acts about it, this status is something totally unusual and weird and difficult to deal with. Never mind that last we checked, it’s hardly uncommon for the woman in a relationship to be the breadwinner, or for men to (gasp!) be OK with this.
And oh, the stereotyping doesn't end there for this probably-doomed couple; later, Deena reveals she wants to settle down and have kids, but Chris (shocker!) isn’t ready.
Sure, some of this is probably actual "reality." But I have little doubt the producers are sussing out and trumping up the stereotypes for all their worth, hoping the masses will respond to the inherent "entertainment" factor of conventional male-female roles. (See also: sitcoms, stand-up routines, etc., etc.) The good news is, the numbers for the show are plummeting; while the show's season premier had 1.02 million viewers, the most recent episode netted only 0.66 million viewers.
Maybe people don't want to watch weak lovelorn spoiled women and jerk-ish insecure men after all? Well, at least all people but 0.66 million of them.