The Farmer Wants a Husband

June 17, 2011

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The TV spring season has come to an end and all the major shows have gone on summer vacation. Ahead lies a season of repeats, unbearable live shows and movies I would not even watch if one of them was the only option in my in-flight entertainment system on some ultra long haul flight. But I guess it is fine to spend some time in the great outdoors and not in front of the TV at least for a summer. And there is actually something to look forward: the TV fall season!

One of Germany's most popular fall TV shows ”Bauer sucht Frau” is the local spin-off of the UK original series “Farmer Wants a Wife”. It is indeed a masterpiece of trashy TV entertainment making you sit in front of your screen and lose confidence in human sanity or humanity altogether. In previous seasons all I could stand was the first and second maybe the third episode then the cringe factor just got too much for me.

This might actually be a little different this fall because this time it will not only be about farmers looking for wives but actually one of the guys, “Philipp the Stablehand”, is looking for a husband.

When it comes to TV stations including LGBT characters in the prime time shows, I tend to ask myself why they do that. What could be the motivation of RTL, Germany's biggest private TV network, for this spin? I think there are at least three possible perspectives on this:

  • If you consider yourself to be an idealist you might get the idea that the show actually helps to pave the way for the LGBT community especially with regard to remote areas outside the big city centers where a non-heterosexual orientation can still be tricky to deal with. The motivation then would be: “People, listen: There are LGBT individuals out there even in an environment which is uncommon. But nonetheless, they deserve to find love just like the straight farmers in the show!”
  • The pictures changes a bit when you bear in mind that TV stations have to earn money. The show has reached very high viewership levels and it will be hard to repeat or even exceed the success of previous seasons. So tapping into new audiences is a possible solution. The motivation then would be: “People, listen: We have captured most of the heterosexual audience so now we are looking for new audiences and our power-shopping LGBT friends are just perfect!”
  • Finally, there is third way to look at it. Still it is about maintain high levels of viewership but not about attracting new audiences but keeping the old ones. It has to be born in mind that the show is so successful for one single reason: It is a modern form of a cabinet of curiosities! It is not about two-headed babies anymore but it is actually even sadder: Straight out ugly guys whose only hope for a wife are women from outside of Europe desperate for a life in Germany, obviously moronic guys presenting an easy target for mockery, broken guys with no self-esteem looking for a life in the spotlight. Now might it be that a gay farmer fits just perfectly in this line? The fact that there was not an up-roar when the gay farmer was announced does not necessarily imply that the general public equally accepts LGBT individuals and the way they live. The message then would be: “People, listen: This season we have a new oddity for you! Watch two guys developing a romantic relationship with the possibility of kissing and maybe even more. Feel the shivers run down your spines!”

So the first motivation is all about creating respect for LGBT individuals. The second motivation does not care about doing anything for the LGBT community except to entertain us which of course is perfectly fine. However, the third perspective is about entertaining a non-LGBT audience by presenting a gay farmer as an oddity. So bearing these three options in mind and weighing them for their likelihood what would your advice be if you had the chance to meet “Philipp the Stablehand”? Go out there and spread our message OR Don't let yourself get abused by the media to feed the appetite of a callous TV audience.