Rather than feign disingenuous shock that the world of reality TV is one full of charlatans, cheats, and crooks putting their most reprehensible character traits to work for them, we’ll simply say this: It’s sort of alarming how often our most cynical suspicions are confirmed. While they stop short of deliberately hiring known criminals to populate their casts—quackity quackity, Tom DeLay on Dancing With The Stars! [canned laughter]—it’s nevertheless remarkable how frequently TV producers accidentally end up giving airtime to people who, oops, turn out to be unscrupulous assholes off camera. Why, it’s almost as if the qualities of being morally questionable, emotionally unstable, egotistical, attention-seeking, and unfailingly selfish that make for “good TV” also make you a bad person or something! But while we aren’t naïve enough to pretend that anyone seeking a short route to fame via six weeks of staged humiliations, wanton abuse of the phrase “throw you under the bus,” and generally behaving like the histrionic star of your very own Tennessee Williams play is likely to be a person we’d hang with, even to our jaded eyes, reality television is looking more and more like a breeding ground for sociopaths.
Fittingly enough, the week kicked off with the acid reflux-like reemergence of one of television’s first reality stars, Richard Hatch. The dirtbag from which a hundred “I’m not here to make friends” flowers bloomed, Hatch lied and cheated his way to the $1 million grand prize on Survivor, only to turn around and do likewise to the IRS when it came to giving them their cut—assuming, apparently, that being handed a giant Styrofoam check with “$1 million” emblazoned across it on one of the highest-rated television shows of the year would somehow escape the government’s attention. But never mind the actual crime; in an interview with Matt Lauer earlier this week, Hatch claimed that his four-years-plus sentence had nothing to do with tax evasion or the fact that he blatantly lied on the stand, and everything to do with the fact that he enjoyed having sex with men:
Hatch also reiterated his issues with the judge, who, according to Hatch, refused to let members of the jury be questioned about their feelings toward homosexuals.
When asked whether he really meant to suggest that he got prison time because he was a gay reality-TV star, Hatch answered in no uncertain terms.
"I didn't mean to allude to it," he said. "I meant to state that definitively. Yeah, I do, I do believe that. I don't think you or anyone else could deny that we as homosexuals face discrimination."
Yes, “tax evasion,” “perjury”—let’s get real: The government just plain hates the gays, and many times these sorts of trials are really the clever fronts through which it can safely rid the streets of homos. Like with Wesley Snipes and Al Capone. And if Hatch is exaggerating, and just shamelessly aligning himself with the gay civil rights struggle as a way to garner unearned sympathy, and pretty much doing everything he can to avoid taking personal responsibility for his actions again—just short of blaming it on the fact that his stomach hurts real bad, and he thinks that he might be so sick that he’ll die soon, and everyone hates him anyway, so they’ll probably be really happy when he does—well, if he were totally faking it, would he already be back behind bars? Sure, his arrest earlier today could have been for violating the “no interviews without prior consent” terms of his sentence: After all, he reportedly cleared all of his television appearances, but then called into a talk radio show twice to refute claims by former U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente (Hatch’s original prosecutor) that he was “delusional.” It could be that Hatch is being punished for attempting to turn a fairly clear-cut case of getting caught disobeying the rules yet again into some sort of media circus that puts the system on trial, man. But isn’t it much more likely that he’s really the latest gay martyr to fall victim to our nation’s dangerous homophobia, like Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena before him? His lawyer Cynthia Ribas certainly thinks so:
Ribas compared Hatch to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former boxer who was released after spending 20 years in prison in New Jersey for three murders that he said he never committed. Bob Dylan helped win Carter’s release by writing a song about the case.
So who among you will set pen to paper and sing the ballad of Richard Hatch? And will they have enough chords and truth left over to spare some for So You Think You Can Dance choreographer and professional salsa instructor Alex Da Silva, who this week was arrested and charged with “four counts of forcible rape, two counts of assault with intent to commit rape, and two counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object” by four of his ex-students? Surely there has to be some sort of far-reaching conspiracy afoot there, too. Surely these aren’t just the ugly, extreme actions of men whose already dangerous sense of entitlement was compounded exponentially by their flirtations with fame.
But while Hatch and Da Silva are probably just victims of circumstance, or Machiavellian strategizing from their enemies, there’s probably no larger cause that can save Ryan Jenkins. One of the many Gucci-suited glans vying for the blatantly feigned affections of Paris Hilton Clown College graduate Megan Hauserman on VH1’s Megan Wants A Millionaire, Jenkins was actually one of the show’s less objectionable contestants, skating by on a good complexion and no discernible personality save a deep, abiding faith in his own fabulousness. But now Jenkins is reportedly on the run after being sought as a “person of interest” in the murder of his wife, a model and Playboy rep named Jasmine Fiore whom Jenkins married two days after meeting her in Las Vegas, where she was stripping.
Last Saturday, a homeless man rooting through a Dumpster in Southern California uncovered a suitcase with Fiore’s body inside it, and while Jenkins had filed a police report on his missing wife that day, not longer after the body was recovered, he was nowhere to be found. Now, despite his publicist’s claims that he has every intention of cooperating with the police, Jenkins has been missing since Saturday, and authorities believe he may be fleeing to his native Calgary. In the meantime, TMZ has been digging into his past, uncovering a 2007 conviction for domestic abuse that landed him a sentence of 15 months probation and mandatory psychological counseling and treatment for sex addiction—but, you know, we’re sure there’s a logical explanation for that as well. After all, that was so long ago, he was probably a totally different person.
In the wake of the news, VH1 has hurriedly scrubbed all mention of Megan Wants A Millionaire from its website and indefinitely postponed all future episodes—as well as most likely scrapping the upcoming I Love Money 3, of which [spoiler alert, we guess] Jenkins was reportedly the winner. Oh, if only there had been some way for the network to know that Jenkins had a disreputable past and possibly dangerous mental issues before it made him the centerpiece of two reality shows and awarded him a $250,000 grand prize! Of course, that’s a crack team of investigators they have over at TMZ; it’s not like anyone at VH1 could have found out all that stuff about how he’s potentially a threat to the women in his life by, say, running a simple background check. But in the future, perhaps a quick psychological screening might suffice? Say, weeding out all the morally bereft scum by quickly axing anyone who answers “yes” to “do you want to be a reality show contestant?” Or would that screw up the makings of “good TV”?