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We're all a bunch of whores

By Deron Overpeck
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 25, 2000
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For a week now, the United States has been gripped by the Fox special, "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire," and its unhappy aftermath. Pundits have opined on whether the show degraded women and the institution of marriage by turning it into a greed-based spectacle where people compete to marry someone of whom they know nothing but income. Actually, the show and its method of matchmaking fall securely within both an older marriage tradition and more recent cultural developments.

On the Feb. 15 broadcast, Rick Rockwell, a real estate developer and not particularly successful comedian, selected nurse Darva Conger to be his bride from 50 other women. He proposed on the spot, she agreed, they married and ran off for a Caribbean honeymoon. They returned separately a few days later in various stages of regret. Conger has chalked her experience up to one rather protracted lapse in judgment. She evidently agrees the event was as degrading as its worst detractors claim it is.

But does it? Our modern, romantic notion of marriage - the blissful union of two soulmates - is of relatively recent vintage. Throughout history, people married for politics, not love. Marriages were arranged out of expedience or to ensure familial alliances. Frequently, these unions ensured the continued financial stability of a destitute family. In other words, they were done for money. Love was a far less worthy reason for matrimony to our ancestors than it is for modern lovers.

Conger's and Rockwell's doomed union falls into a longer matrimonial tradition that has survived and thrived despite the recent development of "romantic" couplings. Money continues to be an essential, if unspoken, consideration in selecting a mate for most people. Why else do so many of us feel compelled to drive expensive cars or flash cell phones or other consumer items during our courting years? We're trying to demonstrate to potential mates that we have sufficient finances. "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire" merely emphasized the venal subtext of many marital relationships.

Just as the show didn't particularly tarnish matrimonial tradition, nor did it offer a particularly damning image of women. The National Organization for Women damned the show for its portrayal of modern women. These critics argue that the show presented women as gold diggers willing to parade around in "beachwear" for the approval of a rich man. Such images of women set feminist causes back decades, they charge. Many have referred to these women as whores.

Whether or not this is true is beside the point. However, I would like to mention Spring Break as another example of men and women parading around in "beachwear" to attract rich mates, or at least partners rich enough to buy the next round of drinks. "Multimillionaire" is nothing more than a transparent celebration of a particularly greedy moment in American history.

In our current cultural mindset, money is a sufficient reason to do anything. The chance to become rich in front of a gawking audience seems to sweeten the thrill of sudden solvency. The success of shows like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" demonstrates our fascination with getting rich quick in public venues. "Greed," another Fox show, makes the selfishness of our cupidity apparent by rewarding contestants for screwing over other contestants.

In the sports industry, athletes sign contracts not necessarily to play for winning teams but to make a lot of money. Endorsement deals are frequently worth more than the contracts to athletes, leading to stars like Michael Jordan and Alonzo Mourning shilling for Nike, which employs third world persons in conditions not terribly far removed from slavery.

Every level of society is marked by trading labor and time for money. We all show up at a job, give them our bodies for several hours, and are paid for it. In short, we're all whores. "Multimillionaire" only made evident the prurient and pecuniary drives supporting modern American existence. Although Fox claims they will not produce any more shows like this, hundreds of thousands of people have tried to apply to be future contestants. In the end, then, not only are we all whores, but we all seem to enjoy it.

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