Yesterday, I watched a marathon of Millionaire Matchmaker. Lest you chastise me for wasting 1/6th of my Saturday lazily consuming highly-edited "reality" TV, allow me to rationalize my lack of activity by pointing to the disgusting 110-degree Tulsa heat outside (and the allure of my friend's wonderfully air-conditioned apartment). Whilst keeping cool, however, I felt it only right to put my college degree to good use and use this rare TV consumption opportunity to do a bit of "worldview research."
"How can I be a pop-culture critic without first being a connoisseur?" I justified when Bravo churned out its third, 60-minute episode in a row (with my only attempt to get off the couch being to get some nachos). The fact is, my life over the past few years has been far too busy to take in the latest trends...cable-TV not withstanding. Before coming back to the States, I owned the lowest-end cell phone Australian-money could buy (one can live without wi-fi, shocking as it may seem), was still catching up on Season 3 of The Office and hadn't seen a Hollywood movie in the theater in nearly 9 months. With all the fun I was having overseas (btdubs...If you've never been to an Are You Serious party, you are seriously missing out), there simply wasn't time to correct (or lament) my "unfortunate" deficit of cultural savvy.
So, here I am, attempting to make up for lost time. And I would be lying if I said I haven't been absolutely fascinated by how the world works when you're not living under a rock. Wide-eyed and intrigued by this particular program, fascinated, in this case, is not a synonym for appealing so much as it is for shocked. Since the show's content is as raw and as "worldly" (I feel like a Fundamentalist Granny using that word...) as you can get, I was surprised to get a bit of Biblical worldview care of the gay-friendly network that brought us such gems as My Life on the D-List and The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Allow me to introduce you to the Millionaire Matchmaker herself: Patti Stanger. While the rest of single society is relegated to eHarmony, the rich people get Patti. Aside from her unique choice of career, I'm convinced Patti has her own reality show simply because of her sass. For what she lacks in tact, she makes up for in blunt honesty. (After all, she can afford to say what she wants, seeing as her clients shell out big bucks for her set-up services). And its through that big-mouth candor that she educates the world with a rather old-fashioned view of romance.
"No sex!" she tells her male clientele when counselling them on beginning a new relationship. (And this to millionaire men who are used to getting all the action they want...). According to Patti, sex from the start screws up everything (lust, anyone?) and only hurts the cause of getting to know someone in order to settle down. (Exercising celibacy to build pre-marital intimacy? Sounds familiar...)
As a part of her match-making plan, Patti interviews dozens of successful, attractive potentials and invites the crème de la crème to a mixer where they can get to know her millionaire client. During the mixer, Patti observes the clients to make sure the conversation content is appropriate (i.e. Don't discuss possibilities of what you can "do later...") and that focus and fidelity are being practiced (no getting phone numbers from other girls. The client can only choose one woman). Additionally, as Patti coaches her clients pre-date, she expects nothing less than absolute chivalry on the part of males, and absolutely no leading of the relationship on the part of the females (starting from Day 1). Men open doors, initiate appropriate conversation and plan the date, says Patti. Likewise, women are told to dress flatteringly (guys are visual, don't look like a frump), cut the slutty act, and don't even think about taking control of the first date (the guy shouldn't get off that easily...in any sense of the word...).
"If you want to get married," Patti boldly claims, "you have to play by my rules." With clients whose questionable relationship habits include casual sex and cheating (normalcy for the rest of the world), Patti is not shy about questioning their motives. Such behaviour, she claims, shows that they don't truly want to get married. The truth? If they really wanted to be a "one-woman man," they would get serious about the process. Because finding a spouse takes work, and being married takes self-control...
Based on her frankness (I won't repeat her crude, yet ironically wise, view on male sexuality) and frequent use of the F-word on the show, I'm pretty positive Patti is not a believer. Yet, in spite of everything, she has a better Biblical worldview than the likes of pre-teen chick flicks and squeaky-clean 90's sitcoms. (One day I'll write a blog about how watching Mary and Lucy's dating adventures on Seventh Heaven screwed up my view on "Christian relationships" in my teenage years). As I said, this Millionaire Matchmaker encourages chivalry, fidelity, male leadership and delayed gratification. Patti is 100% confident that her way works, yet she probably has zero idea that those methods came straight from the mind of God :)
Lately, I've contemplated becoming a covert missionary. You know, infiltrating culture in culture's way just to bring in a Biblical worldview in disguise. The fact is, most people in our culture won't take a dose of Truth unless its sugar-coated. But we can work with that...the important thing is that it gets in there. Whether its my film-maker friends who are strategically slinking into Hollywood via normal (think non-Christian) movies or believing business-men who take the high road of integrity in an age of compromise, I believer there is greater influence to be had within secular culture than outside its bounds.
While perusing the complimentary magazine on a Southwest flight last month, I was appalled by a simple Top Five list of tips on raising children. Lo and behold, what do I find? Tip #3 was basically Lady Gaga's Born This Way, minus the catchy beat and big hair. In a brief, yet pointed, two sentences (there's no such thing as agenda-free media, I'm convinced), parents were urged not to judge their children's choices on clothing or how they spend their free time. While there is certainly something to be said for moms and dad's who live vicariously through their children (pushing them to do/be very specific things), I think the "Let them live how they want to live" parenting advice is downright foolish. Teaching right from wrong (i.e. don't wear clothes that flaunt your goodies) and setting boundaries (i.e. Go outside and exercise instead of playing video games all day) are the very characteristics of good parent! But to the un-discerning Southwest passenger in an age of tolerance, the advice appears wise. And that is what makes me so angry. Worldviews are constructed and corrupted from a series of simple things just like that...
But what if those of us with a Biblical worldview had more of a say in secular society? I think Christians underestimate just what a powerful position magazine advice columnists or TV reality show producers have when it comes to shaping society's worldview. Yet, what an opportunity for us to break into these fields! Hollywood films that promote the reconciliation of marriages or novels where the protagonist selflessly risks his life in order to save someone else's (perhaps even an enemy): Those are does of truth, friends! The world needs them and we need to offer them.
Even if they're not couched in God-words and Christian labels, I'm happy to applaud those rare pieces of media that takes Kingdom-concepts to the masses. Like Millionaire Matchmaker: It tells men to step up and women to stop being tramps. And it was all there first in Ephesians 5:23 and Proverbs 11:22.
Thanks Bravo for the Bible study... ;)
p.s. If you're gonna look up those scriptures, I'd suggest the Message paraphrase (verses 23-25) for the first one. The second one is just straight up, now matter how you translate it (harsh but true).