Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila

For my analysis of reality tv I watched the final episode of the second season of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. The episode was originally airde on MTV on July 8, 2008 and I was able to watch it on the MTV website in 10 minute blocks with commercials. The commercials were for Target, a perfume by Britney Spears, HP laptops (featuring Fergie) and the program's reunion episode. The advertisement as well as my own experience with MTV would lead me to believe that the show is targeted at older teenagers as well as college students.
The show stars Tila Tequila who has achieved fame with her page of MySpace and as an adult model for Playboy and other adult magazines. She also was the host of two seasons of a reality dating show on MTV. The premise of the show was that Tila Tequila was bisexual. There were then 16 guys and 16 girls invited to compete "for a shot at love." By the final episode of each season, Tila had narrowed her selection down to one male and one female. In the first season she chose a man, whom she purportedly never dated post-shooting.
In the final episode, Fire and Ice, of the season 2, Tila is once again trying to decide between one male and one female. Bo, the straight male, claims that he loves Tila while Kristy, a bisexual female, is torn because she knows that her feelings for Tila are "120%" real, but she is concerned with her lack of experience with women.
There are several aspects of the show that I found particularly interesting while watching. First, this is the first reality show I have seen that consistently discusses a non-heterosexual formulation of sexuality. Other MTV shows have discussed homosexuality in the past, most notably The Real World, which has consistently featured homosexuality over its seasons. Other dating shows, such as Next have also had episodes featuring homosexual and generally homosexual male characters. A Shot of Love, though, is to the best of my questionable knowledge of reality television, the first show whose premise was based around the non-heterosexuality of its host. It is interesting then, that a bisexual female was the one chosen to fill this roll. Tila Tequila is filmed in such a way that it is still oriented at a male gaze, since the host is interested in both men and women. Even the scenes featuring Tila's bisexuality are shot in such a way as to be pleasing to a male gaze. The characters, especially females, generally seem to be shown in little clothing, and filling typically female roles. From the clips of past episodes shown during this episode, it is clear that the women of the show are the "emotional" ones and are often depicted crying, while the males of the show are seen showing aggression and getting into physical fights with one another. It seems to me that while the show may be trying to push some sort of societal buttons by placing non-normative sexual orientations in the spotlight, it is only willing to do this, insofar as the contestants still fill societally assigned gender roles. Even the show's intro makes it clear that the men and women on the show will be required to fill their specific roles, by displaying the masculine and feminine signs and showing two shot glasses, one pink and one blue to demonstrate the specifically binary roles that the contestants are allowed to fill.
Also interesting in the analysis of this program is the backlash it has received from viewers and homosexual women who find the show offensive. Beneath the video on the MTV webpage, was space for commentary. So far, there are 528 comments, many of which question the sexuality of the female contestants, saying they did it for fame and are not in fact bisexual/lesbian. I found it interesting that so many people were willing to question Tila and Kristy's bisexuality but that of the comments I read, there were none questioning the sexual orientation of the male contestant. While it seems clear that many aspects of the show are fabricated for publicity's sake, I think this says something more about our culture at large and the overwhelming heteronormativity of our society. It's fine to question whether someone who claims to be homosexual is in fact homosexual, but taboo (or even just not thought of) to question whether someone who claims to be heterosexual is in fact heterosexual.
Overall, I found the show rather repulsive in its obvious hunger for the male gaze without any sort of real discussion of the non-normative concepts it was presenting. But....its MTV and I wasn't really expecting anything other than that from the show.

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