The XX Factor

Patti Stanger, the Greatest Genius of Our Time

Emily Gould interviewed Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger for the Daily Beast early this week, and Stanger’s advice (don’t marry a guy who makes less than you, expensive hair treatments are a good investment in your “man future”) provoked the expected horror. I would just propose that the feminist lens is not the best lens through which to enjoy a spectacle called “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Stanger’s job is to absorb the irrational longings of her sad clients and translate them into “rules” like “Make him smell another man on you.” Filtering that process through any sort of ideal is bound to be fruitless; the point is that Stanger won’t let clients cling to ideas of what they think dating ought to be like. “Shouldn’t I find a girl that just likes me for me?” a hapless millionaire will ask when Stanger demands that he change everything about himself, and we wait wide-eyed for Stanger to flip out and rip into his pathetic fantasy-world.

Indeed, the joy of watching Patti Stanger at work is the joy of watching a mind totally unbothered by the will to consistency. Most of us have at least some impulse to make our statements or actions conform to statements just made or actions just taken. Stanger has no such impulse. At a casting call for women who say they want to date millionaires, she will, oddly, go on a witch hunt for “gold diggers,” though it’s not clear why she thinks anyone has shown up if not for the prospect of bagging a millionaire. She will demand that a man change his personality, wardrobe, and place of residence; this, she will explain in all fairy-tale earnestness, is the way to “true love.” When, after weeks of bullying he does finally move and affect a fake, alpha, Stanger-approved personality, but nervously refuses to change some part of his wardrobe in order to hold onto a last shred of his dignity, she will declare, without irony, that in her view “the customer is always right.”

This is crazy in a useful way, as her ability to profess lofty ideals of love while purveying brutal advice actually renders undateable men dateable. Stanger’s immunity to reason lends her a kind of clarity; unsullied by any need for coherence, she just absorbs and reflects mating preferences back at people. That’s never going to be pretty. I’ve no idea whether it leads to something called “true love.” But it’s good television.

Photograph of Patti Stanger by Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment.