- 90 Day Fiancé -One Comment Made Betsy McCue A '90 Day Fiancé' Fandom Target. Here's How She Views Reality TV Now
I have a lot of opinions, but the one I am most confident about is that reality television is only enjoyable from the outside. In other words, as easy as it seems on the surface to join a reality television show, become famous, and start making millions by advertising bogus ~detox~ teas on Instagram, the reality of it is probably a bit more... well, terrible. The editing is brutal, the criticism is endless, and the fans are passionate, merciless, and sometimes both. Not to mention the fact that you, a normal person, end up being held to the same beauty standards as everyone else on TV, most of whom are actors and models with media training. This last conundrum about reality TV is exactly why Betsy McCue from 90 Day Fiancé was one of my favorite people on the show, even though she wasn’t a main character.
The self-described “skeptical sister” from Season 7 of 90 Day Fiancé, Betsy’s time on 90 Day came via her sister, Emily, who fell in love with Russian workout enthusiast Sasha while living abroad, had his baby, and got engaged. When the family of three decides to move to the US and get married, they’re met by Betsy, who quickly falls into the role of the level-headed family member doubting Sasha’s good intentions. Given that 32-year-old Sasha had been married twice (and had two children) before meeting Emily, Betsy’s skepticism is reasonable.
I spoke to Betsy about how her time on the show affected how she viewed reality television, and how being a lightning rod for criticism shaped her perspective on reality television fandoms, among other things.
“I started doing some digging into the fandom, after my sister said she was going to be on it,” Betsy says, explaining that she had only seen 90 Day in passing before her sister told her she’d be on the show. “I started getting on the Reddit pages and the Instagrams, and I [thought], ‘Oh, my gosh, these people that go on here got 100,000 followers, just from appearing, and they didn't even do anything.’”
This, Betsy says, is what motivated her sister to apply to be on the show at all — but as life changed for Emily, so did her perspective on reality television.
“My sister, Emily, wanted to get famous, and she had applied before she got pregnant,” Betsy explains. “Then, once she became a mom, then she just started being a terrible … TV person, because she didn't care anymore about becoming famous. She didn't want her baby to be harmed from being on the show.”
Perhaps it speaks most poignantly to the nature of reality television that even the people like Emily who are “bad” at being on reality television develop passionate critics and defenders (though more often critics), anyway — maybe even more so than those who are actively trying to create good TV by being the most dramatic or controversial.
“Some of it is that they make the situations so crazy,” Betsy says on her perspective of reality televisions’ endless fandoms. “People like to be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, how stupid are those people? I would never do that.’ And it makes them feel better about themselves, to see people in situations, where they think, obviously, they would make a different choice, or a better choice.”
And when it comes to 90 Day, in particular? Emily says the storylines are often simplified, “without a lot of nuance,” making it easy for fans to fill in the blanks and make assumptions about cast members that are often incorrect.
An easy example of this in Emily, Sasha, and Betsy’s storyline was when tensions rose as Sasha, a personal trainer, felt the need to monitor the type of food in Betsy’s house and make weight-related comments. When Emily’s desire (and Sasha’s encouragement) to lose her “baby weight” becomes a storyline as well, things escalate, ultimately leading to Betsy’s most “controversial” comment on the show’s Tell All special.
While Betsy’s pushback to Sasha had been praised by fans all season long, something about her saying “diets don’t work” set off a new, equally passionate wave of online pushback.
“I got criticized for being someone who's overweight, talking about fitness, and nutrition, but they don't know my backstory, or any other things that I've gone through, with food or weight or body image,” Betsy says. “And just to assume that, because I appear larger than some people they see on TV, that I don't know anything, or that I'm uneducated? It's just annoying.”
In fact, Betsy’s statement about diets is not only backed by her expertise as a public health researcher, but also by scientific research. Statistically speaking, 97 percent of dieters regain everything they lost and then some every single time. Still, Betsy says she recognizes the danger of making such a definitive statement on television.
“That can cause a lot of bad reactions from people, if they don't have any background on that statement,” Betsy says, “and I don't have time to explain it, or elaborate on it, because I don't get to choose what is shown.”
Still, even with the lightning rod that “diets don’t work” briefly became, Betsy shares the feedback from fans was still “90 percent” positive — but also that that remaining 10 percent had an effect, too.
“It's so hard not to focus on the 10 percent, especially when the 10 percent are hitting right at your biggest insecurities, or things that you've been dealing with, and struggling through, and questioning,” Betsy says. “I had to learn to let it go … that [with] some people, I can't convince them, or change their mind, or get them to see my perspective because they don't want to.”
Betsy says the entire experience briefly made her consider whether she could use the spotlight and mold it into something good — a platform to talk about food and body image and the issues discussed on the show. Ultimately, though, she says she decided this wasn’t fulfilling, or where she wanted to spend her time or energy.
And though she says she’d consider doing reality television in the future, she’ll be passing on any future 90 Day appearances.
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Image: Courtesy Betsy McCue