Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker knows self-proclaimed love guru Patti Stanger is an acquired taste akin to wasabi peas. She comes on strong and leaves your insides feelings raw. But Stanger’s frank, loud-mouthed, know-it-all persona has become her signature, the reason people watch her show in the first place. Who doesn’t want to see a paunchy, balding, middle-aged entrepreneur get put in his place for insisting that he will settle for nothing less than a Perfect 10? This past Sunday, however, Stanger crossed a line. Dishing out dating advice on Bravos’ Watch What Happens Live, she effectively characterized all gays as “queeny,” oral-sex-obsessed Grindr disciples incapable of monogamy, and even laughed in beloved host Andy Cohen’s face when he dared disagree with her perspective. Despite apologizing late yesterday, Stanger is still facing serious backlash. Is it possible she has gone from someone we love to hate to someone we just hate?
First off, nobody’s denying that Stanger is a rhymes-with-witch, least of all Stanger herself I’m sure. A girl’s gotta have a shtick, and this once has served her well. Up until yesterday, she was an unabashed equal opportunity offender — she also defamed Jews, uncircumcised men, and smart women on Sunday’s Watch What Happens, by the way. But when does being “real” or “honest” (as countless reality stars have called themselves in a half-cocked defense of their own bad behavior) cross that murky line to simply being hateful? I would personally put it at the moment Stanger used the phrase “you people,” as in “You can’t curb the gay. I’ve tried to curb you people…” As Ross Perot well discovered in his 1992 presidential bid, nobody likes being called “you people.” It’s reductive and dismissive. One-on-one criticism is one thing. Large-scale caricature is something else entirely.
Now to a trickier issue: If Stanger’s whole gimmick is built on being a ballbuster, does apologizing help her or hurt her? From a branding perspective, stepping back from her statements compromises her product. From a “real person who exists in the real world” perspective, standing behind them makes her a jerk. One thing is for certain: Half-apologizing, as she will do on tonight’s Joy Behar Show, is probably worst of all. Apparently Stanger was only talking about the gays in Los Angeles, so being ostensibly bigoted about a smaller group of people is way less bad, right?
I can’t imagine this incident is going to change Stanger at all. She doesn’t seem to be the type to eat a slice of humble pie willingly, and she also seems to think she’s some sort of gay activist. In the aforementioned Behar clip, she put forth the questionable claim that she was the first person to fight for gay marriage on TV, and insisted she’s still fighting “in the trenches” for gay rights. But more than that, Stanger presents herself as someone who knows herself and her business. As a self-made woman, she can’t afford not to. No, this moment won’t change Patti Stanger. How it changes her key demographics’ appetite for her is a different subject altogether. That shift, still to be determined, is something that could very well take Stanger down a notch financially and personally.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Is it hypocritical to criticize someone for the very same reasons we used to praise her? Or did the yenta’s yammering go too far? Was Stanger’s greatest sin making sweet Andy Cohen uncomfortable to the point of whining? Have Stanger’s remarks turned you off of Millionaire Matchmaker, or will you keep watching?