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.