Top Chef

One of the interesting things about reality tv is that sometimes, people surprise you and do the right thing when you least expect it. It’s rare, but it does happen. Occasionally though, you find that someone you used to like does something that forces you to sympathize with someone you disliked before. That’s probably one of the very few ways it resembles actual reality- that you can end up empathizing with people you dislike if you look at things objectively. It’s been said before on this site that the patriarchy is just as damaging to men as it is to women. These two ideas coincided on this week’s episode of Top Chef.

Marcel has been kind of picked on since the beginning. Part of it is probably that he just rubs these people the wrong way, and he’s into molecular gastronomy which sometimes can make traditional chefs act a bit condescending. In a group situation, these things tend to turn into an ‘us against whoever’ kind of situation- it’s all very schoolyard. It was petty, but fairly harmless up until now.

After the last challenge was completed, the 5 remaining contestants went back to the loft and started drinking. That’s fine, they’d been working very hard that day and wanted to blow off some steam. Sometime after Marcel had gone to bed, Elia, the last female chef (which is an entirely different post) mentioned that she’d always wanted to shave her head. Drunk people tending to think this sort of thing is a good idea, she did, as did Ilan (Cliff already has a shaved head, and apparently Sam refused). Then someone suggested getting Marcel to do the same. (The editing was fuzzy on whose idea it was.) Cliff went into Marcel’s room, woke him up, and they eventually ended up wrestling on the floor with Marcel telling Cliff to let him get up, and after Cliff finally did so, storming off to sleep in the bathroom. I don’t blame him a bit.

There have been so many times when someone points out that a scripted male character would never be treated as shoddily as the corresponding female character has been, but I don’t think I’ve seen such a clear example of a situation where a woman would never be treated this way. If it had been a female contestant who was woken up to be essentially assaulted someone would have stepped in. In this case the information was relayed that Cliff was acting like a moron, but no one stepped in to stop it- not another contestant, not a member of the production crew, no one. (I’m sure the producers would say they would have if there had been actual danger.) I can’t think of any other reason for that than the pervasive cultural mindset of ‘oh, he can take it’, ‘quit being a wuss’, or even worse ‘don’t be such a girl’. Those ideas? Help no one. And make it that much harder for the rest of us to act like rational people.


  1. Maartje says

    I have never in my life seen ‘Top Chef’ but the behaviour you’ve described is just gobsmacking. That’s assault!
    I know I’m not adding anything here, not really, but MAN… and no one stepped in? The crew must have been gleefully rubbing their hands together, SenSational TV at last! The annoying guy gets it, hahaha, funny.

    Just when my faith in the human race was somewhat restored (pictures of babies can do that to a person) you bring this.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    I was just saying to someone yesterday: I think the lack of understanding toward men and boys who are assaulted contributes to men’s inability to think assault on women is any big deal. Men are raped with objects and it’s called “hazing” to get into organizations they want to belong to; boys are statutorily raped by adult women and even though the woman is lionized by the press, the boy gets “way to go!” instead of the sort of counseling a person needs when he’s going to wake up someday in a few years and realize he was sexually manipulated in a way that’s no less invasive than rape.

    With the sort of violence and cruelty we tolerate against men, it’s no wonder some of them think, “Well, why should women be spared? How come she can hit me but I can’t hit her?”

    How ’bout nobody hitting nobody? Far better solution.

    (And no, none of this was intended to excuse any act of violence ever perpetrated by any individual. Just trying to identify contributing factors society could change.)

  3. MaggieCat says

    Sorry! Actually I’m not sure how many production people would have been around, since before this one of the contestants mentioned “borrowing” a camera, and Marcel smacked said camera on his way to sleep in the bathroom, which makes me think one of the contestants was doing the filming. (That would also explain the weird angles.)

    The ONLY good thing I can say about all of this is that every one of them realized they had crossed a line, no one tried to explain it away by saying it was a joke or they were drunk, and we saw several of them apologize to Marcel. And Marcel had the grace to say that he thinks Cliff is a very good chef, and he hopes this incident doesn’t affect Cliff’s career. (Cliff got booted since Bravo’s rules say that any aggressive contact between contestants means immediate dismissal.)

  4. MaggieCat says

    boys are statutorily raped by adult women and even though the woman is lionized by the press, the boy gets “way to go!”

    I hate this particular phenomenon so very much. It’s sick and twisted and such a rampant double standard. Particularly when the people in the press try to say it makes sense because the teacher is ‘hot’. There is not a teacher of either gender that’s good looking enough for the media to congratulate a female teenager for sleeping with her teacher at the 13/14 year old age that seems to be the median for this sort of thing.

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