thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Goodbye Patti Stanger & the Millionaire’s Club, I’m Not Sure I’ll Miss You

In gender on August 24, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Phoebe Bronstein

Recently, I have been watching a little too much Millionaire Matchmaker. I was not sure there that there was such a thing, but now I firmly believe there might be. My reason for watching in the first place is that the show makes me feel better about myself. It is sort of like watching a bad car crash, where you know you shouldn’t look but you can’t turn away. Seriously, the people who come to Patti, the Matchmaker Maven with what seems to be a poorly calculatedly success rate are oft quite crazy (so she says she is in the 90% success rate, and I beg to differ). However, more recently I have realized it might be time to turn away, and here’s why: watching Patti Stanger is like watching a feminist back peddling bicycle crash over and over again. And that stops being fun at some point.

Patti is a modern day New Jersey yenta and matchmaker to millionaires, and she asserts herself often by throwing around little smatterings of Yiddish here and there. For example, in a recent episode she found a nice millionaire Jewish boy a young shiksa (ie a gentile woman), despite his expressed desires to date a Jewish girl. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a little Yiddish with my television, but her use of it oddly irks me. Perhaps it is because it feels like she is trying to channel the Fiddler on the Roof matchmaker, and seriously Patti’s got nothing on her. Or maybe it is just because she plays to and reinforces the Jewish princess stereotype a little too much for my comfort. But, moving on.

But not only does she mobilize Jewish stereotypes in her performance of Patti, she also is just plain sexist. On Millionaire Matchmaker, despite being a powerful and successful woman herself, she asserts that women must perform highly gendered and stereotypical roles in order to win a mate. We even see her philosophies written onto her own body; for example, recently separated from her fiancé, she is now back on the market after what looks like some serious dieting and a little itty bit of plastic surgery (I think something was lifted). She’ll be the first to tell you that if you want to date a millionaire or anyone I imagine, per Patti’s rules, you must be hot, in shape (ie skinny), educated, and all that jazz. As it turns out, she holds men up to similar standards but she is much more likely to critique a woman’s body or wardrobe (although most of the dates she finds are in fact women for millionaire men).

Patti before weight loss (on the left) and after (on the right)

But for Patti it isn’t all about the body, it is also about maintaining 1950s gender roles and norms. Thus, among her precepts are men must pay for and plan the date. If the woman tries to take control of the date or the planning, she is scolded and sometimes kicked out of Patti’s club (aside: people getting kicked out might be the best of part of the show). It is in Patti’s book, a capital offense for a woman to plan and therefore not let a man be a man. Hey gents, did you know that manliness is defined by your date planning abilities? If we ladies do it, then our relationship is most certainly over before it has even begun. Or at least, that seems to be what Patti is suggesting. When discussing men in the dating world, Patti recommends they become hunters and fishers, which I think winds up making the ladies prey. Problem. So ladies, no planning for you, instead dawn your favorite demure outfit and makeup and wait, and wait, and then wait some more.

These strange, old, and seemingly anti-feminist notions also function along heterosexual lines. That is, every relationship for Patti is seemingly framed as hetero one. And while Patti matches men with men, it seems that she has yet to match two women and often says crazy things about both gay men and lesbians. For more on this topic, check out these two links which detail Patti’s downright discrimination and ignorance: this one and this one.

Perhaps one of the strangest parts of the show is that she backs these crazy theories about women, men, sex, romance, etc. with fake science. For example, she often talks about the chemicals that overwhelm your brain during love or sex and throws out numbers and things like cerebral cortex. However, I feel quite certain, despite not being a chemistry or biology major (okay so I was an English major), that she is wrong and does not make any sense. Any doctors out there, that can confirm?

All that said and done, Patti does have a few pieces of good advice. For example, she doesn’t let her clients drink more than two drinks on any given date (or they can share a bottle of wine) and they are told not to mix and mingle their alcohols. Not bad advice, if I do say so myself. Another seemingly decent rule for dating, per Patti, is no sex without monogamy. Fair enough. It sounds like something my mother once said, plus it is also safe, so that’s good. However, sometimes she points in her mouth when she says this stuff, which makes the advice less great and more awkward. But that about covers the good advice, and seemingly might be advice one gets from their friends, parents, or therapist, rather than needing to pay Patti Stanger for it.

When I only watched one episode every now and then these egregious issues were not always so apparent. However, due to recent overexposure I think the fun and allure of Millionaire Matchmaker has gone. I am tired of watching while dating is reduced to a formula that says I should be submissive and happy about it. Goodbye Patti and your millionaires, I can’t say yet whether I will miss you or not. For now, I think I shall fill my reality TV quota with some Kardashian ladies and some Housewives. But, I shall leave you with this gem:

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  1. wow, that is incredible! girls, don’t pay for dinner because it will magically turn you into a man, but also the mother of your date, but every 4 dates it’s okay to “pay him back” by cooking dinner for him or cleaning his shirts? Because doing his laundry doesn’t make you his mother??? good grief. i love how she’s so surprised that joy behar’s relationship has worked out EVEN THOUGH joy split the bill on her first date with this guy. shocking.

  2. Sorry I agree with Patti!
    I think a woman should a let man be a man.
    A man should pick up the check, open doors, do the asking out on dates and be the planner of dates. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  3. I could not agree more ^^ and when she points to her mouth while mentioning monogamy it’s because oral sex is not secret and she’s not going to leave gray areas for people to leave excuses and exceptions, were adults it shouldn’t be “awkward”…… And yes, I think the man should do the perusing, if a woman is not willing to wait and wait and wait like you said, then he obviously isn’t worth waiting for.

  4. I generally think a guy should pay for the 1st date, because it’s a gesture showing his interest and that he can provide. My currant BF and I went dutch on our 1st “Date”, which I called a “Hangout” and get to know each other. He bragged about how much money he made in the beginning and it turns out he broke and lives with Mom. I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing him smokes, booze and things, now he calls me his Sugar Mama. He’s great in other ways but I want a Man and not a Boy!

  5. […] you believe The Millionaire Matchmaker (which is, admit it, more likely if you’re the type of person who would be interested in reading […]

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