As an avid fan of trashy reality TV, I pressed play on MILF Manor knowing what to expect: an overdramatized, unorganized piece of junk that I would consume gluttonously. Despite my extremely low expectations, the nine-episode saga did not meet any of them. MILF Manor is a poorly organized, deeply uncomfortable Love Island rip-off that becomes nearly unwatchable as it deliberately exploits the profoundly personal relationships between its contestants.

TLC’s MILF Manor follows eight women aged 40-60 in their search for young love at a resort in Mexico who—in a disturbing and Freudian turn of events—find out that their dating pool consists of each others’ sons. From here, these women have to navigate romantic and sexual relationships with men decades younger than themselves while sharing a private bedroom with their own son.

MILF Manor’s distasteful yet enticing premise had the potential to draw in thousands of viewers, but its complete lack of structure makes it incredibly difficult to follow. The show’s main goal is for each mother-and-son duo to find love, but there are no clear consequences for contestants that do not find a match. At first, it seemed intuitive to assume that every challenge would result in elimination, but as three episodes passed by, no eliminations came to fruition. Then, in a shock to viewers, mother-and-son duo April and Ricky are sent home in the fourth episode immediately after losing a challenge. This elimination, while surprising, was sloppy; it was as if the producers felt pressured to drive the plot forward so they threw in an elimination to heighten drama, but it lacked the contextual suspense to fully impact the viewer.

MILF Manor’s careless structure was only exacerbated by choppy and thoughtless editing. When it was announced that Ricky and April were going home, my first thought was, “Who’s Ricky?” It was difficult to muster up any feeling of sadness or relief simply because I barely knew—much less cared—about the duo thanks to their lack of screen time. Despite being introduced at the beginning of the season, the producers focused on different storylines with different contestants. Tears from other contestants over their departure rendered the entire event inauthentic, as audience members did not know who Ricky and April were, much less know how well they got along with other contestants.

The lack of forethought in production led MILF Manor to have virtually no solidified plot. While some natural tensions materialized (i.e. a love triangle between contestants Stefany, Gabriel, and Ryan), producers overutilized these few moments as the sole points of contention. I watched with agonizing boredom, anxiously waiting for episodes to end, hoping for any semblance of antagonism to manifest within the show. I found myself rooting for literally anything to happen. As each episode ended, I became increasingly disappointed that the production dragged out existing plot points without introducing anything new.

But it’s the plot’s disturbing absence of morality that makes the show nearly unwatchable. Our societal obsession with troubling stories is not only seen by the popularity of true crime podcasts, but also in our addiction to exploitative reality TV shows. Combined with its overt sexuality that hints at incest, MILF Manor created the perfect formula for a show that is disturbing to watch but impossible to tear your eyes away from.

Particularly, the excessively sexual nature of the challenges the contestants must participate in reveal the producers’ intent to exploit the grotesque intersection of sexual and familial relationships. Most of the challenges included some form of incestual sexual imitation; one of the most egregious examples being a son giving head to an orange atop a female mannequin while his mother sits in the audience.

Worst of all was the challenge where each mother-son duo had to divulge their deepest sexual secrets to one another. During this challenge, one of the contestants, SoYoung, reveals to her son, Jimmy, that she had sex with his best friend. Reality TV shows are unethical by nature, but allowing the producers to follow the deterioration of Jimmy and SoYoung’s relationship showcases how MILF Manor crosses a line that is completely insensitive to the contestants’ mental health and personal relationships.

The privacy violations are compounded by the extreme surveillance. From cameras in bedrooms, saunas, and hot tubs, to the production team following Jimmy as he drunkenly skinny dips in the pool, attempting to cope with the fact that his mother had sex with his best friend, MILF Manor was so uncomfortable and invasive that I had to take a multi-day break from watching the show to regain my sanity.

But I ultimately did come back. Morally, I knew this show should not be celebrated with any extra clicks, earning its perverted producers more notoriety for creating this piece of hot garbage. I yearned, however, to know just exactly how MILF Manor would devolve into more chaos.

Other viewers felt the same, as many went to Twitter to detail their disgust with the show, but immediately admitted how their obsession with it overcame any moral compulsion to stop watching. The problem with MILF Manor is that it reaches a level of immorality that reality TV hasn’t seen before. With TLC’s decision to publicly showcase familial tensions—and possibly emotionally incestuous relationships—MILF Manor creates a diabolical spectacle out of these broken family relationships and makes it something that the general public is supposed to laugh at. MILF Manor not only exploits the contestants themselves, but also our society’s perverted tendency to fixate on the unnatural. I attribute my fixation on the show solely to the fact that sex sells. But, when does sex go from an acceptable object of our fixation to an unacceptable line to cross? Where do we, as the viewers, draw the line?

I would describe MILF Manor as a flaming trainwreck of a show; it is truly terrible, but I could not stop watching. Despite the awful production, the awful challenges, and how awful it was to watch sons and mothers attempt to tiptoe around each other to have sex with other contestants, I was glued to my screen. MILF Manor exemplifies a show that toes the line between acceptable trashy TV and downright deranged content. If you want to save yourself from the exhausting hours of dissecting how and why Freudian ideology still rings true today, put MILF Manor on your do-not-watch list.


Sofia Kemeny
Sofia (she/her) is a junior in the SFS studying Regional and Comparative Studies and Journalism. She likes writing pop culture commentary and yapping for hours on end. She dislikes when people don't laugh at her (objectively) hilarious jokes.


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