There's Something About Miriam
There's Something About Miriam is a reality television show filmed in 2003, created by British TV producer Remy Blumenfeld and originally aired in the United Kingdom on Sky1 in February 2004. Hosted by Tim Vincent, it featured six men wooing 21-year-old Mexican model Miriam without revealing that she was a pre-operative trans woman until the final episode.
Production and filming
The show was produced by the Brighter Pictures subsidiary of Endemol and was originally titled Find Me A Man. Recruitment ads for contestants promised "the adventure of a lifetime" with a £10,000 prize to men aged 20 to 35 who "want it all" and are "fit and up for everything." The contestants on the show were:
- Mark Dimino, 24, Optician
- Toby Green, 23, Student
- Aron Lane, 22, Chef
- Tom Rooke, 23, lifeguard and ex-ski instructor
- Scott Gibson, 22, Martial arts expert
- Dominic Conway, 28, Royal Marine
Brighter Pictures managing director Gavin Hay said "they had made a point of never referring to Miriam as a woman when getting the men to take part."
Miriam said, "Several of them wondered about me in the first few days. But as the series unfolded, I really thought that we got to like and know each other as friends and had a lot of fun." In response to allegations that she revealed her big secret by lifting up her skirt she was quoted as saying "I want to say that I would never lift my skirt up on national TV. My mother brought me up very well." On the version that aired, Miriam chose Rooke as the winner and then said in front of the assembled contestants:
I tried to be honest with all of you, not just some of you. Yes, I am from Mexico, I am a model, and I'm 21. But Tom, I really love spending time with you and kissing you. You see, I love men, and I love being a woman. But... shh, quiet everybody, please, quiet. But you see, Tom... I am not a woman. I was born as a man.
Rooke initially accepted the prize money and the trip with Miriam on camera. Rooke later rejected the prize prior to airing and joined the other contestants in a lawsuit.
Litigation and release
Following the completion of the show, it was scheduled to air in November 2003, but the lawsuit by the contestants delayed the airing. They alleged conspiracy to commit sexual assault, defamation, breach of contract, and personal injury in the form of psychological and emotional damage.
The show was aired in Australia by Network Ten in May 2004, in Poland by TVN in January 2005, and in Argentina in 2005 on America TV. The show was picked up by Fox Reality for airing in the United States in April 2006, and was aired in October 2007.
Responses from critics were generally unfavorable, calling it "the cruellest reality show idea yet" and part of a trend in shows that exploit unwitting contestants. A British reviewer noted, "The whole premise of There’s Something About Miriam was not a celebration of transgendered life. It was designed to elicit horror from the winning contestant discovering that his dream date had a penis."  The show was also criticized by transsexual groups, who feared a backlash of public opinion. When the show aired in Australia, reviews were critical of both the premise and Miriam:
These guys were duped in more ways than one - while Miriam has a few unexpected bits in her package, she's notably deficient in others. It has become clear Miriam requires a personality implant. It must've been a challenge to find a transsexual pretty enough, mean enough and sufficiently attention-seeking to play this tawdry game, but what these producers found in Miriam is a sultry-looking dill prone to the cheesiest of clichés.
Other British commentators contrasted Miriam with the positive response to Nadia Almada, a Portuguese transsexual woman who won Big Brother UK a few months later. That show was also produced by Endemol.
When the show aired in the United States on the 2007 Transgender Day of Remembrance, trans author Julia Serano noted, "Programs like 'There's Something About Miriam' not only reinforce the stereotype that trans people's birth sex is 'real' and our identified/lived sex is 'fake,' but they perpetuate the myth of deception and thus enable violence against us."
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- Boynton, Petra (7 August 2004). Real Life: My Mum Is My Dad.[dead link] BMJ[dead link]
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- Smith, Dave, and Anushka Asthana (8 August 2004). Sexual healing. The Observer
- Bye Bye Miriam. via Sky One website
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- Buttner, Claire (14 June 2004). Merlin's silent protest. The Sydney Morning Herald
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- Singh, Anita (23 November 2006). TV 'victims' in Turner exhibit; Film-maker reveals how small screen ruined their lives. Liverpool Daily Post
- Odone, Cristina (30 September 2007). It takes art, not TV, to show us reality. The Guardian