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The Raging Bull of "The Amazing Race"

It takes a supremely naive TV viewer to believe that reality TV is the same thing as nonfiction TV. When you compare the staggering amount of footage that has to be generated compared to scanty portion shown in a typical season of a series, you can only conclude that the show's editors get the footage, look for narrative trends, and edit accordingly to make for a good story.

It takes an even more naive person to believe that it's possible to be on reality TV and have some control over how you're edited. Yet that's what Jonathan Baker's attempting to do.

For those living under a rock, or spending their Tuesdays watching something other than the Amazing Race, Baker's an extended argument for a life of spinsterhood. The guy continually pelts wife Victoria Fuller with tirades untethered to reality or rhetorical finesse. He blithely slams car trunks on her head, shoves her while she's panicky and exhausted, and threatens to backhand her. To call his behavior repellent is to master the fine art of understatement.

Evidently taken aback by the way people have responded to him, Baker is claiming, with rising stridency and frustration, that he was only playing a role. It's the power of his acting that make him seem like a toad. The Red Bull chugging made him act out. And also, his medication for some malady addled his judgment. And it's really the producers' fault for egging on a villain storyline. When those claims were greeted with raised eyebrow, Baker trotted his friends out in front of the press to say likewise.

While it's entirely possible that Baker is indeed such a thoroughly immersive actor as to maintain his "character" through weeks of sleep deprivation, strenuous physical activity and stressful logistical challenges, it's highly improbable. However, if we are dealing with the DeNiro of reality TV, the raging bull of the Amazing Race, let us ask another question: is there any really good reason to savage someone you love on national television? I was watching a recent MTV reality show, You've Got a Friend, and contestants have decided there was not a scant 24 hours into their nearest and dearest being put through the wringer. What kind of person willingly torments his wife for a month?

Also worth asking: What kind of person consents to being a verbal punching bag? How does that conversation go over?

Baker: Baby, we can be on television! We'll get very little sleep for a month, fly coach for hours at a time, eat catch-as-catch can, and do crazy physical tasks. Also, we might win a million bucks.

Fuller: Okay, then.

Baker: And wouldn't it be swell if we got a lot of camera time by appearing to be a study in marital pathology?

Fuller: Yeah! I could be a high-maintenance bitch on wheels, and you'd be all cringing, and --

Baker: Actually, I was planning on screaming at you nonstop for a month while you played the victim.

Fuller: Oh, that's cool too. I can't imagine that would get to me.

There's a lot to be said for supporting one's spouse in his work, but eventually, one must draw a line.

Even if it turns out to be a role, Baker's still a jerk for taking it. Why? Because he didn't have to play it to completion. He claims he tried to quit the role after the wife-shoving stunt, and the producers wouldn't let him -- a claim made after the producers repeatedly said they asked him to turn down the jerkitude. Let's assume for a moment Baker's telling the truth. What's a guy to do? That's easy -- lose. If Baker's half as smart as he thinks he, he could have easily engineered a blunder and sent the team to the sequestering pen. Then it's out of the role and back to what he assures us is a life of uxorious contentment. Surely anyone who claims to love the person they made lifelong vows with would decide that $500,000 isn't enough for a month of abuse and years of making up the damage, plus the contempt of a TV-watching nation. $500,000 isn't even real riches -- it's just messing-up-the-taxes dough.

That Baker stuck out the role means one of three things: he's the pinnacle of professionalism; he wanted a lot of screen time; or he wanted the money. Since Baker's whined nonstop about how he was depicted, that eliminates the first possibility. As for craving the other two ... I ask again, what kind of person thinks it's worth national attention or money to subject your spouse to an unceasing barrage of hostility?

The kind of person who also assumes the editors won't be the final arbiters of the story that the public sees, and that the public's not going to take its version of events from the TV show, that's who.

Baker's not the first person to complain about how he's depicted on reality TV. But he is the first to complain about how his attempt to manipulate the audience was manipulated in turn.

Poor Jonathan Baker. If you can't trust a fix, what can you trust?


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