how can I get coworkers to leave me alone about a humiliating TV experience?

A reader writes:

Recently, I was on one of those courtroom shows. I regret it intensely. When I was contacted by the producer about a case I’d filed against someone else, he was incredibly friendly, said that I had a great case, etc., and made it seem to me that they were entirely on my side. I did want to confirm with my boss that it was alright for me to appear on the show, and I did have reservations myself, but the producer and associate producer were so approachable and eager to have me in a really supportive way that I felt, well, supported. My boss said it was alright so long as my employer was not named — this was relevant, as I work for a government department. I told this to the producer who confirmed that this would not be an issue — verbally, but he did not confirm this in writing. I naively assumed the best.

Well, when the taping happened, the first thing the judge demanded of me was to state my employment and department. She then proceeded to ignore the piles of evidence I had and instead reamed me for being impoverished — how dare I not have enough money, all the time, for everything. The fact that I had accepted financial help from others in the past made me inherently dishonest, in her opinion. That alone, she decided, made me guilty of being a bad person, and she refused to hear my case. After all the goodness I had gotten from the producers, I was shocked and humiliated. Yes, I know I’m poor. I know how embarrassing it is. I stay in my job because I like it, because the benefits are good, and because there are raises in the future. But I’m not rich. Forgive me.

Anyway, when I thought I’d be vindicated, I just ended up being yelled at for being a poor person and having everything I filed the case for summarily dismissed for being that poor person — not because the evidence wasn’t there (the judge looked at two pieces of paper and didn’t care about the rest). It was a deeply dehumanizing experience, and the fact that I was asked up-front about stuff that I was told I wouldn’t have to reveal for my job’s sake was obviously problematic.

I just want to leave this whole incident behind me. I’m still employed, for the time being, anyway. The issue is that as soon as the commercial for the spot aired, a coworker approached me and cutely asked for my autograph. I mumbled that the experience was horrible, but he kept talking about my “celebrity” status like I was supposed to find it endearing. Ugh. So many people in my personal life can’t seem to wrap their heads around why this wasn’t just a barrel of monkeys for me and so much fun and an amusing and fulfilling time in my life, no matter how often I tell them to let it go and not mention it to me. Now my coworkers are in on it, too. I wanted to sink back into my office chair until I become one with it, unrecognizable, merely furniture.

And, worse of all, since our office is open to the public, people can stroll in and recognize me at any time. Some of them might agree with the judge’s decision (not because it was a valid one, but because just as the judge was awful, other people can be, too) and grill me for it; others might be sympathetic; and still others might just shriek in delight at having seen me on television and excitedly not-shut-up about it. I want and need to do my job, but honestly, if people keep insisting on talking about it, I’m going to snap and start bawling.

Look, I know I’m gonna get a lot of “You should’ve known better”s and all that. I was stupid, so stupid, for being so trusting. But do I really deserve to not get on with my life, to not constantly be reminded of the time I was very publicly degraded on national television?

How do I tell people – coworkers and the public/clients alike – that it’s not up for discussion? If they persist with wanting to talk about it, what’s the best mode of action? Do I refuse to serve people who get offended that I won’t entertain whatever show-related stuff they have to say to me? I have enough on my mind, and I don’t need this further hassle.

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked, “Has anyone other than that one coworker talked to you about this yet? I couldn’t tell from the way your letter was worded whether other people were bringing it up, or if you’re just worried that they will.”

So far in person at work, just the one coworker. I was talked into visiting a small restaurant yesterday evening and was recognized by people there, although luckily, they were sympathetic. I missed work yesterday simply out of fear – although all of my social media accounts are deactivated, some people with apparently too much time on their hands managed to dig up accounts from websites I haven’t been on in months or longer, just for the opportunity to find a way to send me a message mocking me, debasing me, or calling me names, along with the typical range of insults about my weight, etc. I managed to stay up most of the night getting the comments deleted, but I was still surprised that people would go to such lengths.

I refuse to watch the program, but from what I’ve been told, they did manage not to name my specific workplace, thank God, since my job would’ve been on the line if they had.

Well, this is horrible, and I’m so sorry it happened to you. There’s a strong tone of blaming yourself in your letter, and I want to push back against that. You trusted someone who misled you. That happens.

It’s true that reality television is not exactly known for its commitment to reality, but you’re being too hard on yourself for trusting that producer. They’re trained to get people to trust them and to agree to things they later regret; that’s their job. So I hope you’ll cut yourself some slack.

As for work (and even outside of work), I think this is going to be a short-lived problem. The episode is out now, and the promos for it are now, but television — and people’s attention span for this kind of thing — moves on really fast. What you’re experiencing now is almost definitely not what it’s going to be like two months from now. It’s going to die down.

The good news is, only one person at work has said something to you, and no clients have. It may stay that way! But if anyone else does raise it with you, you can say, “It was a really bad experience and I’d rather not discuss it.” If you’d like to say more than that, you could even say, “I learned reality TV doesn’t deal in reality — that was as fictional as any soap opera is.”

As for how to handle clients or members of the public who won’t stop, even after you very firmly say “It’s not something I can discuss”: I don’t think you can flatly refuse to serve someone over this, but is there a coworker you can ask to take over in that situation? You could prepare the person beforehand that you might need to do that occasionally in the next month or two and ask if they’d be willing to step in if that happens. If that’s not an option, you can simply perform whatever you work you need to do for them while being pointedly polite — and pointedly not engaging with anything they say about the show.

Truly, though, I think this will die down sooner than you think.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 315 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please do not speculate in the comments on which show it was! I’ve removed comments that do that. The letter writer is trying to protect her anonymity.

  2. Princess prissypants*

    “I’m not allowed to talk about it.”

    True, if you’ve imposed your own rule on yourself and plausible that others will think you’re not allowed to talk about it.

    “I can’t talk about it.”

    It too, like all the queen-of-the-dragons stuff this morning, will pass.

    1. Save One Day at a Time*

      Yup! I like this because it’s true and polite and reasonable people won’t think anything of it and move on

    2. SezU*

      Best answer! People who are on TV (game shows, reality shows, etc.) are often prohibited from discussing at least until it airs and since the majority of us have not been on any of these, or this one particularly, we can’t say for sure what an NDA might say!

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      Many years ago when we owned a salon we would get solicitors (who ignored the no soliciting sign) come in and try to engage us. Either I or my business partner would say “I’m sorry but the owner doesn’t let us do that” or words to that effect. We were both “the owner” but the solicitors didn’t know that… :-D

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Not work, but as a kid/teen, our neighborhood was no soliciting and when people would come to the door, my dad would pick up the cordless phone and tell them he was calling the non-emergency police line… people didn’t tend to come back to our house.

    4. bluephone*

      One of my cousins was on a Judge Judy-type show 20+ years ago and I can’t even tell you which specific show it was, when it aired, or what his complaint was about. This too shall pass <3

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It may however pop back up with reruns… that’s what happened to me & a college friend who went to the David Letterman show. My friend got asked a question, I was visible in a corner of the screen, and it was 2 years before I stopped hearing about it. It’s one reason I cut my hair to be honest.
      Sorry OP…I hope I’m wrong, but I do think you should be prepared for random po p up recognition. :(

      1. Vemasi*

        I’m sure it will continue sporadically every now and then for a very long time, and if it’s a close-knit community then people who know the LW will probably bring it up they first see them. But LW can shut that down with people they know. And unless this was the most memorable episode of this show of all time, strangers bringing it up will die down simply from them not remembering what LW looks like, unless they are particularly distinctive-looking in some way. Most are probably just excited to see someone from TV, as our culture is obsessed with celebrity. It can depend, but in most circles David Letterman is probably more universally watched than one of dozens of courtroom shows, and with new episodes and reruns it will die down over time.

        LW, also know that you will become inured to it. Shutting it down may be difficult right now because you are so embarrassed, but in time you will process that feeling, and I hope come to realize that this is not your fault, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Someday soon you will be able to hear it brought up without having your stomach flip, and the best way to do that is to get started on practicing. Go back to work, and know that every time it happens (which hopefully will not be many times), and even every day that passes without it being brought up, you are getting further away from it both time-wise and emotionally, and in time it will be no more embarrassing to you than anything that happened in middle school. You’ll be okay. If you stay away from work, you’ll just start building it up in your head as some terrible thing and become afraid of it. Right now it feels like everything, but in five years it will just be one episode of a cheap, tacky daytime TV show that lies to the people who appear on it in good faith. Your life is bigger than that.

