The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 43.0°F | Overcast


Hypnotizing Multimillions Sadly, Viewers Captivated By Shallow, Pathetic Marraige Show

Veena Thomas

Who doesn’t want to marry a multimillionaire?

What else could Fox television executives have been thinking when they conceived their latest pathetic attempt at high ratings? Apparently bored (who wouldn’t be?) with his other shows like When Good Pets Go Bad and When Animals Attack, Mike Darnell, Fox executive, proposed a (slightly) different idea for a television program: When People Show How Greedy and Shallow They Really Are!

Hence was born Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?, which aired on television last Tuesday night. The gimmick: fifty women participated in a beauty pageant of sorts, posing in their eveningwear and swimsuits, and subjecting themselves to countless interviews. Instead of the finalist winning scholarships or a tiara, she won something far different -- her very own multimillionaire, to love and to cherish!

And remember that the women didn’t know anything about the potential groom until the moment he selected his wife. During the course of the show, no one saw him except in shadow. The network kept his identity secret until the culmination of the selection process.

Surely not many women would subject themselves to the humility of admitting that they wanted to marry someone with no knowledge of that person except his financial status, right?

Wrong. Over a thousand women signed up to participate on the show, and the producers had to whittle the number down to 50 through interviews. As if this weren’t pathetic enough, after the show, so many women clamored to sign up to be in the next round of the show that the website <> crashed.

The lucky (?) winner was Darva Conger, a thirty-four year old nurse. What possessed her to be on the show? Could it really be as shallow as wanting to marry someone wealthy?

What about the groom? Rick Rockwell, age forty-two, eventually stepped out of the shadows to choose his bride. Even his mother was surprised, saying she had no idea he had so much money. “He doesn’t live like a flamboyant millionaire,” she said. “The last car I saw him drive was a Volkswagen.”

If Conger really chose to be on the show strictly in hopes that she would marry a wealthy man who would spend a fortune on her, she might be very disappointed. Friends of Rockwell had no idea he was a millionaire and described him as “one of those guys who still has 50 cents left from his First Communion dollar.” Far from lavishing money on everyone, he gave a 25-dollar gift certificate as a wedding gift to good friends of his. His one-story, 1,200 square-foot home has a nice view of the ocean, but Rockwell has decorated it with patio furniture. He might be a multimillionaire (reports indicate he has assets worth two million), but he doesn’t appear to be spending any of it.

Feminists and others decry the show as making a mockery of the sanctity of marriage. Hardly. There have been far worse examples of marriages. Still, this show was far from a stellar example. A marriage should be between two people with the same goals in life and similar morals and attitudes. She wanted to get rich quick by marrying someone about whom she knows nothing. He wanted to marry a trophy wife, the most beautiful of the fifty, although he had never even spoken to her. Two stupid, selfish people marrying each other -- why shouldn’t it work?

The show accomplished several feats. It removed two shallow people from the dating pool, a plus for singles everywhere. It also showed us something about our society and others. People everywhere discussed the show over office water coolers. Most denounced it as a stupid stunt during sweeps month in an attempt for high ratings, saying it was one of the strangest things they’ve ever seen.

So why did they see it? The “stupid stunt” worked. The final half-hour of the show captivated an audience of 22.8 million viewers. Fully more than one-third of all women in the under-35 demographic watching TV on Tuesday night were tuned into Who Wants To Marry A Multimillionaire?

The viewers are hardly better for having seen it. They gave Fox exactly what the network wanted: viewers and phenomenal ratings. They’ve fallen into Fox’s little trap, jumping through a hoop on demand. Positive reinforcement is a very powerful thing. Expect many more episodes of Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire, as Fox attempts to see how many times viewers will jump before finally thinking for themselves.

Fox has proven its point. Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? was a success for two reasons. Fifty-one shallow people appearing on the show can be excused as an aberration of society. But when an additional 22.8 million people will watch it, we are in a sorry state of affairs indeed.