'Joe Millionaire': An Unexpected Lesson in Integrity
A deceitful hunk. Money-grubbing vixens. A sage old butler. It all adds up to cautionary tale.
BY: Kristen Campbell
Then, during a dinner date, Melissa M. told Marriott: "If I had money to give and time, I'd want to go to a Third World country and bathe their children and give shots and do things like that. But that's me. I'm a mercenary kind of person, you know?"
The malapropism wasn't lost on viewers.
The programs provide an ego boost to some viewers, Felling said. After a tough day at work, viewers can come home and "feel better than the pathetic souls who would indulge in such a flight of fantasy and a duplicitous game of stratagem."
Couch agreed, noting many of the female viewers he knows "feel a moral superiority to the people on the show." Indeed, Couch said most of the people he knows say they would never participate in such a charade.
Marriott claims deceit is difficult for him, too.
"I'm really misleading," he said on a recent show. "I'm $50 million worth of misleading."
Kathleen S. Lowney, author of "Baring Our Souls: TV Talk Shows and the Religion of Recovery," said she finds it interesting that so many of the popular reality shows include self-reflective voice-overs in which characters offer commentary that's contradictory to the rest of the series. In the case of "Joe Millionaire," for example, Marriott periodically says how difficult it is for him to lie, yet he continues to participate in the series.
While the "Millionaire" characters may provoke discussion about morality among viewers, they don't address the subject much themselves. That task is at least partly undertaken by Paul Hogan, who not only plays a butler on TV, but is one in real life.
Hogan introduces the program in a setting reminiscent of Alistair Cooke on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre." Then, throughout the show, Hogan offers running commentary about Marriott's portrayal of a millionaire, as well as the behavior of some of the women. He also serves as Marriott's sounding board during debates as to who should stay and who should leave.
"I find that on the show the butler is sort of the moral chorus, the Greek chorus -- `Choose carefully," Lowney said. "There is a morality on these shows ... but it's hidden."