  3. bunniferous*

    Truly this LW has done us a public service by sharing this info with us. I wish them the best and they should not feel one bit guilty for what was done TO them.

    1. Myrin*

      Right? At least where I am, courtroom shows are entirely scripted (though as I understand it, the cases themselves are usually based on real albeit older ones) and I had no idea there are ones which actually deal with real cases involving the actual people dealing with them. Goodness gracious, that sounds like a horrible idea on so many levels!

      1. Holly*

        It’s pretty common in the U.S. (People’s Court, etc). They are usually small claims cases and all participants agree to have their case heard in that venue.

        1. NerdyKris*

          The ones in the US are arbitration. They sign binding agreements and the money is something like $5000 split depending on how the arbitrator decides. Since it’s not a real court, they don’t have to follow any rules of evidence or procedure.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Wait, what? When did that change?

            Literally every one of those shows I’ve ever seen (I watched a lot of daytime TV as a latchkey kid in the 90s) has a disclaimer stating they’re a real small claims court and the participants aren’t actors but have been compensated for appearing and any filing fees or judgement will be paid out of the amount they were paid.

            (I also can’t imagine it being more than a couple hundred dollars per person, since most of these shows had upwards of 5 cases per episode.)

            1. Nancie*

              The cases start out as real small claims court cases, but by agreeing to go on a show, the original cases are closed and what happens on TV is arbitration. That’s how they get around differences in law across the country, and the judges’ jurisdiction (or retirement, or whatever.)

              At least, from the original shows I remember. After about the 30th time a particular judge flaunted their privilege, I got disgusted with it and found something more mature to watch. Like Animaniacs.

        2. animaniactoo*

          And while I think the People’s Court is generally among the best done of them, even there I watch at points* and go “Uh. She had documents you didn’t look at.” “You didn’t let him finish speaking, you never got back to him and allowed him to make his case at all.” Which really sucks for people who are walking in expecting to get their day in court and I hope that one of them actually sues at some point saying “I agreed to drop my proceeding under the expectation that I was going to get a FAIR hearing. I did not, and this representation of me is damaging to my reputation in my real life.”

          *It’s part of my sick-day-tv-watching. So, I don’t actually see it all that often which makes me think it probably is a bigger problem than the few times I’ve thought that about an episode.

          1. MK*

            I have no idea how it works in the US, but in the European jurisdictions I am familiar with civil cases aren’t actually resolved on the day of the trial; the judge hears the witnesses and receives the submitted evidence and adjourns the hearing till she has made a decision, so that she can study the evidence research the law etc, and delivers the judgement in a different hearing weeks if not months later. It’s really not a process suitable for television.

            1. Discordia Angel Jones*

              In the UK, that depends on the complexity of the case. The majority of time for civil disputes between individuals, the judge will deliver their ruling on the same day, provided that the case is not complex.

              Where there are multiple witnesses and a bunch of evidence to be submitted and reviewed, yes, it does take longer (although I’ve not personally come across it taking months to get a verdict).

              Source: My English legal career.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I’ve sued someone in small claims (less than $5000.00) twice. I was prepared…had all my ducks lined up both times. In each case I prevailed, including the one against my landlord at the time.

                In fact with the landlord case the judge asked if I was a law student (hard no) and recommended that I consider it (another hard no). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I think he just wan’t used to seeing people come into small claims actually prepared to state their case with evidence and stuff.

                The same landlord tried to sue me a few months later. Before the hearing we talked to her “I know everything lawyer” outside the courtroom. I tried to negotiate in good faith but he was a dick. I finally said “I’ll see you inside” and walked away. The judge gave me every single thing I asked for.

                All of those cases were adjudicated the same day. US courts.

              2. Em*

                I mean, I’m working on a case where we are now at 18 months post closing submissions without a judgement so it definitely happens.

            2. Richard Hershberger*

              In the US, a civil trial might take more than one day, but for a straight up civil trial, however long it takes, it culminates with a verdict. There are other kinds of judicial proceeding where this isn’t necessarily the case, but trials themselves are pretty straightforward in this respect. As for researching the law, etc., this being an adversarial process, the two lawyers, if they know their business, walked in the door prepared to argue that. This argument would be before the judge alone. If it is a jury trial, the jury’s job is to determine the facts, with the judge ruling on the law and the two meshing together majestically, resulting in justice. Or so the theory goes…

              1. MK*

                In my country we don’t have jury trials for civil cases. And the opposing lawyers come prepared with their arguments and submit them in writing, but the judge doesn’t just pick the winning side in a verdict; she is expected to research independently and then deliberate on the facts, and the judgement is usually a lot more complex than “A or B wins”.

                1. Anne Elliot*

                  Well, it’s like this in the U.S. too IRL, but just not on TV in the People’s Court/Judge Judy/Divorce Court type shows. In real U.S. court, the judge is expected to deliberate and a ruling from the bench is actually the exception, not the rule. In my jurisdiction, even if the judge rules from the bench, which does sometimes happen in small cases or in motions, they will ask the prevailing party to draft a proposed order, which actually means “findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order,” which the judge then considers and can adopt by signing, or change, or reject. Even in the States it varies by jurisdiction. In my state, almost all motion practice in State court is done in person with a hearing and argument, but in Federal court there is almost never a hearing on a motion, it’s all submitted or argued on paper. So where you practice can make a huge difference.

          2. lamb_sees_god*

            Part of me thinks they must have signed their rights away to all of that before getting on camera?

            1. animaniactoo*

              They’ve signed their rights away – in theory. In practice, I’m willing to bet that it can be successfully challenged. People have gone to court before challenging the contract was improper, or that the other party did not fulfill their side of the contract and thereby broke the contract which then returns their rights to them, etc. In this case it would be that the contract was not fulfilled due to misrepresentation/improper handling of the issue on the part of the show, etc. The question is how egregious it has to be before it becomes legally questionable, and I’m willing to be that it is in some of these cases.

              1. fposte*

                And, of course, it has to coincide with a participant’s having enough scratch to fund a private lawyer, and most of them wouldn’t be on a court show if they could do that.

                1. Anon From Here*

                  This. Even if the paperwork that OP signed agreeing to have the case done by binding arbitration were insufficient, it would cost more than the case is worth to try to get out of the contract. Though I’m sure that the case was very important to OP, we should remember that the shows take on small-claims court cases, where the maximum amount in controversy is usually in the mid-four figures.

          3. boo bot*

            I’ve always assumed that the judge, or at least the producers (qui pro domina justitia sequitur here, exactly?) went over all the evidence and documentation before the show, so when they only refer to one or two things, it doesn’t mean they’ve only looked at one or two things – basically that there’s more due diligence than actually appears onscreen.

            I was apparently wrong!

          4. Anon From Here*

            In my experience (I am a lawyer who had a case on one of these shows), the show asks for copies of all your documents ahead of time to give to the judge (actually an arbitrator, as discussed in other comments). The judges don’t go in completely blind. In OP’s case, I would not be surprised if the judge actually did review everything ahead of time and decided to make the proceeding more “entertaining” for the TV by leveling quips and zingers before ruling against the OP. I’m sad for OP that the show found its entertainment at their expense.

      2. New Job So Much Better*

        Good point, tell them you were hired as an actor to follow a script. Also, I doubt anyone who watches those shows recall the participants for more than a day or so. I’ve watched and would never have recognized anyone from the show (except the judge.)

        1. pancakes*

          I think this is probably the best strategy, tell anyone who bothers to ask that it was scripted and, if they press for details, those aren’t up for discussion due to a NDA. This seems easier and more reliable / plausible than the letter writer changing their appearance.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I used to watch those shows, but I don’t seem to catch very often any more. When I do watch reality TV, I prefer shows about medical issues.*is watching one right now* I wouldn’t actually be on one for ten million dollars.

        A lot of the courtroom shows are on during the workday, so likely, most of the people OP knows might not have even seen it.

      4. What day is today?*

        I was involved in a neighbor dispute where the 7 home owners who shared an easement road agreed to make necessary road repairs. One neighbor refused to pay his share so we went the Small Claims route. The moment we filed, we began receiving letters from those shows offering to adjudicate the case on air. It did sound like terrible idea on so many levels, so we laughed and tossed the letters. I did wonder who was combing through the Small Claims filings in Hometown, USA, looking for juicy cases. I don’t think that info is posted online, so who does that?

      5. Miso*

        Well, in the very beginning they were real, too. And of course, if you were very unlucky, you then could’ve had a song made out of your case/your dialect…

    2. pancakes*

      The nature of the shows is as public as can be, no? Trustworthiness of individual producers aside, the nature of these shows is to depict spitefulness as entertainment. I find it hard to conceive of anyone watching an episode & coming away thinking the losing side is treated with tact and kindness.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        The problem with that is that no one goes into those shows thinking they’re going to be on the losing side.

        1. selena81*

          On some shows it’s very obvious that each and every loser has been prepped in advance to think that they’ll score an easy win, just so that nasty tv-viewers can laugh at their humiliation.
          LW is too hard on herself: she was taken in by professionals, people who’ve spend years luring in contestants and building up their ego.

  4. JokeyJules*

    be kind to yourself, OP! Everyone makes mistakes in their life decisions, even public ones. I had a friend who was MORTIFIED when her older sister was on a season of the Real World on MTV. People stopped caring almost immediately.
    In the meantime, I’d follow Alisons advice in opting not to talk about it, and perhaps talk with your manager or coworkers about a game plan for dealing with particularly unpleasant clients.
    Please be kind to yourself, OP!

    1. IndoorCat*

      Agreed! This sounds hugely embarrassing, but I have a friend who was on the show ‘Worst Cooks in America,’ and when she went on she figured, “Hey, I have a good sense of humor about my bad cooking skills, maybe I’ll learn something!” But then it turned out to be more laughing *at* her than laughing with her, and she felt really embarrassed and upset afterwards.

      The thing is, with the exception of a few internet strangers who decided to pile on on Twitter, pretty much everyone else 1) was sympathetic and 2) literally forgot about it a week later. And the internet jerks were easy to block, and they got bored after that.

      I bet you five cows that this whole thing is forgotten by Friday.

      1. JokeyJules*

        That’s the thing about the world we live in now, so much stuff is happening that we are aware of that it’s impossible to remember it all long-term. Stick it out for a few weeks and it’ll pass!
        I mean, does anybody remember anything that happened in the March episodes of the Montell Williams show? No. Well, probably only the people who were on that show that day.

        1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

          I didn’t even know Montel Williams still had a show.

        1. IndoorCat*

          I’m not sure. We only had one conversation about it (during which she was really upset), so I didn’t get a chance to ask.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. #1, no one remembers anything nowadays – especially an average episode of 3rd rate TV. #2, people understand that reality TV is sorta fake, so she can just say something like “yeah, I didn’t think reality TV was as bad as they say, but they really set me up – lesson learned,” and everyone will be like “yup, reality tv producers suck.”

        * – Except Great British Bake-off. They do not suck.

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        I stopped watching “Worst Cooks In America” because I was hoping it would be like your friend thought (a teaching show with a cute framing device) but got frustrated because all they did was make fun of people and then vote them off the show for being bad cooks. But… you wanted the worst cooks!

    2. Tigger*

      Agreed. One of my high school teacher’s had a daughter that was shown in a less than positive light on the Jersey Shore. She took a week vacation the week the episode aired and when she came back no one cared. This will pass. Be kind to yourself OP

      1. JokeyJules*

        that’s the best part about high school scandals, something way more interesting happens very soon after. My friend got out of it really quick when 3 days later someone dropped a carton of chocolate milk and it exploded all over the place in the cafeteria. For whatever reason, it was ENDLESSLY funny and the talk of the school.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Nephew tried out for American Idol. We told him not to (“can’t carry a tune in a bucket” is an understatement). You know during the auditions where they show you the people who are reeeeaaaalllyyyy bad because it’s funny to laugh at other people apparently? Yup he was immortalized. Ten or so years on we are really the only ones who remember (and occasionally bring up because we’re evil like that) the “AI incident.”

        1. Tigger*

          We were not allowed to watch that show growing up because my parents didnt like the way they made fun of people. Your poor nephew

      3. Creed Bratton*

        I had a former student (and a coworker’s daughter) in a similar situation (basically drunk 24/7 for multiple seasons on a popular MTv show) and it’s really not a thing. A long time ago I had another friend on a Cops-style show and she was actually asked to release the drug dealer she had just arrested to redo it for better audio. Most people know how fake reality shows are, and while Allison has some great phrases to shut down people down, I’d be tempted to give them a full education.

      4. Vemasi*

        When you consider how desperately the people who have made a career out of being on reality TV have to work to stay relevant, and how most of society that doesn’t watch those shows has no idea who they are, you’ll realize that anonymity returns pretty fast. It might come up occasionally, but it stops being A THING almost right away. The unfortunate thing is if your town gets hold of it, but usually that only happens with positive stuff. For instance, I live in the hometown of a finalist on The Voice, and they are our new local hero apparently.

    3. SpaceySteph*

      Yeah and that’s a whole SEASON which people might remember for a little while because they were on multiple episodes. These courtroom dramas typically air every day (and during the day where most of the working public isn’t watching). You were one of a few cases that day, and they’re already on to advertising the next episode and some other unsuspecting person who got lured into their trap. In the cycle of reality tv its already extremely old news by the next week.

      1. Mimi Me*

        The only court room case I can recall was the one where the guy said his dog had been stolen. The defendant said that it hadn’t been – that she’d rescued it or something. They brought out the dog. The dog made a beeline for the guy – barking, whining, tail wagging. The judge sent the dog home with the guy. :) I remember only the fluffy white dog, the big man who cried, and the judge saying “that’s his dog”. All other details are erased from memory.
        LW, unless your case has a cute animal that comes out I think people will forget quickly.

        1. JokeyJules*

          I remember that case! but mostly because i see that video on Reddit once a month.

        2. Kelsi*

          Even then, I’m guessing you probably couldn’t pick out the woman who the judge ruled against out of a lineup? I might sometimes remember the details of a case if it’s interesting, but I’m never going to remember the people’s names or faces later.

          1. Mimi Me*

            You’re right! I can describe with alarming clarity what the dog looked like though. :)

        3. All Outrage, All The Time*

          I remember that case too. I don’t remember the details of any other case especially and I wouldn’t recognise any one in the street.

      2. NotTheSameAaron*

        This is why I stopped watching those types of shows. That and the irritating lawyer commercials. The only one I remember clearly was about a gentleman with some seriously ill fitting dentures.

      3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yeah – you were on screen for, what, fifteen or twenty minutes at most? I watched an episode of Jeopardy on Netflix last night and I couldn’t recognize any of the contestants if they walked up to me right now. All I remember was that one guy was blond and his smile seemed too smug to me.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Co-signed. I went to school with several folks on relatively high profile MTV “reality” shows, and although people sometimes recognize them, no one holds them responsible for looking less than flattering on TV. It will certainly pass, but I’m sorry that OP has to experience all this roughness on the way to it passing.

      But I do hope OP can “forgive” themselves. Reality TV folks are infamous for trying to identify and win over people (especially folks going through Hard Times) and persuade them to engage in activities that they would never undertake in “real life.” I think this is less about OP being naive and more about reality TV producers being predatory, but I am deeply sorry that OP is going through this awful experience.

  5. Moray*

    I think this is a time to get as flippant as you possibly can.

    “Yeah, that was a nightmare. I didn’t even get a rose.”

    “I didn’t even get to find out who the father was. So traumatic.”

    “Did you know that reality TV producers can be kind of manipulative? Crazy, right?!”

    “The camera adds ten pounds and also makes you seem like sort of an asshole. I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen.”

    1. Not Me*

      These are all excellent ways to convey “I’d love to joke about this more with you” as opposed to what the LW is asking for “I don’t want to discuss this”. This is not helpful at all to the LW.

      1. Moray*

        Mmm, I think it’s pretty easy to shut down a line of conversation with humor. If you follow a light, joke-y evasion with “eh, don’t want to talk about it” or “so anyway [other topic]” you’re going to sound dismissive rather than ashamed.

        I had a small brush with workplace infamy, and although I really wanted to say “it was awful, I don’t want to talk about it, *please* don’t talk about it” it was ultimately better to pretend it was no big deal.

