TLC’s 90 Day Fiance is a massively successful franchise consisting of an ever-growing bouquest of spinoffs.
Memes from the show are spread far and wide, some shared by people who have never watched the show.
The cultural impact of this hit series cannot be questioned.
But what a growing portion of the audience – even its unabashedly devoted fans – are questioning is whether the show’s cultural impact is a good thing. This isn’t just about the stars, either.
The show has undertones of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny.
At every stage of the process, it sometimes appears that 90 Day Fiance aims to appeal to the worst assumptions that viewers already have.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t watch 90 Day Fiance or enjoy it, but it’s important to be cognizant of exactly what we are consuming.
And 90 Day Fiance has some real problems that are growing bigger as the show tries to outdo past seasons with each new season and spinoff.
Continue reading below and see what we mean.
1. 90 Day Fiance has a race problem
No, not a race problem — a race-ISM problem. In that, it is very representative of many American (and international) institutions. There are also issues of xenophobia and misogyny.
2. Not all racism looks the same
It’s not as simple as Baby Girl Lisa calling her husband Usman, a Nigerian man, the N-word — a slur that she also favored using on social media — and TLC cut the footage of it and rehired her. Only when the footage leaked followed by courageous Black Lives Matter protests from coast to coast did TLC realize that maybe having a slur-slinging racist on their network was not a great idea, at which point they reportedly fired Lisa from B90 Strikes Back. That’s one of the more obvious examples … but the main problem with the franchise is more insidious.
3. This is a complicated, multi-faceted topic
It’s not always about the stars of the show proudly spouting American supremacy, though that is a deeply screwed up thing to watch. Angela Deem is beyond parody at this point. If all of the problems with 90 Day Fiance were as glaringly obvious as the verbally abusive and toxic stuff that comes out of her mouth, it wouldn’t be an issue.
4. In a way, 90 Day Fiance is not alone
Many reality shows are accused of reinforcing racism and misogyny in their viewers, with shows like The Real Housewives of Atlanta having been the subject of lengthy scholarly articles on the pernicious ways that they cement racist stereotypes in the mindsets of viewers.
5. Step 1: Casting
Reality TV isn’t scripted, but there are a number of tools on hand to guarantee that what you produce is entertaining and will resonate with your audience. The first step is editing. Though 90 Day Fiance is always sure to include at least a few couples that are just dealing with some awkwardness or some outside adversity but are otherwise normal people in love, they also cast couples with dramatic or even suspicious age gaps, couples where one or both parties appear to be a scammer, and they’re always happy to cast stars who appear to have … glaring personality disorders that will play well on TV.
6. Step 2: Meddling
Production sets up group activities, asks stars to repeat a line more audibly or with more energy, and can ask leading questions in confessionals to get stars to say what they want, how they want them to without feeding them a script. Production prods the stars to fight each other at Tell All specials, dangling the possibility of future seasons if they are entertaining enough. In some cases, they straight-up feed stars lines — as they famously did to a friend of David and Annie’s, who was filmed asking Annie for a “massage” at the insistence of producers who wanted to create needless awkwardness.