90 Day Fiancé: Adjustment of Status comes from my own experience as a marriage-based immigrant and an avid “hate-watcher” of the 90 Day Fiancé franchise. As many reality television viewers, I did not feel my issues accurately portrayed. Admittedly I was not a K-1 filer, and have not met one personally — but in my adjustment of status experience, and of other marriage-based immigrants I have commiserated with, the stress and anxiety of the filing process was greater than any cultural or social challenges. My viewing experience had to be negotiated: I could enjoy the entertainment value of the show while fundamentally disagreeing with the way they framed the immigration process.
This is a common tension in the reality television genre, and one of the topics I explored in my midterm essay. Reality shows about non-mainstream lifestyles have to acknowledge differences without gawking at or mocking them — a challenging and delicate balance which TLC, the channel behind the 90 Day Fiancé franchise, has often been criticized for fumbling. My essay also delved into Orientalism and immigration dialectics, exploring how the dominant immigration narratives in the US depend on otherizing the immigrant figure. In the case of 90 Day Fiancé, I argued that by devoting too much unchallenged time to US citizens questioning the motivations and intentions of immigrants, the franchise perpetuates these xenophobic narratives. My concluding questions revolved around the challenge of undermining these narratives: how could the franchise shed a light on these harmful assumptions, especially for audiences who do not have personal experiences with immigration? Could an accurate (bureaucratic) portrayal of immigration even exist within the salacious genre norms of reality television?