90 day fiance

The Dark Side of TLC’s ‘90 Day Fiancé’

After years of lackluster programming throughout the 2010s, TLC has finally hit a reality goldmine with it’s now viral series 90 Day Fiancé and its subsequent spinoffs, 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way, and 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After. The network has even gone so far as to advertise exclusive 90 Day content on new streaming platform, Discovery Plus, which also includes content from networks including HGTV, Food Network, A&E, and of course, Discovery Channel, home to the infamous Shark Week. 

The show’s premise is to showcase couples and their journey on the K-1 or “fiancé” Visa, which allows for an American citizen to bring their fiancé over from another country as long as they get married in 90 days, hence the show’s title. The various spinoff series show different or continuing couples in how they met, their life after marriage, and in The Other Way, showing Americans moving to foreign countries on other kinds of fiancé visas.

The show is entertaining, showing cultural clashes and allowing for scandalous secrets to be revealed as the couples have not spent that much time together, and clashes between the families of the respective couples, as well as their own fair share of fighting. 

Jorge and Anfisa’s story

While all of this makes for reality show gold and overall entertaining television, the series is not without its fair share of criticism and scandal. One trope that has long plagued 90 Day Fiancé is the young, hot foreign girl who is coming over to be with a usually older, rich man. One notable example of this kind of couple is season 4’s Jorge Nava from Los Angeles, CA and Anfisa Arkhipchenko from Moscow, Russia.

Anfisa was a model and Jorge had amassed quite a large sum of money from working in the cannabis business which, during the time of filming, was not legal for recreational use. While filming the season, Jorge was 27 and Anfisa was 20, which is not a huge age gap, but it cannot be denied that Anfisa was using Jorge for his money. 

The pair met on Facebook, and after meeting in person several times through lush European vacations, Jorge proposed to Anfisa. Anfisa thought she would be whisked off to be treated like royalty, but it turns out Jorge did not have the funds to support the lavish lifestyle he had promised his fiancée. This led to drama that took over their relationship, with pushback from Jorge’s family only adding fuel to the fire. Anfisa garnered criticism for her selfish and bratty behavior, and her actions that were showcased for the world to see only led to pushback from American viewers. 

Cementing prejudice

Animosity toward immigrants in the United States is definitely not a new phenomenon, but 90 Day Fiancé certainly fueled it. Narratives like Anfisa’s only further pushed the stereotype that immigrants (especially young, attractive, women) only come to the country to mooch off of Americans. With 90 Day Fiancé being a mainstream voice for immigrant stories and showcasing these negative portrayals, it has been deemed anti-immigrant propaganda by some. 

While there are couples on the show who genuinely care for one another and want to be together, the few bad apples spoil the whole bunch. One woman who was featured on season 3, Loren, met her now husband Alexei, in Israel while she was traveling there on Birthright. The two are currently still together and welcomed a baby boy in April 2020. The pair also currently star on 90 Day Fiancé: Pillow Talk, where past stars of the show watch and react to currently airing seasons and give their two cents.

There are certainly plenty of heartwarming stories on 90 Day Fiancé, but the few that go wrong make the concept of the series as a whole hard to stomach.

Samantha Dilsheimer

Samantha Dilsheimer

Samantha is a student at Boston University studying television writing and producing originally from Philadelphia, PA. She's passionate about comedy, reality TV, and Diet Coke.

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