Colonization Through T.V.
an article by Julianne Tenorio
Dear Asian Youth,
If you’ve been on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok, you’ve probably heard of Ed and Rose, the infamous T.V. stars from “90-Day Fiancé”. This TLC show is a very popular reality T.V. show that depicts the relationship between American citizens and foreigners to see if they can withstand their cultural barriers. It gained notoriety from the relationship of Big Ed and Rose, with Big Ed being from America and Rose being a native Filipina. Though their journey takes place on another variant of the show, “90-Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days”, the concept is still similar. And though watching the ups and downs of their volatile relationship is quite funny, it brings to my attention the dark underbelly of this show.
To those who don’t know about Big Ed and Rose, here’s some background information. Ed is a divorced 54-year old man and Rose, at age 23, is a whopping 31 years younger than Ed. Rose has a child, which she had with another man prior to meeting Ed. While I don't necessarily encourage measuring people's values through their looks, it is clear that she is out of his league.
They began their relationship through Facebook, and Big Ed eventually flew from San Diego to meet Rose in the Philippines. Though he seemed to be madly in love with her, he doesn’t reciprocate the same feelings for her culture and community. It is very obvious that Ed has no respect for the customs and traditions Filipinos have. When Rose welcomes Ed into her humble abode, he responds with pure disgust and expresses that he cannot wait to leave. He even says in this same episode, “I cannot wait to get out of here, and I am going to make hotel reservations as soon as possible”. When Ed wants to shower, Rose advises that he shower with her father as well. It is common for families in the Philippines, and frankly any other third world country, to bathe with multiple people to conserve water. But he is clearly appalled by their way of life and feels entitled to a higher standard. He constantly belittles both Rose and her heritage because he puts his racial status on blast to remind Rose of his apparent superiority.
Yet within his criticism of Rose’s way of life is the irony that these poor living conditions are caused by Western conditions. Instead of using this T.V. show as a way to bring light to the issues that many third-world countries face, it is instead utilized as practical propaganda to place America on this pedestal to remind everyone of how much more advanced the country is. People often forget why third-world countries are the way they are. Coming from a young Filipino-American girl whose parents are both immigrants from the Philippines, I’ve seen the hardships that people in third-world countries face. This show isn’t about finding love. It isn’t about understanding each other’s differing lifestyles. It's about the art of deception and manipulation that forces people like Rose to succumb to the fantasies of their white partners.
For far too many years, Asian women have been stereotyped to be submissive and docile. Ed was determined to use this to his advantage. He is aware of how important the opportunity of being able to go to America meant to Rose, and he abuses this knowledge.
He tries to lead her on using the prospect of American citizenship as bait. To his surprise, Rose speaks up and defends herself. She disapproves of his disrespect towards her culture and calls him out on his doubts about her personal hygiene. This leads to Ed's claims that Rose is a gold digger with her own agenda. What Ed doesn't understand is that loving for love is still a privilege many women can't afford to have. She has a son whom she loves unconditionally, and as a good mother, she needs to take certain steps to raise the quality of life for her son. It is incredibly unfair that Rose is being labeled as the gold digger, even though it is Ed who is exploiting her and assuming that she will conform to his desires.
On their first date, Big Ed had the audacity to ask Rose to take an STD test, but when she turned it around on him and asked him to take one as well, he refused to take one in the Philippines. He. Only. Wanted. Her. For. Sex. In the words of Rose, “He thinks of me as a dirty woman. He thinks of me as nothing but an easy girl. He doesn’t think of me as his girlfriend and why should he ask me to do something like that?” It’s truly heartbreaking that Rose is aware of how she’s being used. She’s finally catching on to Ed’s true intentions.
Rose, like many Filipina women, is actively seeking a better life, especially since she has a child to raise. But Ed completely exploits Rose's vulnerable situation, and when he attempts to control her, he is unable to comprehend why Rose is so unwilling to become his pretty little doll. It would be a complete and utter lie to say that Rose and Ed are the first of their kind to exist, as I can say with certainty that there are many relationships similar to this. And though this may have been absolute hell for Rose, there is so much to take away from their relationship. The exploitation of foreign women is not something that should be overlooked, especially since we live in a country that is built off of the destruction of cultures in the East. As for Rose, it is my pleasure to say that she is happily separated from this pig of a man and is doing better than ever!