        I think that sounding stiff and humiliated about it is going to keep it way more memorable than an I-don’t-really-care brushoff. But YMMV.

      2. TootsNYC*

        though it might suggest a way for LW to reframe it, even for herself!

        And I think it more conveys, “I don’t want to talk about the substance of this, and I don’t want to talk about it seriously.”

        I think they are kind of distancing–they’re a non-answer, but they’re funny, so it’s not as direct a way to say “I won’t be talking about it.” And yet I think it sort of does say that–it’s a redirection.

      3. Augusta Sugarbean*

        I think that suggestion is helpful because you can’t necessarily take the same approach with coworkers as you can with clients/customers. You can likely shut down the coworker’s discussion pretty flatly but you just as likely need to be more diplomatic with customers. A light dismissive tone and a redirect to the reason for the customer’s visit seems like a good tactic to me.

      4. Sleepytime Tea*

        While to a certain extent I agree, there is also value in portraying the incident in the way you want the person you’re speaking to to think about it. For example, if you joke about it and portray it in a “not a big deal” way, they are more likely to receive it in a “not a big deal” way and that starts to immediately defuse the gossip ring and rumor mill. If you act mortified, then they think you have something to be mortified about, and will treat it as such.

        There’s valid psychology behind communication. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the theory I’m talking about, but I use it all the time. Think of how you want the receiver to perceive the information, and model that when conveying the information. It makes a huge difference. I mean sure, that’s not going to work when telling someone their loved one died, or if you miss a huge deadline at work, but when it comes to heading off the rumor mill, it’s very effective.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I took that approach with my son when he started looking at Playboy and the like. Leaving aside my personal thoughts about porn in all its forms, I knew that if I made a Big Deal out of it that would make him want it even more…forbidden fruit and all that. As it turned out he looked and basically was all “meh whatever” after seeing a few boobs.

        2. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

          “Yeah, wasn’t that crazy!?!”
          “I got my 15 minutes of fame, didn’t I?”
          “I feel like a Kardashian.”

          “Now, how may I help you? / How was your weekend? / Is the copier still acting up?”

          Hopefully these kind of comments will encourage others to think it was no big deal. Best wishes! <3

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I actually think this is a clever way to redirect the conversation, as well as a strategy to help OP reframe the experience so it’s not as retraumatizing to OP every time it comes up.

        It doesn’t really invite others to continue the joke, but it does encourage them to think of the situation as a funny, non-real blip instead of an indictment of OP’s character. It also saves OP the pain of having to explain that it was awful, and it lightens the tone away from a very serious “I don’t want to discuss this,” which may unfortunately invite more questions and prying. By treating the experience as an unpleasant-but-jokeable situation, others are more likely to think of it as “unpleasant, not quite real, and jokeable” instead of thinking it’s Very Serious and must reflect Bad Things about OP.

    2. JokeyJules*

      “You know, I’m just grateful I didn’t have to sit in the bathtub full of spiders like the other bachelorettes. Now, what form did you need exactly?”

      1. mamma mia*

        Personally, I would view this as a really strange and kind of aggressive response (depending on tone). OP wasn’t forced to be on the show at gunpoint and by making a joke about a wholly different kind of reality show, I would be at the least, very confused.

        I don’t think the coworker who asked about the autograph wasn’t at all out of line and this kind of brusque “let’s change the topic back to work” remark comes across as weird. OP went on a reality show; that is a notable thing for a coworker to do! It makes sense for people to comment and I honestly don’t think you can stop them from doing it (sorry OP). The only thing to do is let it blow over, which take about a week.

        1. pamela voorhees*

          I think a very light “it wasn’t as fun or interesting as you think” followed by “so what is new with you/what project can I help you with/etc.” would do the trick. People are interested in anything that is new, and that they haven’t experienced personally — things always seem way more fun when you haven’t participated in them yourself. Everyone is interested in the person who does ballet, no one wants to hear about the bruises on your feet and how hot and uncomfortable the stage is. Everyone will be interested in tv, and no one will want to hear about what backstage is like. Something along the lines of “it wasn’t that great” with humor or professionalism as appropriate will shut it down fairly quickly, mainly because it will lightly burst that “ohhh, something new!” bubble. And as others have said, this will very quickly move from “new” to “old”, at which point people will stop caring.

  6. EPLawyer*

    First thing check your contract. Your case might not be dismissed. These shows are actually mediations.

    Second just keep on keeping on. As Alisonsaid this too shall pass. Something more outrageous will happen very soon and everyone will forget it. In the meantime feel free to be firmer with coworker in telling him to shut the hell up.

    1. MK*

      I was going to ask about this: is this an actual legal proceeding? Is the “judge” the OP refers to a real (appointed/elected?) Judge? Any member of the judiciary in my country who participated in reality television in this way would probably lose their position, although they serve for life after appointment by the Supreme Court and are usually impossible to fire (unless for gross misconduct, which this would be).

      1. Sleepytime Tea*

        Well frequently what happens is you’ve agreed to legally binding arbitration or mediation (not a lawyer, so not 100% on the terms). But yes, you do agree that the decision made is binding and you will adhere to it. Whether or not that would hold up in any other actual court of law and such is a totally different question, and if you have a good lawyer, I would bet that you could argue that actual arbitration/mediation did not take place and you’d have video evidence of that.

        1. OP*

          That’s a good point. I had massive piles of evidence and she barely glanced at it. In such a situation, it could be argued that the arbitration never happened. I’m willing to bet that the law also stipulates that arbitrators must act with a lack of bias, just as judges are supposed to, and in this case, that obviously didn’t happen.

          1. Harvey 6-3.5*

            Arbitration decisions are, unfortunately, hard to overturn. Also, you’ve probably signed away rights to defamation and libel in the contract.

            While arbitrators must usually (thought not always) apply the general governing law, you’d need to show fraud, corruption because even a clear mistake of law doesn’t necessarily get the decision overturned.

            That said, in a TV reality show case, I wouldn’t be as surprised if a regular court found the arbitration lacking. But, and this is a big issue, the cost of hiring an attorney or successfully challenging this might be worth more than your entire case. While it feels better to win, weigh whether the money is worth it. Usually, it is not worth spending more money, even if you are right. That’s the same reason that cities can get away with junky parking or speeding tickets. Even if you are right, the principle of the thing isn’t worth taking a day off of work to fight it, when you’ll only save $25 if you just pay up.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              There are two important issues that probably apply to OP: (1) This was likely a mediation, not an arbitration; and (2) even if it was an arbitration, it was likely non-binding. Regardless, I suspect this was dismissed without prejudice, in which case the outcome doesn’t bind or preclude OP from re-filing in court. The only other danger is that the statute of limitations for OP’s claims may be running.

              I don’t think we should advise OP not to pursue their claim; they’ve probably already considered the cost of an attorney and litigation. All folks are doing is encouraging OP to re-read their contract, and if needed, to consider hiring an attorney for the limited purpose of explaining the contract and advising if they can still pursue their claim. That’s going to be much more affordable, and it may provide OP with comfort that despite an awful experience, they may still have an actionable claim.

              1. Hank*

                All of the US television court shows are binding arbitrations. You do not need to be a judge or even an attorney to be an arbitrator – only that both sides agree to accept you. Although I have never seen a TV one I signed enough real arbitration agreemnents when I was in medical practice to know that the contracts you sign are exhaustively in favor of the arbitrator and their firm. No appeal, no defamation, no allegations of prejudice – you take it and that’s that. Your only option is to not sign and proceed on to a (usually expensive) court case. In the real world it’s the free market that determines fairness – crappy arbitrators don’t get asked back.

                The key is OP’s allegation that they “promised” to do x,y,z and not to say a,b,c. etc. As anyone who has ever signed a lease or an auto sales contract, ANYTHING “they” say if it is NOT in the contract is puff and unenforceable. Ever, even if you recorded it. It must be in writing as an appendix to the contract and signed by both parties. Hence the byword “Get it in writing.”

