Thought modern day reality show contestants were way too savvy for another “Joe Millionaire”-type trick? Think again: This May, Fox announced it will debut “I Wanna Marry ‘Harry,’” in which a dozen single American woman compete to fall in love with a British gentleman that they are led to believe is actually Prince Harry.
He’s not. He’s a random stranger named Matthew Hicks, an English guy who occasionally makes appearances as a Prince Harry lookalike.
Yikes. Even for the reality TV genre — which always revels in laughing at, not with, its stars — that’s pretty twisted.
“Will he be able to convince them he’s regal? And if he does, will they fall for the crown, or fall in love with the real him?” gushes Fox’s announcement. “Join ‘Harry’ as he courts each of the ladies, taking them on romantic dates worthy of a princess and trying to make some version of their fairytales come true.”
A network rep tells us that no, the women are never explicitly told that the man in question is Prince Harry. The contestants just know they’re on a dating show, and are shown a fancy British estate and a dashing red-headed gentleman — and, well, they draw some conclusions that simply aren’t corrected. Harry — er, Matthew — doesn’t comment on it either way (that would be so out of place!). The women are simply left to speculate.
Okay: First, put aside judging the type of person who not only signs up for a TV dating show, but would believe that the Queen (who has issues with Perfect Person Kate Middleton’s hemlines of all things) could possibly allow grandson Harry to find his wife on a Fox reality show.
Once you get rid of that major caveat, think about how truly mean this is. On some level, all reality shows make the big bucks (and get the big ratings) by exploiting people’s vulnerabilities, whether they’re looking to find a soulmate, lose weight, become famous, etc. But you do not mess with royal dreams.
Pop culture has trained us into thinking that even if it’s silly, there’s nothing more magical than royalty: To those scoffing, just remember how the world stopped the day Prince William and Kate Middleton got married. Now, to tap into someone’s secret desire — possibly one she’s had since she was a little girl — to meet a prince and then use it to make her a laughingstock on national television? Or even if she doesn’t even care about the fact that “Harry” is a prince, to skewer and mock someone who thinks their life is about to change for the better?
That’s just wrong.
Now, some people are going to say that just by virtue of these women being on the show, they deserve anything they get. For those of us who don’t find it hilarious when people are humiliated for sport, it’s not going to be so fun.
Either way, hopefully these women will catch on to the deception and Matthew/”Harry” will be the one looking quite foolish. Though that wouldn’t make very good TV now, would it? Basically, we’re already cringing.