There?s something fishy about Fox?s MasterChef Season 10, and it goes beyond ?perfectly cooked seas scallops? said in a staccato, Scottish brogue.
The final four competitors fit into familiar types straight out of central casting, and it?s raised my doubts about the veracity of the program.
Contestants Nick DiGiovanni, Sarah Faherty, Noah Sims, Shari Mukherjee, Subha Ramiah, Dorian Hunter
The fix appeared to be in at the top of the second to last episode, when the judges announced the three-person teams for the restaurant challenge. Two contestants were going to be cut.
The fair option would have been a random draw from a fishbowl. No. There wasn?t even the pretense of a preliminary challenge. No, the judges simply declared who the teams were, and it was immediately evident that Shari and Subha were going home.
Only a few episodes prior, the judges remarked that Shari had what it took to win the show. A white Midwesterner married to an Indian man, adept at a variety of cuisine, Shari was problematic in that she didn?t fit into a type, like the four below. She had to go.
Subha had been an agent of chaos on every single team challenge he had participated in. Sometimes, he was even on the winning team ? but he was relentlessly defamed by fellow competitors and judges throughout. For a challenge in the kitchen of Gordon Ramsay?s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, it was apparent Subha?s luck would run out.
(The only thing crueler than comments about Subha this season was the treatment of Brielle ?Bri? Baker, a young cocktail server turned aspiring chef. The ?male gaze? camerawork reinforced the needless, repeated, misogynistic treatment directed at that young woman from the judges. It was nothing less than pornographic the way the show was edited, building up her confidence and pride, only to have her berated and insulted into tears on multiple occasions.)
Which brings us to the final four home chefs, a producer?s dream team of types. Almost as if it had been engineered that way.
The ?male gaze? of the camerawork might have misdirected you into thinking Sarah?s looks were the reason the judges kept giving her chance after chance. But it was evident from day one she would make it to the show?s end when she was positioned as the only contestant with a military background.
?As an Army interrogator? became the ?my father? of MasterChef Season 10. Sarah is something of a landmark in normalizing America?s forever wars doctrine. Typical reality show contestants have been the foot soldiers. You know the ones: they?re starting a charity to help soldiers who are not receiving aid; they have a service animal to help with their PSTD. The judges thank them for their service, and you, the viewer, feel comforted, rather than indoctrinated.
Well, that time has passed. Best not to mention the lasting effects of war while glorifying it any longer. With Sarah, we?ve graduated to normalizing the head-crackers. Few things fit the American media?s war narrative better than an ?Army interrogator? who looks like one of Charlie?s Angels. The torturer next door.
African-American reality show contestants are damned if they do, and damned if they don?t. They?re either positioned as sassy/cool, complete with an ?urban beatz? music cue, or they represent the down home, Southern way!
Unfortunately for Dorian, she?s been cast to serve America?s Antebellum longing. She manages to cry at just about every interview, and, while every contestant kisses the judges? butts, there?s an uncomfortable context when Dorian, tears streaming down her cheeks, begs three men for her dreams.
Dorian showed a moment of human compassion, embracing Micah Yaroch, a 19-year-old who had no one show up to support him on the family episode. It was a kind act, but within the perverse context of the show, it was producer?s gold: an elder black woman giving comfort to a white kid.
The Good Old Boy
There?s good old boys, and there?s reality TV good old boys. Noah hits all the marks: biblical name for Bible belt appeal, check. Loves his momma, check. And he?s a man?s man, because grilling meat is his specialty! And, check.
At his day job, this home cook services septic tanks. He literally shovels shit for a living. More power to him, but Noah?s run has not been a celebration of blue collar workers. Quite the opposite. His work has been consistently derided. The elites can?t fathom how anyone who works on septic tanks could possibly have the soul of the chef! They?re laughing at you.
The good old boy type is also reminiscent of filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles? assessment of ?Guess Who?s Coming to Dinner?? In the 1967 film, Sidney Poitier is a United Nations lawyer, who might as well be on his way to become America?s first black president. But what of his bride? She?s just a run of the mill coed. In Van Peebles? eyes, it demonstrated a media bias depicting the best and brightest of the black community were still no better than an average white person.
While Dorian cries about her self-worth, she remains a peer to a good old boy shit shoveler.
The Ivy Leaguer
I expect blue collar Noah will be eliminated, allowing privileged Nick access to the finale. Did you know he?s a student at Harvard? He talks about it. He wears a Harvard sweatshirt. He even left the school to pursue his dream of being an amazing chef.
A woman literally gave up her job to compete on MasterChef Season 10. She was eliminated with nary a tear shed for her in the first few episodes. But with a generation or two of Americans being crushed by student debt, the elites want to sell you as inspiring how a kid can take time off from his tony university to compete on national television.
Those Ivy Leaguers, is there nothing they can?t do?
That?s my prediction for the MasterChef Season Ten finale: elitism, institutional racism, and the military industrial complex.
I just wonder which manner of jingoism they?ll trot out, using Sarah as the excuse. Will someone present her with a flag? Will an entire division be brought out to salute her?
I?m sure the soldiers will be thanked for their service. And the show? will go on.