                Mediation is the exact same process where both parties have the option but not the obligation to accept the decision. Either side can walk and proceed to trial if they don’t like the outcome. It is an option provided to save legal expenses in usually cut and dried actions – divorce assets, partnership disputes etc.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  To expand on this a bit, mediation and arbitration are two very different things. In a mediation, a disinterested third party works to bring the two parties into agreement. A good mediator is typically experienced in the field. He partly does shuttle diplomacy, and partly sits down with the two sides (separately, not together) and gives his assessment of their case. This can sometimes make people more realistic about their prospects, resulting in settlement. An arbitrator is entirely different. The parties agree to forgo a trial and instead have this guy decide. Why would they do this? Various reasons, good and bad. The good reason is that an arbitrator and skip certain expensive formalities that a trial requires, and often can wrap the whole thing up more quickly, not being tied to the court’s calendar. The bad reason is that Giant Corp. put an arbitration clause in their terms of use, thereby sending a lot of business to the arbitration firm, who will swear that this doesn’t influence the decisions, but really now…

                  Puffery is something different from verbal contract terms. The classic puffery is the used car salesman talking about what a sweet ride this car is, which turns out to be a lemon. It if vague fluffy language that doesn’t contain a legally enforceable claim. The problem with verbal contract terms is proving they existed. If the phone conversation with the producer had been recorded (which may or may not be legal, depending on your state) then it would be a topic for discussion, legally speaking.

                2. Anon From Here*

                  Can confirm that the court shows are binding arbs. I am a lawyer who has appeared on one of the shows and this is how it was handled. We filed our civil action in local county court, a producer thought it looked interesting and invited us to ditch court for the show, and all parties agreed to binding arbitration by the TV judge.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Most of the shows are binding arbitrations, but not all, and although it’s difficult to overturn a decision made under binding arbitration, there are a few clear knockouts (e.g., a decision isn’t binding if it adjudicates issues beyond the scope of OP’s contract). So, OP should review the contract.

                  Puffery and verbal agreements are different things, and enforceability is a different legal analysis in that context. That said, I suspect OP’s contract is fully integrated, so any promises made through the phone call only come into play if there was fraud in the inducement (hard to prove, harder to negate a contract if the call happened before OP signed the K).

                4. Anon From Here*

                  I think discussing whether OP can get this arb overturned on any basis is unnecessarily (and possibly very unkindly) getting OP’s hopes up.

          2. Anon From Here*

            Some reality here is that pursuing this in any forum will cost more than whatever it was your case was about. You’re also risking some serious “Barbra Streisand effect” by keeping it on everybody’s radar. I’m sorry you had a terrible experience but at this point, it is what it is.

          3. MommyMD*

            These shows are for entertainment purposes. It will go away in a few weeks, months at most. Just don’t mention it at all. Change the subject immediately.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s usually a quasi-proceeding that falls under the general umbrella of “alternative dispute resolution” (i.e., not a judicial proceeding, but a kind of legal process). But I agree with EPLawyer that the case is likely live, and I think it’s worth it for OP to consult a lawyer on whether to prosecute the case.

        Generally speaking, the “judges” are not “real” judges—they’re retired members of the judiciary or other attorneys serving as arbitrators/mediators. They’re only able to settle cases for money damages at a rate equal to or below the small claims court maximum for the state where the show is filmed. I can only think of one reality court TV show where the judge is an active officer of the court, as opposed to a mediator/arbitrator. As you note, appearing on reality TV for personal benefit/pay violates most states’ judicial ethics laws and rules of professional responsibility, so it’s rare to have an active judge participate.

    2. Anon From Here*

      They’re binding arbs and the OP almost certainly agreed to not pursue the case further in their local jurisdiction once it was decided by the TV judge.

      Source: I’m a lawyer who had a case on one of the shows one time.

  7. Save One Day at a Time*

    I had a coworker who was on a TV show. It’s true that once the show is out, very few of them go viral. Mostly they just move on to the next episode. For her, it was something she showed us and everyone was like “cool!” many years later. The nice thing with reality TV is that they make so many episodes, you aren’t going to be a star for long.

    I agree with everyone saying that is a client asks about it you can just gently say you can’t talk about it and then move right along.

    So so so sorry you are dealing with this!

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Yes this will blow over super quickly especially in this day and age, I speak from experience. I did something really stupid about a decade ago that was actually my fault and it happened to get recorded and went mildly “viral” in my community. For a few weeks maybe even a couple months people kept mentioning it frequently, but soon after the buzz died down. People still occasionally bring it once in a while, but it is rare that it happens. I know it may seem like a terrible thing now, but the attention will pass, and a few years from now you might even be able to laugh at it.

  8. Jen*

    I agree on beating yourself up – please go easy on yourself. Check out some things by Brene Brown – she talks about the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is “I made a mistake” and shame is “I am an idiot” – one is so punishing and it sounds like you’re feeling the punishing effects of shame. You made a decision based on the information you had at the time and you now regret it. We’re all just doing our best. I’ve been in your shoes where I did something and everyone talked about it and I felt like I was an idiot and it took a long time to crawl out from my shame spiral. Hang in there!

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      Cosign on Brene Brown!! She’s really fantastic and may be able to offer up some insight that will help you let go a little bit.

      Be kind to yourself; what would you tell a close friend if they were in your shoes? Be that kind to yourself. It’s easier said than done, but imp0rtant nonetheless. This experience does not downgrade your worth or value one bit.

  9. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    If anyone persists with questions, point out that it’s entertainment and not reality.

  10. MuseumChick*

    You: “It’s not something I discuss.”
    Them: “But you’re famous!”
    You: “It’s not something I discuss.”
    Them: “But blah blah blah”
    You: “I must not be being clear.” (in a icy tone”
    Them: “But blah blah blah.”
    You: *blank stare* + *walk away*

    1. mamma mia*

      I’m sorry but am I the only found who would find this kind of suggestion (seen in a lot of other comments on this thread, as well) utterly bizarre? It sounds so suspicious! OP was on a tv show; people are naturally curious! I’m sorry that the show didn’t work out to OP’s satisfaction but pretending that it never happened or acting like people who have the nerve to comment on it are being obnoxious would be a really off-putting approach. Just own it. Say something like, “Yeah, the judge totally fucked up my case so I’m kinda pissed. I don’t really feel like talking about it though!” It’s honest and will also hopefully stop further conversation, which is OP’s goal.

      1. Evergreen*

        I think ‘It’s not something I’m allowed to discuss’ might go down better – or possibly ‘I’ve been barred from discussing the specifics unfortunately!’ What about that change of topic!

        1. mamma mia*

          I mean, maybe I’m more inquisitive than some of the other commenters on this site but if someone said they were barred from discussing it, my next question would be “why?” because it would strike me as very odd that someone would not be allowed to discuss a case once the episode already aired. I really think OP’s best bet is to be honest here. If you don’t want to talk about it, just say that!

  11. Lilith*

    “I’m not allowed to talk about it until the check clears. All I can say now is acting is hard!”

  12. Phil*

    I used to work on a couple of the court shows, including the most popular, and I can tell you that the ones I worked on were not scripted but were cast with great care.
    Originally the first of these shows was shot in Los Angeles and relied on a Gold Rush era law that allowed you to hire a retired judge to hear your case, on this show Judge Wapner. Later they realized they could dress a mediation up as a court room and we were off to the races.

  13. Christine O'Donnell*

    I lost on Jeopardy in September. Not humiliating, but still televised. I have only been recognized once, by someone who I commute with and who knew my town. The only people who have ever mentioned it are people I told directly.

    This shall pass. Feel free to deflect: “Crazy, right? Now how about GOT?”

    1. AnonJeopardy*

      I just commented essentially the same thing below! I literally wasn’t even recognized when I happened to be in a bar where the TV was playing a rerun of my episode. The hype will pass.

    2. DCGirl*

      I was on Jeopardy! in 1995, winning two days in a row before going down in flames in the third game. You should be very proud to have even made it onto the show.

      Five or six years after I was on Jeopardy! my grandmother’s brother passed away, and I went to the viewing. A cousin I hadn’t seen since we were children came up to me to introduce her husband. Then she said, “Can I ask you a question? Were you ever on Jeopardy!” I said, “Yes,” and she fwapped her husband in the arm. “I told you that was my cousin. You said nobody in my family was smart enough to get on Jeopardy! I told you that was my cousin.”

    3. Phil*

      I won one show and lost on the next. Fortunately Final Jeopardy was really obscure so I don’t feel bad.

    4. ThatGirl*

      You still got to Jeopardy!, though, which is pretty cool. My husband has tried out and made it to the “we’ll call you” list but never got called.

