Rather than recapping last week’s episode, I’d like to take a few minutes to update you all on what has been going on the past week.
As you may recall, a few weeks ago I prefaced one of my recaps with a short statement about how some of my friends were treated on MasterChef – including 2 assaults, a horrible case of sexual harassment, and 2 people considering suicide upon return.
I wrote that blurb just hours after being told that one of the happiest, sweetest, sunniest people from the cast had seriously considered suicide upon return. I have no words for how angry that made me (Not at the person, at the show). I’d known of the mistreatment most of us went through, and I knew of some of the extreme abuse that some went through, as I mentioned… but the idea that this beautiful ray of light could have been snuffed out over it all? It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.
It confirmed to me that I would never be able to write positively about the show, or the people directly involved in creating the incidents I mentioned. That put me in a bit of a dilemma – I’d already promised several people that I would continue recapping til the end of the season, and I’m not one to break promises.
As I have maintained this blog to be positive and upbeat, I felt that the best compromise I could do – and the best honour I could do to my readers as WELL as my friends that had been hurt – would be to post a disclaimer about it.
This past Thursday night I received a news alert that a blog had written a story about my “accusations’, one that was fairly sensationalistic. Then, Jezebel wrote something… And the shit hit the fan.
On Friday night, one of Shine America’s lawyers called me to talk about the articles. I assured him that I had not spoken to any media, and he told me that he was concerned about what I had said in my blog. He said that he hadn’t heard of any of it before, and that they all wanted to make sure that everyone was having a good time on the show – he expressed what sounded like sincere concern for the women I had mentioned. He said he wanted to investigate, and “make things right”.
So I told him everything. I gave him names, full details of the big incidents, overall details about some of the smaller stuff (women being told to flirt with the judges, etc), and which episodes he could find the ON CAMERA EVIDENCE of what I was talking about. (Not aired, but I knew the footage had been filmed of one assault, and the worst sexual harassment incident). I wouldn’t give him the name of those who had considered suicide, but assured him that they seemed to be out of the woods, and with a BIG support system. He was so “concerned” about them, that he called back later that night – well after hours – to discuss them again, and to ask for them to contact the show psychologist. Once again, he told me that he took my concerns seriously, and would investigate.
Imagine my shock the next afternoon – just a few short waking hours later – when the show released the following statement:
“Contestants on MASTERCHEF are treated with the utmost respect and professionalism and we care tremendously about their well being. The recent comments posted about the treatment of contestants are completely without merit.”
… then more news outlets picked up the story. I spent the weekend fielding calls and messages from contestants who were furious with the statement: LOADS of issues with both “utmost respect and professionalism” and “we care”.
For my part, I’m pissed off that I got played like that. I honestly thought that supplying names, incidents, etc to someone who claimed to want to investigate and “make it right” could help – not much could be done about what has already happened, I know… but apologies to those hurt would go a long way to healing some wounds. Also, for them to take it seriously would mean a better time for women in coming seasons. (From what I’ve heard from past contestants, things were bad, getting worse each year, but there wasn’t ANYTHING like what I mentioned – aside from the suicidal thoughts/depression.)
Had the show released a statement that said they were taking the allegations seriously and would investigate it, that would have been fine. Instead, they outright dismissed everything and slapped MANY more people in the face, than I even gave them information about. For every serious case I mentioned, there were many others who had issue with the lack of food and water, or had individual concerns.
Since the story broke, I’ve been called a “retard” by one male contestant, a “bimbo” by some random commenter on my blog, I’ve been lied about to the media by the same show that has me gagged from talking to the media myself. I’ve had my honour questioned many times, I’ve had my weight and appearance ridiculed, and I’ve been called “bitter for not getting an apron”.
Actually, before I move on, let me address that last point.
I think I’ve been pretty clear on previous entries that I am very happy that I did not get an apron. Despite the months of hard work I’d put into training and preparing for the show, the cost that was involved, and the fact that I am THE most competitive person I know… the very first thing I said to my husband on the day of auditions (after a week in LA without him) was “GET ME OUT OF HERE”. I didn’t even want to bake my cake, and I sure as hell didn’t want the apron at that point. One of my fellow contestants says that if she’d gotten an apron, she probably would have hung herself with it – I’m not too far off from that sentiment, and probably would have been RIGHT there with her after another week!
I am EXHAUSTED from all of the drama these past few days. I didn’t ask for this, I was merely trying to provide context to my readers, and to support my friends. Never in a million years did I expect it to blow up this way, and leave me even MORE disappointed with the show. I certainly didn’t expect to be on the receiving end of a ton of abuse for it.
The thing is, I stand by what I said. I will always stand by what I said, as it is the truth. Not only could I NOT make this stuff up, but I have absolutely no motivation to. I wasn’t sexually harassed, I wasn’t personally assaulted. While I was subjected to poor treatment, it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t more or less shake off by now. By and large, these were ills committed against OTHER PEOPLE.
… but I know about it. These are people who I care about, who didn’t deserve it. I want to be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day… and for me, that means acknowledging what happened. It means standing up for people who have less of a voice than I do. In my view, for me to continue recapping the show and pretending that those things didn’t happen would be dishonourable.
I may not have gone looking for a fight, but it seems that one has been dropped on my doorstep.
While I really wish that Shine America had been sincere about investigating and making it right – and while I REALLY wish they hadn’t minimized what everyone went through by using terms like “utmost respect”, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The show now has all of the details of the incidents I mentioned, and that’s a weight off my chest. I can’t control what they do – or DON’T do – with the information, but they can no longer claim ignorance in any honest way.
Something key about me – I don’t suffer bullies. I won’t tolerate anyone bullying my friends, and I’m not easily bullied myself. All of this hate about my looks, weight, or supposed bitterness… the comments like “retard” and “bimbo” – they don’t change anything. I won’t be bullied into submission, and I won’t be reading comments on those articles – so, hate away if you feel the need to.
Going in to MasterChef, I was pretty solid in my belief that reality tv was the bane of society, and a contributing factor in so many of today’s problems. (Entitlement mentality, lack of responsibility for one’s actions, fame by any means necessary, etc). I’d wrongly summarized the main problem as “reality TV is dumbing society down”… in so many ways.
While I still believe that now, after coming back from MasterChef I’ve evolved my view a bit. The dumbing down of society isn’t the most dangerous and horrifying side effect of the reality TV culture… it’s what it’s training people to be like. Reality TV actively trains society to lack empathy for each other. It encourages dehumanization and “othering” of people, and really detaches the viewer from seeing actual people as being worthy of any sort of respect or common courtesy.
I’m so incredibly sick of being surrounded by hatred everywhere – racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia…. I see a lot of that as being at least influenced – if not rooted – in how people are being trained to lack empathy for their fellow humans.
There are so many instances of wrongs being committed against people for the entertainment of others. In the case of reality TV, some sign up for it (Fear Factor?)… but the contestants on MasterChef signed up for a cooking competition. Regardless of the fact that the show devolved into smutty reality TV doesn’t change the intentions or views of those who signed up, and it doesn’t excuse what we went through.
Enough is enough.
I’ve always had a problem with how self centered society is becoming, and the lack of empathy people have for their fellow person. I would be remiss if I were to take the easy way out, delete everything, and pretend it never happened. I have more honour than that.
I will be standing my ground, and continuing to support my friends in their silent (contracts!) ordeal. While I would love it if more people came forward, I understand why doing so would be scary and too much drama – I think we’ve all had our fill of drama.