Were we okay in the early 2000s? Probably not, and reality TV proves it.
Looking for love isn’t easy, and for the first time during that decade, reality TV became a viable option for finding love. Once they became popular, it seems like every variety of dating show you could think of was airing and…let’s just say they didn’t all deserve a chance.
That said, early aughts dating shows are full of some seriously awful moments that are cringy at best and grossly problematic at worst. Here’s some proof.
In 2003, FOX pulled a bait and switch on single women, convincing them they were competing to marry a millionaire when really, he was a blue-collar dude in Joe Millionaire.
The epic fail that was Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? had women compete in a beauty pageant-styled competition with the goal of winning the heart (and wallet) of one Rick Rockwell.
The millionaire’s identity was kept a secret until the end of the two-hour special, where he chose Darva Conger to marry on TV, on the spot.
It’s hard to say if the secret identity was truly part of the show or an effort by someone to cover up Rockwell’s past. Born Richard Balkey, the Smoking Gun revealed a 1991 restraining order against him by an ex with allegations of domestic violence.
Play It Straight, which lasted three series before backlash canceled it, had a woman date a group of 14 men, only five of whom were straight. If she picked a straight man at the end, they would each receive $500,000. If she chose one of the gay men, he’d get the full $1 million, and she’d walk away empty-handed.
Similarly, Bravo tried it with Boy Meets Boy, where a gay bachelor dated his prospective partners without knowing which were truly gay and which were straight.
Lorenzo Lamas pointing out people’s flaws with a laser pointer on Are You Hot? Gross. Randolph Duke telling a woman to lose weight? Grosser. Rachel Hunter partaking in this nonsense as a woman herself? Grossest.
Married by America let viewers vote on couples who were put through a short engagement period before deciding whether or not to tie the knot.
When The Littlest Groom had a bachelor date a pool of little women, only to later introduce women of average height as “competition” for them. Just awful.
Age of Love introduced a 30-year-old bachelor to a larger group of women made up of two subgroups: the “kittens” (20-somethings) and the “cougars” (women in their 30s and 40s).
Mr. Personality, which suggested the only way to not be blinded by someone’s looks when making dating decisions is to be unable to see what they look like.
Temptation Island, in which allegedly healthy couples messed around and found out how easily their S.O. would give in when given unfettered access to attractive, eligible women.
And finally, while not quite a dating show but still a misogynistic mess: The Swan, which treated women’s “social anxiety” and feelings of “invisibility” and “isolation” with alleged therapy and copious amounts of plastic surgery.
What other facets of early aughts reality TV seems problematic to you looking back? Share in the comments!
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