      We have a classmate from college who made it on, and flopped, and that is the only big loss I will ever remember because it was schadenfreude (he was kind of an a-hole in college) – but for every other contestant ever it’s like “awesome, you made it on, that’s so cool!”

      1. DCGirl*

        When I tried out, you still tried out in person. Now the initial tryout is online. In my cohort, maybe six people out of 100 passed the written test, then we played a mock game to see your personality and if you understood the rules. Then they dismissed us and basically said, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you if we decided to use. But, you can tell all your family and friends that you passed the test, which is no mean feat.” My goal was simply to not be negative when it came to Final Jeopardy! Winning two days far exceeded expectations for me.

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          If you pass the online exam, then you get invited to the in-person audition, which goes the way you describe it. I’ve made it to the in-person audition a few times, but have yet to get on the actual show. One day…

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, my husband took the online test and then got to the in-person auditions in Chicago, which was more or less what DCGirl describes – a mock game and meeting with the producers.

        2. Phil*

          I lived in LA and tried out in person. After I passed I kinda cheated sort of. Since I worked in the business I brought it up after I passed because they would have to clear me before I went on. That made me stick in their minds and I was on the first week of the season.

          1. DCGirl*

            I was on the first week of the season as well, which surprised me. I expected to wait months to find out if I’d actually been selected to appear in person.

        3. TardyTardis*

          Same here–went to the in person audition last summer, still not called (waah!). Ran into someone there, though, who’d been to five in person auditions and still never called.

    5. RandomU...*

      I totally just got a flash of “I lost on Jeopardy” by Weird Al Yankovic through my head :)

      Sorry, I’m sure this doesn’t help. But hey, Jeopardy is no joke those questions… answers are hard!

  14. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You have two options here that aren’t rude:

    “I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.” I say this to exes and bullies I haven’t seen in a long time and in situations where we don’t have mutual acquaintances.

    “I’m not allowed to talk about it. Pesky NDAs, you know!” Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. No one else will know.

    Finally, a coworker of mine did the same thing on a reality show that exploits a specific mental illness. AAM is right. For awhile, my coworker did get noticed but the attention died down pretty fast. One of his solutions was to change his appearance. He grew a beard. Could you do something similar?

    1. OP*

      I’ve considered that but the only thing I could really do is get a haircut, which would make people mistake me for Richard Simmons. (Trust me, I’ve tried having it at a non-long length before….never again!)

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah, if they have length they can put it up instead of wearing it down, or vice versa. A temporary hair color change might be good.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I’ve been thinking about going red too (have a box in my bathroom right now…)

              I will get off my sick tired butt and go red tonight in solidarity with you, OP (whether you go red or not…)

              Because that sucked, and yeah, it’s embarrassing, but sc* them – you are living your life best as you can. Do you.

              (insert screed about how US society’s got really screwed up priorities / rewards and we don’t really live in a ‘Just World’ and yay to anyone who can do what they *like* and make a living at it, even if it’s not the richest living)

            2. Just Employed Here*

              I’ve been a (bottle) redhead at various times in my life, and I find that it’s the ultimate “do I look like I care?!” hair colour. It makes me look and feel more confident. So go for it, OP!

            3. bluephone*

              It might also be worth changing up your overall style for a bit. You don’t have to do a full Mary Ann Spier-type makeover but like, maybe picking out a few accessories or clothing styles you wouldn’t normally wear (i.e. 1 or 2 preppy choices if your wardrobe isn’t preppy, 1 or 2 casual items if you do tend to business it up, etc). Maybe even something like fake glasses as an accessory? (For some reason, my niece and her classmates were really into wearing fake glasses as a stylistic choice for a few years, before she needed actual glasses. Trends are weird). Just one or two minor changes to your regular appearance can be enough to throw off the “wow wait where have I seen this person before????” trigger. Good luck and take care!!

            4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              Only if you actually want to! Otherwise, I think that if you do anything even slightly different from how you appeared on the show – putting your hair up if it was down, not wearing a blue shirt if you were wearing blue on the show – for about a week after it airs would be plenty. Unless you have something super standout about your appearance in general (like if your hair is currently a green-and-pink ombre, or you’re seven feet tall), people are mostly oblivious.

      1. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

        This was going to be my suggestion as well. You could pull a Clark a Kent and style your hair differently and wear fashion glasses, those clear plastic lenses without a prescription.

      2. Dasein9*

        I’ve currently got Manic Panic’s “Electric Lizard” and can attest that it will distract. It’s neon green, like a piece of 90’s sportswear.
        (You might want to run this by your boss first!)

        On a serious note, though, you weren’t naive. You were manipulated by people who are experts at manipulation. All best luck on a quick die-down of the furor.

    2. Close Bracket*

      I was interviewed once about some local event, and my boss saw the clip and asked me about it. I denied it with a straight face as a joke, and he completely believed that it wasn’t me! Granted, I was wearing a bike helmet, but, try this. It can work. Maybe not with people you know, but with strangers, for sure.

      1. OP*

        A lot of it WAS on Facebook, but I think Pinky is vastly missing the point.

        This wasn’t someone posting “You’re ugly and I hate you” on my wall.

        This was someone doxxing me. This was someone seeking out, finding, and spreading my personal information in a nonsensical personal vendetta in order to fulfill a very real desire to get me hurt. This was someone reaching out to my own family and loved ones in an effort to get them to cut me off. This was someone making up serious lies about me and posting them as fact, then telling others to contact my employers and tell them that I was a bad person on the basis of those lies, and making a sincere effort to severely damage my reputation. It wasn’t just comments – it was personal messages and posts she made talking about my SO and my family by name, as well as posting photos of my SO’s car and griping about how she wanted to kill me because I just made her life so hard by filing the case.

        It’s the whole “sticks and stones” bit. It’s easy to say “You’re being oversensitive!” when it’s not happening to you.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          This is stalking and harassment, and you would be fully within your rights to notify the police and retain a lawyer.

    3. Gymmie*

      Wait? I don’t see this addressed anywhere. Where is the info about it being about facebook?

    4. Serafina*

      This is incredibly out of line, mean-spirited, and (to throw your own words back at you) petty. You’re assuming a lot of things that are nowhere in the letter – what the heck does Facebook have to do with it?! The LW never even hinted her underlying dispute originated on Facebook! Whatever issues you have in your own life, don’t project them onto an LW and then lambaste the LW for something he/she never did or said! Ye Gods!

  15. Foreign Octopus*

    I feel this on a very real level.

    I’m sorry this happened to you, and I’m sorry that you feel as though you are to blame for how things turned out. You’re not. The blame lies with the producer, definitely with the judge, and with anyone who persuaded you to do this without meaning the promises they gave you.

    I won’t give any advice on the work front as Alison has it covered, but I will tell you that these things happen. When you’re poor, you’re trusting because you’re desperate. You believe people because you have to believe them. You thought this was a legitimate way to help you solve a problem you were having, and there is absolutely no shame in that. The shame lies with the people who perpetuate this type of entertainment for the sole purpose of preying on the vulnerable for a few meager hits in ratings.

    Something similar has happened to me recently. I lost money in something that was nowhere near what it was advertised as, and I’ve been kicking myself for falling for it. I should have known better. How could I be so stupid? I spent a day in tears because it wasn’t just the money, it was the humiliation that came with it.

    So I’ll tell you what I’m trying to practice myself. It’s not your fault you’re poor. It’s not your fault that you believed in people. It’s not your fault that there are cruel idiots out there who want to rub salt into the wound.

    Know that this is just an awful blip in your life and, in the future, I hope that you’ll be able to look back and not feel the sharp sting that you feel now.

    Keep your chin up, work hard, and fuck anyone who thinks they have a right to mock you for this.

    1. sacados*

      A million times this.
      OP, it’s a shitty situation but absolutely NONE of it reflects badly on you. When someone betrays your trust, the only one at fault is that person.

  16. AnonJeopardy*

    I was on Jeopardy which a lot of people at work were really excited about, and the buzz really does die down faster than you think. (Which in my case was great – nothing humiliating happened and I came in second, it just turns out that it’s embarrassing to talk about constantly!)

