Remember “Joe Millionaire”? It aired in 2003, as part of the first wave of dating reality shows and centered around a group of women fighting for a handsome millionaire only to find out at the end—whaaaaat?!—he’s dirt poor. Was it deceptive and shallow? Sure. Did it portray women as gold-digging harpies? Absolutely. But at least in “Millionaire,” the women simply expected to marry an Average Joe who inherited a few million bucks. Not the guy who’s fourth in line to the British throne.
In case you haven’t heard, “I Wanna to Marry Harry” is a FOX reality show that aired last night, and whose premise is simple: Twelve American women are flown to London to fight for the affection of a rich British guy that might be Prince Harry. They don’t know for sure who he is when they arrive, but there are hints—the women are staying in a castle, and butlers and security detail abound—so they’re left to smartly speculate about who they think the mystery man could be (“if this is his place, he must be like, a big shot!”)
Spoiler alert: The guy isn’t a prince at all, but rather an insipid oil-spill-cleaner named Matt Hicks, 23, who’s so broke he can’t afford a car and has to bike to work. The hook? He resembles Prince Harry enough to fool the squawking stereotypes back at the castle. (That’s not us being harsh—these are women who cause Hicks to assert “American girls don’t seem to have inside voices,” who use the word “like” in every sentence, and who spew phrases such as “I’m a pre-school teacher … and kind of a naughty one!”)
Don’t get us wrong, we love reality TV as much as the next gal, but it’s hard not be alarmed that FOX found 12 women who don’t bother to question why the most visible single Prince in the free world would willingly look for a random wife on a reality show, or more importantly, how his grandmother—the Queen of England—would allow it.
And since the audience is in on the twist from jump street, it means that the show exists solely to make these women look like idiots. And it succeeds in spades. Between one contestant turning into a drunken mess the first night, one woman calling another an “oldie” because she’s 25, cliché sound bytes about finding their fairytale ending, and one particularly oh-so-royal declaration that “I’m smart, hot, I cook, I clean, I look bangin’ in a bikini” this is—as NPR so adeptly pointed out— “woman-hating television for women, times 10, turned up to eleven, with a side of fries.”
Sure, it’s meant to be a harmless “summer” confection, but it doesn’t lessen the fact that it’s really quite embarrassing, and not just for the 12 twangy contestants. Even if the show isn’t being broadcast in other counties, we have a sneaking suspicion word got around. Which means if you’re an American woman there’s a good chance you’re being laughed at right now.
“I Wanna Marry Harry” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. so watch it next week and be sure to let us know your thoughts.