photo: Liz Link via Flickr
On the latest edition of TV's Wife Swap, English-born environmentalist and effete popinjay, Stephen Fowler traded spouses with the paintball-loving, ATV-riding, fast food-guzzling mayor of a rural Missouri town. Mr. Fowler's new wife was Gayla Long, a bucolic mother of four. This sounds like a collision course with wackiness, but it was not wackiness that was found at the end of that collision course. It was cruelty.
Mr. Fowler, a green entrepreneur and biofuel developer, spent two weeks berating Mrs. Long. He called her "overweight," "simple," and "a dumb redneck." After a week of forcing Mrs. Long to abide by his rules, he threw a hissy fit when asked to abide by hers. He even forbade his children from speaking to her.
Mr. Fowler applauded sarcastically after seeing Mrs. Long read. "You read that so well," he said. "Congratulations. I didn't know you could read."
To make matters worse, Mr. Fowler said and did these vindictive things while wearing shirts that said, GO SOLAR, SUSTAINABILITY, and TREEHUGGER.Fowler's Silly Eco-Shirts
Throughout the show, Fowler adorned himself with silly eco-shirts, like a malicious Shirt Tales character.
"Tree...Hugger," says his shirt as he brutally berates his temporary wife.
"Sustainability!" his shirt exclaims as he kicks Mrs. Long out of his house.
"Go Solar," his shirt cries as his swapped-out helpmate weeps.
Fowler V. The Midwest
I think the worst thing that James [Fowler's son] could do was tell me he wanted to move to Missouri. What is wrong with the United States in the middle of the country is that people, frankly, are just like you...It's amazing: Uneducated, simple and without a clue about what's going on in the world. You are undereducated, over-opinionated and you are overweight. It's not a good combination,Gayla.
As a Midwesterner and an Environmentalist
As a native of the Midwest, I am appalled by the things Mr. Fowler said, obviously. But as an environmentalist, I am dismayed. Fowler is reinforcing a negative stereotype. Some see environmentalists and faux-eruidte, holier-than-thou wine-sippers who look down upon the working class and traditional American family values.
For those of you that don't know, most environmentalists are not like this. We come from all walks of life, various backgrounds and even the Midwest. You'll find environmentalists in every political party with varying levels of education and in every income bracket.
Like most people, environmentalists are decent folks who just want what's best for their families. They pay attention to ecological problems of the world and work to solve those problems. Simple as that.
Yes. There are some jerks thrown into every mix. There are jerks everywhere. You can't escape them.
The Fallout against Stephen. Fowler
Since the show's airing, there has been considerable backlash against Mr. Fowler. He has resigned from the boards of two non-profit organizations. Anti-Fowler Websites and Facebook groups have begun springing up around the web. His real wife's blog was defaced with a strip of bacon. There are even rumors that he is receiving death threats.
Fowler has apologized on his wife's blog. Fowler's actual wife, Mrs. Renee Stephens, has asked Mr. Fowler to seek therapy. According to Mrs. Stephens' blog, she is having some trouble reconciling her long-time, real-life husband with his disgraceful TV behavior.
Sources have reported that Fowler was asked to "ham it up" by the producers. He went a bit overboard from the looks of things.
More on Environmentalism in the Media
7 Celebrity Environmentalists in Need of Green 101
How to Go Green: Like Celebrities
Seven Crazy Things Celebrities Have Said About the Environment
Celebrities ' Weight Loss Secret, Paul McCartney's Vegan Mission