I don’t know how to explain why Tom and I have watched The Apprentice. The first season had a “Survivor-esque” feel to it, and we love Survivor, but the similarity between the two shows is long since departed. And at first I supposed that the show might provide a window into The Donald’s mind, and I will admit to a strange curiosity on my part to get an armchair insight into what makes a guy like that tick. Could he really be only about money and its power to obtain young and beautiful women? I remember a scene in the first season in which Trump rode down a golden escalator toward the candidates waiting in the lobby, with trumpets blaring in the background as though to announce the arrival of royalty, and I thought, “Well, he certainly makes no apologies for his ostentatious displays of ego; let’s see what else he is about.” But it turns out that he isn’t about anything else.
Six seasons into the show and with a slew of people too ruthless to turn your back on left in Trump’s wake, I now think that I may have been watching for the same reason that some drivers have to look at a car accident as they pass by. It’s kind of like when I saw a certain embedded link on my brother-in-law’s blog that made clear to anyone with half a brain that clicking on it would lead to a photo that would be extremely offensive to anyone not interested in viewing what two men dressed in black leather from the waist up and nothing from the waist down will do to each other if they are erect and not heterosexual, and yet I clicked on that link and saw said photo. Argh! When I read the Bible I interpret much of it symbolically and metaphorically, but when I saw that photo on jonsonblog, I wanted to follow the literal meaning of the verse, “If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out.” Mind you, I didn’t feel this way because it was gay porn; I think any porn is icky, but that’s just me. I personally do not look at car accidents as I pass by, and I will exercise more self control when I’m visiting jonsonblog in the future, but I’m still undecided about whether I will waste my time this coming Sunday night by watching The Apprentice. Why is this? What is wrong with me? There are other things that I could do with my time on Sunday night. For example, I could vacuum dustbunnies from under the bed. I could iron Tom’s underwear. I could get a head start on our income taxes this year. I could eat fried worms. Any of these would be more interesting and worthwhile than spending an hour with Donald Trump.
Every season I watch a bunch of people I care nothing about stab each other in the back for the chance to grovel at Trump’s feet. Never have I seen a larger group of yes men and women gathered in one place eager to do their worst to each other. It’s disgusting. Like a car crash. Like a hyperlink to a nasty photo. This season The Donald has added a new layer to the daily humiliation his candidates must endure for a shot at being beaten up all the way to his payroll: Half of the candidates, the team that has lost (usually by a hair) at the assigned (and asinine) task that week, must sleep in tents in the backyard of the mansion where the “winning” team stays, which mansion is next door to the mansion in which Trump lives. The losers live, eat, sleep, cook, shower in cold water, dress, and do their business outdoors. Trump seems to think it only natural that someone would be willing to debase themselves in this way for a chance to work for him. To him such willingness must be a clear testament to his power and greatness. They say that there’s an ass for every seat, and in this case Trump has found a team of asses for the lawn chairs occupied each week in his backyard.
Then last Sunday comes a breath of fresh air. Michelle. I don’t give a rat’s pitooty about how she performed in the tasks, whether her leadership style was effective, whether her teammates liked her, or whether she should have been fired. She managed the project, lost the task, and was about to get “fired” anyway. But then, in a very gracious and dignified way, she told Trump, to his face, in front of millions of viewers, that she was quitting. She went out on her own terms. And Trump was in shock. He couldn’t rally effectively. His ego-saturated brain could not wrap itself around what was happening. He asked Michelle why? He goaded, was sleeping in the backyard too tough? Dude didn’t get it. Nothing is too tough as far as I’m concerned, as far as most goal-oriented people are concerned, if whatever it is you’re after is worth it to you. It wasn’t worth it to Michelle, and it wouldn’t have been worth it to me, and I’m not even flush when it comes to self esteem either. Maybe I’m soft from privilege, but why sleep in a tent in someone’s backyard if you don’t have to? What kind of wacky way is that to prove your worth in business? That Trump would expect someone to sleep in his yard for the chance to work for him speaks volumes about how he feels about other human beings. And that anyone would sleep in Trump’s backyard for the chance to work for him only proves desperation and a willingness to demean oneself for a buck. And make no mistake about it, that’s the bottom line of why these people want to be near Trump: Trump’s money. Michelle firmly and courteously told Trump that the process was not what she expected it to be and that she was choosing not to participate in it any further. She thanked him for the opportunity, but declined to continue pursuing the job. He called her a quitter. He said he hated quitters. And then Trump made some statement about how he respects a boxer who would stay in the ring and lose while taking his punches rather than a boxer who would quit in his corner. I think a boxer who’d continue to take punches knowing he was going to lose anyway is stupid from having his brains beaten while rich white guys place bets and watch, but that, perhaps, is an issue for a later post. And I think someone who walks away from a highly dysfunctional situation no matter how promising the pay might be is strong and smart and mentally healthy.
So, Michelle, good for you. You’ve been the one sane person in six seasons of dysfunction, backstabbing, and groveling. You stood up to The Donald and you did it with class. You didn’t say no. You said no thank you. Trump’s über-ego is boring, his treatment of the candidates is disturbing, and even more disturbing is the candidates’ treatment of each other. Sorry Donald, sorry Apprentice-wannabes, but being ruthlessly cutthroat and climbing over the backs of everyone around you is not necessary to succeed in life. It might make you some money in the short term, and the money might get people to kiss up to you, but they’d only be kissing up because you’ve got money. Does anyone in Trump’s life like, love, or want to be around him for any reason but his money? And I mean anyone? Would his most recent wife be with him if he were poor? Is Trump a success in business? Maybe. In life? Depends how you look at it. I guess I’m not looking at it like Trump, otherwise I wouldn’t have been watching the show out of morbid curiosity. But if you’re a candidate on The Apprentice, don’t let on if you think that there are more important things in life than money unless you want to be called weak and stupid and then get “fired” on national television. And by the way Mr. Trump, how do you fire someone you haven’t even hired in the first place?