I may be the last person in America or maybe in the English speaking world who has just discovered the huge steaming pile of sanctimonious, arrogant ego that is Stephen Fowler. But that’s because I don’t watch reality TV. (And hey, don’t accuse me of being elitist. I love my TV. I’m just watching too many episodes of Law & Order to fit in non-crime-oriented programming!)
So for the three other people in the Western world who don’t know who Stephen Fowler is, let me recap. He was the husband in a recent episode of “Wife Swap”, the reality show that takes two completely different families, swaps the wives for a week or so and films the culture clash that results.
Actually, it doesn’t need to be a culture clash. One reality show that I watched on DVD was by Morgan Spurlock (of “Super-Size Me” fame), an FX series called 30 Days. Operating on a similar premise, Spurlock had diametrically opposed people switch places for a month (An NRA gun nut went to a Quaker family. A Fundamentalist Christian went to live with a gay San Francisco couple.) What was fascinating about the series was how much both parties were changed for the better by the experience. For instance, the homophobe realized he liked and respected the gay couple, even though he still had difficulty reconciling his religious beliefs with their orientation. And the gay couple started to understand how someone they learned was basically a good person could come to have such views about them. Each participant left after the 30 days, not always in perfect agreement, but profoundly changed — mostly because all participants had the wisdom to open themselves to the possibility of learning something from someone different.
Stephen Fowler did not go into his Wife Swap experience with the same openness. Even before he met his “swapped wife”, Gayla, a woman from a small town in Missouri, both he and his wife sneered at the fact that “she probably didn’t have an education” and indicated that they expected her to be stupid, undereducated and “without a clue”.
I want you to be as shocked as I am about the behavior of both Stephen Fowler and his wife. So I won’t catalog the rudeness, arrogance and abuse Fowler heaped upon his poor swapped wife. I’ll let you view it here.
Both the Fowlers have issued apologies of a sort via her website (which someone seems to have hacked by superimposing a giant slab of bacon over it!) Why am I left thinking their apology is more about damage control than a real change of heart?
In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you what really makes me so mad about the Fowlers. They are from San Francisco AND FROM MY NEIGHBORHOOD. In fact literally two streets over. He’s a Brit, she’s a Yank just as Andy and I are — a combination I usually think combines the best of two worlds. Therefore, I feel I owe Gayla, Midwesterners, Military families, high school graduates and everyone else the Fowlers offended a personal apology from our house to your houses. And I’ve got plenty to say to all the players. Here goes
Gayla: Yes, you are “only” a high school graduate from Missouri. But your common sense, innate decency and compassion puts me in mind of someone else from Missouri who had only a high school education and initially worked low-paying jobs. His name was Harry Truman. He did all right. You will, too.
Stephen Fowler: There isn’t a blog post long enough to catalog your transgressions. Although the many entries on the site StephenFowlerSucks.com — and outpouring of disgust toward you in the blogosphere — certainly make a good start.
But what I find the most unforgivable aspect of your behavior is that you foisted your prejudice, rudeness and social ineptitude onto your own children. The lessons you should be teaching your children are those of compassion, respect and understanding. Or, since you state you are in the 99.99th percentile of human intelligence, are those values the top .01% don’t need to bother with?
Renee Fowler: Shame on you as well. You had the sense to be humiliated at your husband’s behavior when he was insulting Gayla to her face, but you, in a less flamboyant way, were just as rude, closed-minded and nasty.
You style yourself “A Certified Life Coach”? I don’t know much about that racket, but I would assume it requires some degree of understanding your clients’ lifestyles and gently and enthusiastically encouraging them to make positive changes. I guess I missed you working on that part. Your professional credentials are very much in question as we watch how you initially “coached” Alan and the boys to make diet and lifestyle changes by acting arrogant and sneering. Is that how you, as you say, “redirect your clients’ energy”? Thank goodness you eventually modified your approach and, luckily, were able, with their increased openness, to make some positive changes in their lives.
But maybe you should forget the clients for awhile and focus on your husband. And your kids! As Gayla deduced within hours of meeting them, they are overscheduled little robots who don’t seem to have any ability to socialize. Plus you’ve got a lot of deprogramming work ahead of you undoing the cruelty, arrogance and disregard for fellow humans that your husband so ably taught them. Get to work. Hint: you might call up Gayla for some tips.
Gayla’s husband, Alan, and the boys: Alan, first let me congratulate you on being your small town’s mayor. Clearly, you show by action that you care more about America than Stephen does with all his posturing. You are more sinned against than sinning here. I know you didn’t get the most positive “life coaching”. But since it was just for a week, couldn’t you have been a little more open to hearing about another way of eating or pursuing recreation? But I’m nitpicking. Eventually you and the boys did allow yourselves to learn a little about nutrition from Renee and even embraced French lessons. If the value of an education is not a head full of facts but an openness to new ideas, new ways of doing things and other cultures, well, you guys are more “educated” than that pompous twit and his judgmental wife. Keep up the good work. (By the way, I’m pretty opposed to burning fossil fuels needlessly, so I’m not sure I like all the ATVing you do. But, I applaud your core goal, to embrace activities that the whole family, from youngest to oldest, can enjoy together. Guess that’s a lesson you can teach all of us.)
The sentence I impose on all: watch Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days series and see a “swap” that brings disparate people — and you, the viewer — to new levels of understanding. It’s what the Sioux used to call “walking a mile in another man’s moccasins.” Try it.
And ABC, I want Fowler and his wife to undergo a rematch swap. Can we send them to a family in Mongolia? And keep them there? Oh, and let that poor Fowler boy go to Missouri for a visit and play some fun paintball games with the Longs instead of being forced by his father to fence(!) which he obviously hates.