Not long after we published Michelle Orange's essay about how "Wife Swap" (ABC) and "Trading Spouses" (Fox) exploited the basest, trashiest cultural stereotypes, we were contacted by Rachel Kahn from the San Francisco Buddhist Center:
We received the following at the San Francisco Buddhist Center in January. Although we didn't reply (no one around here seems to qualify for a "family show"), I must confess a perverse interest in seeing what they dream up for the hapless heathens who decide to participate.
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2005
From: Kenny Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Buddhist family wanted for Fox TV show
My name is Kenny and I am a casting director for the show "Trading Spouses" on Fox. We are a family show. We are currently casting for a new season and are looking for a Buddhist family. The parents must be legally married and have children. The children must be over the age of 6 and live in the household. This is not a joke. If you know anyone that fits this description, please contact me ASAP.
For more information, go to www.fox.com and click on Trading Spouses under shows. Thank you.
Rocket Science Labs/Trading Spouses
Kenny didn't return our call by press time to confirm that he really sent this -- but we have a pretty good idea that he did. Dozens of letters similar to the one above, written by Kenny -- and his colleagues Melissa Mills, Chris Godwin, Katie Lindsay and Cat Wegner -- exist all over the Web. They enthusiastically encourage all kinds of families to try out for "Trading Spouses," because, they say: "The purpose of our show is to compare and contrast various families across the country while highlighting their unique interests and cultures!" Oh, and they get $50,000. But be warned: The show is only looking for true representatives of our richly diverse, fair land.
Like, for example, "families who are rappers." Do you think, maybe, they will be lucky enough to be paired up with the "families who reenact Civil War Battles"? They would also "love to meet families who are against the use of nuclear weapons." How would they get along with, say, "a tattooed couple who own a tattoo shop"? How do you think a mom who happens to be a female bodybuilder, or maybe a construction worker active "in feminist organizations" will blend with a family that's really into "bird watching"? Or salsa dancing? Will the "WILDERNESS Types (Surfing)" mom enjoy her visit with one of the "families who love TV"? How will one of our upstanding "wealthy families," (which may or may not be really into polo or "speech and/or debate") deal with the new mom who is really, extremely "into 'Star Trek' and/or 'Star Wars'" or heads one of the many "Ocean Beach hippie families!" or who maybe belongs to a family of "active Jehovah's Witnesses"? Or really digs "scrapbooks"? And how ever will the evangelist families "who believe in the power of faith healing" get along with the Jewish vegetarian "in favor of animal rights"?
Oh, I think we know.