    1. StillWorkingOnACleverName*

      I was on Jeopardy, and the attention at the local news level was insane. It was a special tournament, so I get it, but it was overwhelming. I get recognized a lot from it and ended up with a bunch of friend requests from people I haven’t spoken to since high school two decades ago. Someone I worked with in the 90s also reached out to me. The whole thing just kinda freaked me out. I guess I’m naive, but I wasn’t expecting the attention that came from it. I am just a big fan of the show and always wanted to be on it.

      My colleagues, family, friends, and students were really cool about it. It’s the attention from strangers that is obnoxious.

    2. MJ*

      I imagine if you had won big, there’d be all kinds of former and old friends crawling out the woodwork.

  17. Jennifer*

    I’d imagine not many people at your workplace are even at home when this show airs. Maybe you can ask the one coworker that recognized you to keep it quiet?

    Changing your appearance is a good suggestion to stop strangers from recognizing you. A new hairstyle, color, glasses, etc. can work wonders.

  18. Utoh!*

    Yeah, as others have said, this will blow over especially if you seem very nonchalant or noncommittal about discussing it.

  19. Brienne the Blue*

    Letter Writer, I just wanted to say that I once lost on a game show and had the clip go semi-viral for no discernible reason (not to mention the producers were much the same to me that yours were to you: super-supportive to my face while almost certainly setting me up to be humiliated), and so I’ve been through what you’re going through a little bit. In-person people will forget about it in almost no time at all. It has a slightly longer tail if people ever have cause to google you, or if the show has reruns, or if some jerk posts it to YouTube but the great thing about living in 2019 is that there’s so much TV out there, most people don’t watch most of it. I know how awful this feels, and I know it feels like this is stamped on your head forever, but I promise, everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives that this barely registers.

    Also, a note to everyone reading this: don’t go on TV. Just don’t do it. For everyone who had a great time and/or won a lot of money, there are ten whose lives were ruined by it, and at least a thousand who had it go badly and spent at least a week or two of their lives wondering if their lives WOULD be ruined by it. The juice is NOT worth the squeeze.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      Years upon years ago, I went to an open call for what was being billed as a “reality weight loss experiment.” I wasn’t nearly interesting enough to even get more than 45 seconds of attention. The call was at a bar so after my 45 seconds, I went downstairs, had a beer and a sandwich and went about my life. That call turned out to be “The Biggest Loser” and I am ever thankful for being too boring to be considered.

      That said, the people that cast these shows are predators. They know exactly what they’re doing, how they’re ruining people, and it doesn’t matter to them.

  20. OP*

    Thanks for everyone’s comments. I think that perhaps the whole experience – from filing the case to after we came home from taping – has just been “getting to me”, in that it was crazy, scary, confusing, disheartening, insulting, painful, and just plain awful. I had trouble sleeping for more than a few hours a night, if that, for a long time (it had been going on for months) – and I’ve only gotten slightly better since then. I was having to deal with a very sick, very evil person, for no rational reason, and who had/has a cadre of devoted followers who seem to think everything she says is gospel (luckily, most people who are aware of her know she’s less than stable/nice and aren’t exactly fond of her) and that can really mess with you. Not only was I getting extremely frightening messages from these people, but they also contacted my SO to encourage him to leave me, and made several attempts to get my family involved as well. I literally just woke up one morning, checked my phone and found that I’d been the target of a determined attack after some kind of bizarre, convoluted “reasoning” on her part made her think I did something I absolutely did not do. (And to be honest, after discussing it with several people, not only could they not understand how she came to the conclusion she did, but how she figured that I deserved to have my life absolutely ruined for it – trying to get my SO to leave me, my parents and family to completely cut me off, my job to fire me, my friends to abandon me, etc.) I admit I’ve been pretty paranoid for a while. The car I saw turned out to be someone who now regularly visits the people in the building next to mine, but I’d never seen it before, and in my heightened-fear state, my first thought was, “I need to hide because I don’t know why this person is here.” Same with the mysterious phone call – I haven’t heard from that number since, and looking back it was probably just a misdialed number and the person hung up once my voicemail kicked in and they realized they’d gotten the wrong phone. Still, though, at the time, it seemed ominous. If you’ve ever seen the Simon Pegg movie “A Fantastic Fear of Everything”, you’ll kind of understand how it feels – you get a message telling you that someone knows where you live, then you see someone loitering outside the door of your building…. Turns out they were just there to take your neighbor to a concert, but when you first spot them your mind starts worrying that your assassin awaits you.

    So far I haven’t had anyone else say anything, thank God, and I think everyone here is right: It’s blown over, hopefully. I was worried about those horrible people who made an effort to track me down online just to send me mean-spirited messages, but I suppose they’ve found other people to harass since then. (What full, rich lives they must lead.)

    I did ask my boss what I should do on the (now off-) chance that someone may want to talk about it insistently, and she said to just have her take over. One good thing about the work that I do is that blatant disrespect towards us from the public isn’t tolerated, which is another reason I stay here and will never go back to the cesspool that is retail again.

    1. hbc*

      Sorry you had to deal with all of this. I don’t know if this helps, but I had a humiliating experience in a not-quite-so-public way, and I too focused on the reactions of others and having them bring it up and worrying about what they were thinking about me. It took me a long time to realize that *I* was the one who actually cared, that my identity as a strong, capable, and competent person had been undermined by the experience.

      Even if you somehow managed to go viral and get recognized for years (an immeasurably small possibility), you probably won’t care about it once you’ve managed to make peace with what happened.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You were put on a stage and bullied, this is like if you were in school and someone had everyone gather around while they took shots at you. Your reaction is normal for someone put in such a humiliating spotlight and taken advantage of for being a trusting person. You trusted the producer and they are just as bad as the person who spoke to you so crudely. You are a good person, with purpose and you will recover from this but it’s okay and totally normal to need time to lick your wounds. Please please please know that you are cared for and loved, people who get pleasure out of others getting mentally abused like that have their own “stuff” going on and aren’t the majority, even when it feels like they are.

    3. Observer*

      Good grief. That’s beyond awful.

      (What full, rich lives they must lead.)

      That is so true. I mean seriously, they have nothing better to do with their time?

      I did ask my boss what I should do on the (now off-) chance that someone may want to talk about it insistently, and she said to just have her take over.

      I’m glad your boss is being reasonable about this.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        They’re probably not random, tho – it’s probably followers of your nemesis.

        1. OP*

          It could be either IMO. Yeah, her cult followers are pretty devoted and did go out of their way to get to me, but at the same time, people can be just awful. I think about when Robin Williams died and some wonderful human beings on social media decided to send his daughter Zelda pictures of him after he was found. Like, seriously? How could you do that and not be a %^*#ing psychopath? These weren’t people who knew either him or her, just people who thought it’d be fun to increase her misery. It’s a sick world.

          1. No Mas Pantalones*

            Holy balls. I had no idea that happened re: Zelda. I really, really, really don’t understand people sometimes. The internet has brought us a great many things, but I fear the good is being quickly overshadowed by the bad.

    4. Veryanon*

      OMG I’m so sorry this happened to you. I can’t even imagine what you’ve gone through. Good thoughts coming your way.
      On a side note, I will never understand the phenomena of those internet trolls who do those things. Seriously, do they all just live in their parents’ basements? I’m picturing someone like Comic Book Guy.

    5. strawmeatloaf*

      It sounds like you’re being stalked/targeted by her, and I wonder if you could still get some kind of legal action from it (something like a restraining order or something).

      Of course, you 100% don’t have to try for anything else, but just keep it in mind if she escalates or something. I’m glad you have such an understanding boss!

    6. Joielle*

      Have you talked to an actual attorney about this person? I know you don’t have a lot of money to devote to this, but an initial consultation is likely to be free, or even a legal aid-type clinic would probably be able to help you file for a restraining order if that would make sense. It’s complicated because it sound like it’s more than just the one person, but I think it would be worth talking to someone who knows the laws in your state.

    7. What???*

      Honey – forget the TV show.

      Call the cops and file a restraining order against this person.

      1. OP*

        I’m considering it. She’s been surprisingly quiet since it aired – I think largely because she already had a bad rep (outside of her followers) and it didn’t make her look good, either. (From what I understand, she tried live-streaming the show from her social media page when it aired, but got nothing but absolutely reamed in return, and it got taken down pretty quickly.) I do know that although we were required to sign paperwork dismissing THAT case, if she picks it up again, we can totally file another.

