Ugliness In MasterChef
Masterchef Season 4 is underway and, as with all of Gordon Ramsay’s projects, I am hooked. The format has changed slightly to challenge the contestants more, raising the pressure and no doubt causing a great deal of stress among the contestants. The format of each episode generally begins with a competition pitting two teams of home cooks against each other in a cooking challenge, usually asking them to cook for a large group of people. The losing team is then subject to a pressure test where at least one contestant will be eliminated. Some episodes begin with a mystery box challenge, where constants receive a box of secret ingredients that they must put together to create a wonderful dish. The winner of the mystery box receives a reward (deciding the pressure test for other contestants, safety from elimination, or items/advice to help them in the next cooking challenge). The top two in the mystery box challenges generally go on to be team captains in the aforementioned team competitions. There is a lot going on at all times.
This is a reality competition about cooking, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is reality TV and the public demands certain characters from it. We want a villain, an underdog, a hero, a backstabber, a sex symbol, a nerd, and lots of quirky people who can make us laugh, get us worked up, and maybe make us cry. Luca Manfe, who auditioned for S3, came back this year and we’ve already seen him come close to losing an apron quite a few times; his welcome to the show was prefaced by long pauses to make the audience think he was going home once again. We were given the typical sob stories and inspirational wishes during the audition phase, prompting the viewers to become emotionally invested in the new cast. Nearly every reality show used creative editing and producer prompts to create drama, and Masterchef is no different.
As far as the villain goes for this year, I don’t think the production team has had to do any work at all in order to get the audience to feel hatred towards one of the home cooks. Natasha Crnjac began her audition by telling us how beautiful she is and how she must be judged by both cooking and her beauty. She felt that her competitors would be threatened by her beauty, possibly underestimating her, and beauty beauty beauty. Did I mention she thinks she is beautiful? If not, don’t worry; she will take the time to remind you over and over again.
She quickly made an enemy of Krissy, a strong-voiced woman from Philadelphia with a booming personality and a big mouth. Krissy hates her, very vocally, but then again she seems to hate a lot of people she is pitted against. Savannah, a quiet California girl we have not seen much of yet, may feel that Natasha has her back since she saved her after winning a challenge, but Natasha threw her the save only because she thinks Savannah doesn’t have the skills to be any sort of threat to the title of Masterchef. I can’t stand Natasha already, but in the beginning it seemed as though she had the skill to back up all the praise she heaped upon herself.
This last episode, aired on July 12, 2013, was a two parter that began with a group challenge to serve 101 steak dishes to firefighters who would then vote on the best dish. Natasha’s team decided to pair their Wal-Mart steak (you won’t ever forget that Wal-Mart sponsors this show, not even if you try) with sautéed mushrooms and a cauliflower puree. Their opposition chose to pair theirs with potatoes and asparagus, which won them the challenge. Natasha, who was in charge of preparing the cauliflower puree, overheard teammate Beth say that the puree was disgusting and that is why they lost. I agree that it probably was, but Natasha lost her mind on Beth. While Beth was in tears, consoled by Bri (a nerdy girl who is shaping up to be a favorite for me), Natasha verbally tore her apart.
Natasha seemed to take glee in the fact that she made poor Beth cry. The losing team, except for Bime (team captain) and Jordan, was sent into an eggs benedict pressure test to decide who would leave the kitchen. In a twist, Natasha, Beth, Luca, and Kathy created dishes so awful that they were catapulted into a second pressure test where they were sent to Ramsay’s Vegas restaurant to cook gourmet burgers for 75 people. The producers naturally paired Natasha with her new enemy, Beth, but their burger edged out their competition and saved both the girls. Natasha should have exited gracefully, but instead had to throw in a quit about the challenge not meaning a thing; Beth was not her friend, she didn’t need friends, and so on.
With some reality TV stars, the audience can tell that some of the evil is constructed by the producers and editing staff. With Natasha, it seems 100% genuine. She is painfully egotistical, a “beautiful” stay at home mom who can cook circles around anybody (except when she turns hollandaise sauce into mayonnaise). She is cruel; Beth was on the verge of a serious breakdown and Natasha took joy in standing over her, poking her with a sharp stick. She is selfish, nearly costing her two-woman team the burger challenge because she refused to “help” her teammate by making any suggestions. She is needlessly mean, harsh with her words, and seems to not give a damn about anyone but herself.
I get that this is a competition, on television, where it’s every man for himself ultimately. That doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to go out of your way to hurt a fellow contestant, be it emotionally or through some sort of sabotage. It’s not necessary to get down and dirty, refusing to form any sort of bond with competitors because a bond would somehow affect your performance. I don’t know why anyone would be content to be hated when it’s so easy to be cordial and friendly. Drama sells, so perhaps they are simply striving for more screen time through their viciousness. But if all we love is bad behavior, how do you explain the popularity of Christine Ha from S3 or Ben Starr from S2?
Natasha is certainly making a name for herself, but it’s a shame that it’s for all the wrong reasons. Even if she tears herself out of the downward spiral she’s been on as of late, I can’t see her winning the title unless she changes her attitude. The producers aren’t going to let the bad guy win, even if her cooking is superior. We want to see a person like Natasha for drama’s sake only, we don’t want to see her rewarded for acting like, to put it bluntly, a bitch. If she has any hope of winning, or at least making it to the final four, she needs to drop the Perfect Me act, must stop pushing her fellow competitors into the dirt, and must start acting more human. And PLEASE can we stop with the “I’m so beautiful” nonsense? The more you say it, the uglier you get.
Posted on June 13, 2013, in Food, TV/Movies and tagged beautiful, ben starr, burgr, christine ha, cooking, food, gordon ramsay, graham elliot, joe bastianich, luca, masterchef, natasha, ugly, villain. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.