Cinderella, Meet Reality TV

Joe Millionaire: Tall, dark, handsome… and a fraud. (Jan 7)

By Colin Allen, published January 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Fox Television pushed reality TV a little further on Monday, January 6, with the airing of "Joe Millionaire," a new program in which 20 women vie to win the heart of one man they believe to be a millionaire. But here is the rub: none of these women know that Joe is, in fact, a construction worker with limited financial means, earning only about $19,000 a year. Can love trump money and survive deception?

"In some ways this is an extension of the old battle of the sexes, but I think it has taken a very harsh turn," says Armond Aserisky, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist from thePhiladelphia area. "No matter how you slice it, what you have is people participating in a lie. I'm made uneasy by that."

"This kind of fakery is done all the time," Aserisky admits. Still, basing a new relationship on false pretenses is not healthy, and it creates a ruinous undercurrent of distrust. Even if both partners can overcome a rough beginning, it is difficult to reestablish trust once it's lost, a vital element of any healthy relationship. "It is a no-win situation," says Aserisky.

While viewers await the birth and possible destruction of this particular relationship, one thing is certain: "Joe Millionaire" is drumming up a lot of interest. The premier episode beat out every other show in its timeslot. "People are very willing to see ugly things," says Aserisky.

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