I love Bravo. For years I have watched quality programming that has been geared toward me and the rest of the LGBT community. The Real Housewives franchise is basically Mean Girls 20 years later, and I'm obsessed. Watching Tabatha Coffey take over salons and bring unsuspecting business owners to tears makes me swoon, and pretty much anything that Rachel Zoe does basically cries, "Gays! Come watch me! I'm pouting!" Most of the programs are can't-miss. However, I must admit that the Tuesday, March 19, episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker left me wondering whether the folks at Bravo really know their audience as well as they claim.
The episode featured Patti Stanger overly excited to match her first lesbian, Khristianne Uy, aka Chef K. This was a huge deal for the show. Over the years Ms. Stanger has had the opportunity to match not only heterosexual millionaires but, in more recent years, gay male millionaires, but this was the first time that the show had the chance to showcase women falling in love with women and what it's like for mature lesbians to find a real relationship. After watching the show, I can safely say that that wonderful opportunity was squandered; the episode was poorly representative of what a lesbian pursuant of a relationship is like.
After interviewing the first three women who were hoping to be matched with one of the episode's millionaires, Patti immediately started trafficking in stereotypes, saying, "Did you notice how I didn't ask the first three women whether they were straight or gay? I just knew they were straight." When the second group of women entered, she asked the first woman if she is gay, and the woman responded that she is bisexual. Then Patti called out another woman as a lesbian. Granted, she was correct, but she should not have been making assumptions about any woman's sexuality based on her appearance, especially considering that she was now being commissioned to match a lesbian. While interviewing straight women who were there to be matched with a male millionaire, she asked them about their careers, what they are looking for as far as family goes, and what they aspire to be. However, when she interviewed the women who were there to be matched with Chef K, all she seemed to ask them was whether or not they would be open to dating someone who identifies as "butch."
"Patti is extremely good at what she does," says Meghann Novinskie, an LGBT relationships expert and the executive director of Mixology: Matching With a Twist. "And I am sure, as a matchmaker myself, that Patti asked the potential daters further questions about what they were looking for in a potential partner and not just whether or not they were butch of fem. It's a shame that Bravo didn't air that. In relationships, gay or straight, there is more to a love connection than outside appearances. It was a shame that because lesbians are often stereotyped as butch or fem and will only date the opposite, it seemed almost as if they were perpetuating that stereotype."
Indeed, after six seasons on the air and countless success stories, it's quite clear that Patti Stanger knows what she's doing, so there's little doubt that questions beyond the aesthetic were touched upon, so it then becomes an editing issue. Bravo is a network that has a large gay audience, so whoever was in charge of editing the program did the network and the LGBT community a huge disservice. Bravo had the unique opportunity to showcase a real lesbian courtship and matchmaking and completely dropped the ball. Just in case anyone over at the network was wondering, the "L" in "LGBT" stands for "lesbian" -- and every lesbian that I know who saw the episode is extremely disappointed in the stereotypical portrayal of their community.
"When someone hires a matchmaker, they're looking for the whole package, not just a pretty face," Novinskie adds. "You can get a pretty face on your own at a bar. It seems like Chef K was looking for the whole package. Bravo could have showcased Patti, a successful, well-respected matchmaker, screening the lesbians as well as she screened the straight women, but they didn't."
I will continue to watch Bravo, because their overall support for and representation of the LGBT community far surpasses that of many of the other networks, but the single lesbian inside me died a little bit on March 19. Here's hoping that the next time Bravo decides to feature lesbians in a program, they will do it in a much more flattering and realistic light.
Follow Mark Brennan Rosenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markbrosenberg