Reality television is believed to have a main focus of capturing the minds of individuals and steering the ethics, behaviors, aspirations, and routines of ordinary people”(Ouellette & Hay, 2). Reality is able to accomplish this through a variety of tactics; one method is the relatedness of the characters to the viewers. The individuals on reality shows are strategically chosen to fit the criteria of viewer’s personalities. Also, women contestants are often representative of the stereotypical female: tiny frame, fit body, and large breasts. If a woman does not fit these standards, she is eliminated within the first few episodes. As a result, the viewers are drawn to different aspects of the character profiles and develop the impression that the television show is actual “reality” because they have similar qualities as the characters; or, they may feel as if they should work towards achieving the same features in order to gain love and affection. The mix of perspectives can be dangerous for reality television viewers who watch contestants searching for love. If viewers relate too intensely to the “fabricated” character personalities, they receive a false impression of love. One reality television show that addresses all of these issues is VH1’s “Flavor of Love.” This reality show has been running for three seasons in hopes that Flavor Flav will find his true love. Thus, reality shows, such as “Flavor of Love,” gives specific examples of degrading of women, and portrays stereotypical factors that are often not present in real life situations which in return creates a fabricated television show about searching for love.
“Flavor of Love” stars William Drayton, better known as Flavor Flav, a popular rap star from the group “Public Enemy.” His reality show, however, focuses on finding “true love.” The past three seasons were all filmed at a house in California that must have been a private location because it was on a hill without any neighbors. The producers allowed the girls to live in Flav’s “house” even though it was only rented; hence, “producers located proper settings, participants, and conditions in order to produce a kind of televised experiment…” in order for the show to be successful (Ouellette and Hay 177). Therefore, it is obvious that the girls who wanted to be part of the show, had to agree to live in a location that was not allowed to be undisclosed. This factor already seems unrealistic. The women and the bachelor are not even residing in a familiar location. Even though most reality shows are filmed in an undisclosed location, the difference between “Flavor of Love” and another similar dating show “The Bachelor,” is the fact that Flavor Flav does not fit the typical stereotype of the eligible bachelor on American television because he is petite in stature, thin, and black.
Flavor Flav is probably affluent after being the star of several reality shows and a onetime popular rapper, he is not the picturesque “TV Prince…[with a] firm ass,” but the contestants on his show certainly fulfill the typical stereotype of women (Pozner 99). The majority of the women on all the seasons of “Flavor of Love” were thin and curvy. By having such an abundant amount of girls (25) competing for the love of Flav, it reinforces that women are looked upon for their beauty and not their intelligence (Ponzer 97). Also, the women are not identified by their real names but given nicknames such as “Luscious D” or “Hotlanta.” The reason why they are given nicknames is because Flav stated at the beginning of the season that he was bad at remembering names. However, what is ironic with his statement is if he has difficulty recalling names, how does labeling the women with nicknames make the task of remembering any easier? The use of nicknames further supports the idea that Flav only wants to associate with these girls as sexual objects rather than on personal levels. Girls were often in scandalous dresses during the elimination ceremony, and one event in particular was when the women had to compete by dressing provocative for a calendar—the winner was determined by who took the sexiest picture. When the last several episodes aired, the women were on a boat, and needless to say their miniscule bikinis on their tiny bodies and large breasts were highly visible to the viewers. Especially when one woman told him she would not have sex with him, she was conveniently the one removed from the show on elimination night.
The twist that occurs on “Flavor of Love” when compared to other dating shows is the fact that besides Flavor Flav being black, most of the women are also black. Therefore, the black women are never eliminated completely, a statistic that usually occurs on other reality shows because black women are usually tokenized and kicked off the show quickly (Ponzer 98). Regardless of race, many of the women still personify the archetypes of women from the standard reality show. For instance, “Seezinz,” a woman who was in the final three elimination, often stated she was not there to make friends and nonverbally declared herself to be the “Antagonizer.” The woman Flavor Flav chose to date at the end of season three personified the “Weeper” for a short time, who wondered what she did wrong because she was eliminated about four episodes before the finale and kept repeating “why Flav?” Due to her persistence that she felt as if she had a strong connection, her role actually changed and was brought back onto the show, and won the chance to “date” the man they were competing for from the start of the show.
Another factor that was odd when compared to other dating shows was that Flavor Flav greeted all his former contestants on a reunion show, and after 6 months, the winner, a woman given the nickname “Thing 2,” and Flavor Flav were finally reunited. Unlike reality, when Flavor Flav chose a woman to date, they were not allowed to have visible contact with one another because it would obviously leak who won the TV show before all the episode had time to air. Accordingly, when the two lovers were reunited on the reunion show, Flavor Flav admitted to dating the mother of his child while he was separated from the winner, and after the time
apart, did not want to date the winner of his reality show. Flavor Flav said he realized he had love in front of him the entire time he was participating in his reality show. However, he was not referring to the love on his show, but his child’s mother at home. Therefore, on the reality show, he dumbed Thing 2 and proposed to Liz, his baby's mother. This situation is also unique because Flav’s “true” love was not the same skin color as himself; rather she was a white, large woman. Her physique is completely opposite of the contestants on his reality show. They can be considered “perfect 10’s” because they were pretty, passive, and intellectually unthreatening (Pozner 98).”
The bizarre circumstances at the end of the reunion show became further unraveled in an interview conducted by Vh1, revealing Flav’s truthful feelings regarding season 3 of his show. Flav was asked when the approximate time period was that he decided that he did not want to continue with the reality show. He responded, “I kinda realized it around Flavor of Love 2, but we had to get past Flavor of Love 3. You know what I’m sayin’ and the whole 9? (VH1 2008).” Basically, in so many words, he is admitting that he was not seeking “love” in season 3 and could not break his contract. These aspects of the interview depict the contestants as being naive and foolish, especially the winner, Thing 2. Regardless if she was aware that this was the ultimate outcome, she still seemed humiliated. Basically, the contestants and viewers wasted time participating or watching the program. Many do not feel sorry for the contestants because no one forces these women to appear on reality television (Pozner, 99). However, many women appear on these shows because of what they have watched as a prior viewer. They are drawn to the normative features of the characters in prior seasons and develop a sense of relatedness toward the stereotypical characters. The reality show then depicts “everyday” women as finding true love on television. Since these viewers can relate to the show’s characters, they feel they can also find love, but in reality are being fed an unrealistic impression of the concepts of love.
Overall, “Flavor of Love” seems to follow a pretty typical plot carried out with love and reality television. These individuals are placed a mansion rented by the broadcasting company and filled with characters that are specifically placed together to fit certain roles or cause drama. The characters also fit stereotypical roles based on appearance, using their sexuality to attempt to gain power. However, many of the women who played the role of seductress had this position backfire when they were eliminated (Whitehead 4). The sexual acts and persona these women insinuate give a clouded impression to the viewers of the way a woman should be behave. Also, the personalities of the characters are fabricated to be relatable, giving viewers a false impression of love. Lastly, “Flavor of Love” also follows the not-so-happily-ever-after ideal of reality television by dumping the women he ultimately picked to win. Pozner says it superbly that the chosen girl is dumped and the fairytale of finding true love while filming the reality show for several weeks ultimately dies because fairytales are “not real” (99).
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