September 24, 2004

Three problems with "The Apprentice."

After last week's "The Apprentice," I wrote, "I bet Stacie J. ends up doing just fine." I could not believe the producers on the show would cast the only black woman for the second season to be a person who would display the same negative characteristics as the only black woman in the first season. My theory was that the first episode of this season was edited to make Stacie J. look strange, to tease us into thinking she's the new Omarosa, but that in the end we'd see how wrong we were. In fact, my belief that a major TV network would not portray black women this way is so strong that I will predict that at some later point in the season, Stacie J. will be vindicated and perhaps even brought back.

Last night, Trump fired Stacie J., not because of anything that happened in the competition we had to watch, but because her teammates once again ganged up on her. They all said she had to go. The teammates were embarrassing and lame. They had all colluded to try to get Stacie J. fired. Lined up in the boardroom, they told the tale of the fateful incident in which Stacie consulted a Magic 8 Ball and then got petulant when the others didn't gather round and enjoy her attempted comic performance. The teammates, all female, asserted that her terrifying behavior that day justified their permanently closing ranks against her. Trump, who ought to have lambasted them, fired Stacie.

So now, unless something else happens later in the season (and assuming viewers don't just leave), the show seems to have a race problem: Stacie J., the only black woman, chosen for a resemblance to last season's only black woman, was ostracized by the group, and then, instead of receiving the benefit of the doubt, like Omarosa, she was fired for being the outsider. That was quite ugly. And it wasn't even funny. Well, maybe you could justify getting her off the show because she didn't make her outsiderhood funny (as Omarosa did). Maybe Stacie J. was a drag, as she chose to get quiet and preserve her dignity. And where's the show in a quiet, dignified outsider? Maybe she needed to be fired because she lacked sufficient entertainment value. But it's racist to assume the black character ought to provide the entertainment, and her presence was making her teammates put on a little show: that sorority-girl-style exclusion routine.

And there lies the second problem: the events this season so far are making us think ill of women. They seem to be irrational, overemotional--that Magic 8 Ball thing was the scariest thing that ever happened!--and cliquish. Stacie J. may be gone, but of those who have avoided getting fired, who is left on the women's team who is any good at all? Who feels like trusting any of them? Maybe women just aren't any good at management. Thanks a lot, Trump!

And here's the third problem: absolutely nothing that happened in the competition part of the show this week had anything to do with why Stacie J. got fired. The same thing happened last week, when Bradford was fired entirely for something he did in the boardroom at the end. So why are we watching the competition and bothering to look for the mistakes the competitors make? Last night's competition was about creating "buzz" for a new flavor of Crest toothpaste: Are we not supposed to notice that the company was in fact using the show to create buzz for the product? We were chumps watching an hour-long commercial.

UPDATE: Miss Alli, at Television Without Pity, puts it really well (as always):
[T]he women -- led by Maria as well as an especially nasty and obnoxious Stacy R., emerging as one of the most distasteful and malicious in a group of extremely classless women -- choose to gang up on Stacie J. in the Boardroom. They begin to ratchet up the accusations from "weird personality" and "hard to get along with" to "mentally ill," and Trump is so flummoxed that he hears from the entire group. And one by one, they claim to have been alarmed, concerned, or -- in Stacy R.'s case, actually frightened -- by Stacie's antics with the Magic 8-Ball. Shockingly, Trump is not smart enough to tell the difference between truth and ass-covering fiction, and in a reminder that this show is just as much about the oddities and limitations of Trump as it is about those of the candidates, he shrugs and fires Stacie. Donald Trump is a weird, weird little man.

On the theory that the show is an exposé of the weirdness of the Donald, Miss Alli gives the episode an A-. By contrast, the TWoP readers give in a C+ and express their contempt in the forums. I guess I was in the readers' camp, disgusted with the show. But maybe I should take Miss Alli's advice and view "The Apprentice" as a horror show about Trump and keep watching. Yet life is short! Maybe I should be watching "Lost." Or just reading TWoP recaps and not watching anything.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's Prof. Yin's take on the episode.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Prof. Yin covers the extended version of the show that aired over the weekend. My TiVo didn't pick it up for some reason, so I can't give my own version. But Prof. Yin explains why Trump was justified in firing Stacie J. This being the case, Trump ought to fire the show's editors. Actually, I wonder how much control over the editing he's given up. He's got a big stake in his own image, and the show has a lot of potential to make him look like a fool or worse. Ah, but to be on a big TV show! Maybe it's all worth it--for a big ego guy like Trump.

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