Thirteen million people watched Fox’s “Joe Millionaire” Monday night.

Paul Wong
Luke Smith

That’s roughly one person for every $4 “Joe” allegedly has in his bank account.

The premise of the show (from the brain trust behind “Temptation Island”), herds 20 women into the company of a man they believe is a millionaire with a $50 million dollar bank statement. Of course, there is a twist: “Joe” (Evan Marriot) isn’t a millionaire, he’s a construction worker making $19,000 a year.

The 20 women are forced to compete for Evan’s heart, disguising any (heaven forbid) gold-digging urges, while trying to woo the surly construction worker with the baby soft hands. Along the way, those who survive are awarded pieces of jewelry indicating their return for the following week. As the jewelry piles up, the party gets smaller. Interesting enough that while Fox is exploiting the greed of these women, they are reinforcing that same greed we as viewers mock by further bestowing gifts on them. It really is a wonderful examination of voracity.

When exposed to a roomful of dresses for the night’s affair, the women’s true colors came out. They were herded like volunteer cows to a room with 20 ball gowns, one for each. Heidi, scooped up four dresses trying each on, leaving three girls temporarily without garment. It is inspiring how desperate Heidi is to win the affections (perceived millions) of Evan, that she just wanted to look her very best. We can’t fault her for that, she probably came onto the show simply to find love.

Pathetic.

When Evan unwraps the truth and pops the question it will be the first bit of truth the show has actually seen. The buff lying beefcake said, “I realized I had just started the biggest lie of my life.” A fascinatingly retarded way to begin a relationship with a woman he wants to marry. A woman he plucked off the market like I would choose a fine cut of steak. Thankfully, in the meantime the American public gets to watch women be willingly herded around a French paradise in search of their prince charming. The proliferation of “prince charming”-speak and fairy-tale (even Gaston was name dropped) metaphors perpetuated much of the show’s dialogue. Throughout the “Real World” style confessionals numerous women waxed philosophically about their desire to find love (and marry into $50 million dollars!). When one woman was dismissed, she talked about how her life would still have a “happy ending.” The priceless moment when the prince turns out to be a pauper is just six Mondays from now.

Hopefully, the girl he picks won’t really love him and will just be after his money. That’s what Fox wants, right? They want to parade these women around like cattle to be poked and prodded by a guy whose hands are more comfortable around a shovel than they are something rich people hold on to – glasses of Cristal or something (I wouldn’t know).

That’s what America wants to see, isn’t it? The contrived dramatic irony play out in this, a fabulously pathetic display of human nature. The hilarity largely stems from the exploitation of greed. One woman, a banker, was thrilled at the prospects of Evan not knowing what to do with the money (the premise is that Evan inherited it) and she, of course, would certainly know how to allocate his funds.

Oh, the drama.

There’s also the comedic value in watching desperate women (either financially or emotionally, Fox shows them both in similarly terrible light) throw themselves at a man under wonderfully false pretense.

Or is it? What if Fox has pulled the wool over the eyes of the American people? Maybe Evan Marriot (if that is his real name) is actually a millionaire and Fox has decided to exploit the watchers of the show, like we believe the women are being exploited. This sort of meta-reflection, while highly intelligent, (and would undoubtedly be a masterful play on the part of Fox) is terribly unlikely.

Should Evan actually be the $50 million dollar man, Fox will have flipped the cattle parade of female beef on Monday nights into a brilliant manipulation of television viewers.

Though, it is more likely we are watching a pageant where the prize is a construction worker who makes close to $10 an hour.

Luke Smith can be reached at lukems@umich.edu.

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