    8. Close Bracket*

      people can stroll in and recognize me at any time. Some of them might agree with the judge’s decision (not because it was a valid one, but because just as the judge was awful, other people can be, too) and grill me for it; others might be sympathetic; and still others might just shriek in delight at having seen me on television and excitedly not-shut-up about it.

      Please recognize that you *are* in a fear heightened state. You have a lot of “people can” and “people might,” but “cans” and “mights” are just speculation. Anxiety is an anticipatory problem, where we spin stories in our heads and respond to those stories instead of responding to what is actually happening (only one coworker and zero members of the public have actually spoken to you). To begin with, do less story spinning. When you find yourself telling a story, notice what you are doing, and don’t engage with it. Consciously turn your thoughts back to whatever you were doing.

      Then consciously change the stories from what other people might do to yourself coolly and calmly responding. Practice saying you don’t want to talk about it in your language of choice, and visualize yourself remaining calm as you do so.

      A therapist can help you with this if you find controlling your thoughts on your own to be challenging.

      1. emmelemm*

        This is good advice. The “cans” and “mights” can be so, so upsetting, but remember that “cans” and “mights” are coming from *you*. You’re basically upsetting yourself. So try to label them for what they are: stories anxiety is telling you.

      2. Batgirl*

        This is a fairly normal reaction from a reality TV show contestant though. They are deliberately put in a position of fight or flight for no better reason than shits and giggles. OP is looking around for the next ‘fight’ (and she is legitimately being harassed!) but her feelings of hyperawareness will fade once she realises everyone’s forgotten it.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Yes, OP is having a typical and understandable reaction to her situation. However, her understandable reactions are not a good way to lead life. Feelings of hyperawareness don’t always just fade over time, as any number of people who have experienced trauma can attest. The feelings fade faster and cause less distress if you take active measures. Since the feelings are causing her distress, she *should* take active measures.

    9. No Mas Pantalones*

      You did not, do not, and will never deserve anything like this. I’m sending you all the love I can right now.

    10. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      OP, this is just awful. I’m so very sorry this is happening to you.

      You might want to alert your building/office security, if you have one, given the stalkerish behaviors some of these nutjobs seem to be displaying.

    11. LGC*

      Holy cow OP. No wonder you’re so upset over this – you had this…person in your life. And then this. (I originally read this as this terrible person being the defendant – but now I’m not sure.)

      And I’m glad your boss really has your back! She sounds awesome.

    12. Alice's Tree*

      I am so sorry for everything you went through. It sounds like it was trauma compounding trauma. I have to say, as a survivor of childhood abuse, I can’t watch a certain court show because of the abusive way the judge speaks to people and runs roughshod over them. It triggers me. But I happened to see two minutes of an episode recently in a doctor’s waiting room, and was just horrified at how the judge wouldn’t let the person speak to present their case at all, but felt justified in being vicious to the person. What I saw was disgusting and dehumanizing behavior, and I’m ashamed that our society considers that “entertainment.” On the off chance that was you (and at the very least, you experienced something remarkably similar), please know that your feelings are totally justified. You were abused by the producers and the judge, and watching it, I’m sure there were many people like me whose heart went out to you.

      Sending you compassion and respect!

  21. Karly*

    OP, I want to reiterate what other people have commented: just because you went on this show does NOT mean the “judge” issued a legally-valid verdict. It may have been just a non-binding mediation. If you want to pursue the case you originally filed, please contact the bar association in your state and explain the situation. They will take your financial issues into consideration and can put you in contact with a reputable lawyer who will provide you with the services you need. This was a tough experience, and you deserve some real justice— not the scripted garbage you were subjected to on the TV show for the sake of “entertainment.” Good luck!

    1. OP*

      We did have to sign a contract stating that we were dismissing the case, but what bothers me is that the judge did not even bother with the evidence that she had threatened my life, among other things, and said she was A-OK with someone harassing me at work (which admittedly has not happened thus far, although it is possible that they were simply not able to reach my own desk and got lost in the phone system) because she personally didn’t like me. Since this person also posted my home address, it makes me wonder: Can an arbitrator rule that someone can harass you for no reason other than that they don’t like you? I do have a relative who is a lawyer so I am curious to ask him. It may only matter if someone was able to get ahold of me, but I’d still like to know.

      1. fposte*

        It’s possible what she was getting at is that it’s not illegal for her to do so (whether it would be or not likely depends on the jurisdiction) and you have no grounds for action against her since no damages have happened as a result.

      2. Anonymous 5*

        Honestly? I would consult a lawyer no matter what, and find out what legal avenues you have here (and *especially* what actions from the other party would fall outside the limits of any existing contract and open up the opportunity for you to pursue legal actions against them). Seems like the peace of mind would be worth it.

        1. Temperance*

          I’m going to advise against this course of action, if only because OP wants to move on from this. The best way to keep her TV appearance in people’s minds is to keep going. If she wants to move forward and have people forget, she should do nothing.

          Also, the attorneys that run these shows are smart. Don’t throw good money after bad.

      3. Bagpuss*

        If you have been harassed by her since the recording then you may well still be able t o take action based on that new behaviour. It would be worth your while to check with a lawyer.

        I would also be very surprised if any contract could be used to prevent you from taking action if she is threatening you – I would have expected that to be a criminal, rather than a civil matter. Do check , butdon’t assume that you can’t do anything.

      4. Karly*

        I would recommend talking with a lawyer anyway. The lawyers your local bar association puts you in touch with should
        provide you with a free consultation to discuss your issue. Sit down with them and discuss everything- the original case, what happened on the show, what’s happened to you since the show. Bring all the documented evidence you have. While you may have signed a contract to dismiss the original case, you can still bring an action in certain situations (like if the TV judge ruled on a part of the case that was outside of her scope). Alternately, there may be other grounds to bring your case on— it sounds like you were experiencing some kind of harassment and pursued a case in small claims court? If you feel the harassment has increased and you fear for your safety, there could be some criminal grounds there. I don’t want to speculate any more than that, since I don’t know the details of your issue, but I raise those two points to show that there may be alternate possibilities for you to seek relief. Since this whole experience has been so distressing for you, it would be worthwhile to sit down with a reputable attorney who can advise you about your options moving forward. Good luck!

      5. MeepMeep*

        Yeah, definitely talk to a lawyer, at least for a free initial consultation. There may be things that they can do to help you that you’re not aware of. It all depends on what the arbitration contract looks like, and when dealing with contracts, it’s always a good idea to have a professional look it over.

    2. Anon From Here*

      The show was almost certainly a binding arbitration, and OP has little or no reasonable recourse to try to get the case heard again and/or get a different decision.

      1. Just An Anon*

        I was thinking the same thing. If OP was so humiliated by the outcome of all of this, they are only digging themselves a deeper hole by wanting to open another or try to get it heard again-if that is even possible.

  22. Clorinda*

    There are a dozen court shows on five days a week. Fewer people than you think will have seen it and fewer still will recognize you, especially if you change your hairstyle even slightly. Those who know will forget quickly (unfortunately, every now and then someone who knows you will catch a re-run, but again, there are SO MANY EPISODES of SO MANY SHOWS). “It was stressful and I’d rather not talk about it,” is a perfectly fine answer to repeat as often as needed.
    I’m sorry this happened to you.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I might skip the “it was stressful,” because I think that’s sort of a “tell”–it indicates there’s something upsetting there, and lots of people will probe just to see if they can get more. (It also might hint that you’re willing to talk about it, since you brought it up.)

      I like the idea of implying that it was totally a performance (by the judge), and not a real thing at all.

      So phrases like, “You know reality TV–it’s all fake. And anything that’s remotely true is really exaggerated. But I don’t really have time to talk about it; how can I help you today?”

  23. Person from the Resume*

    You seem very anxious about it and need to tell yourself that you are unlikely to be recognized very much and not for very long. Reasons:
    (1) This is a small time show; few people watch it
    (2) You were on one episode and your face won’t be recognized for long by random strangers for long after airing. Most strangers probably wouldn’t recognize you if they saw you the next day.

    For the few strangers who might recognize you, tell them they are mistaken and you did not appear on the show. You don’t have a duty to talk about this with anyone.

    For your co-worker and any other co-workers who might bring it up, tell them you don’t want to discuss it (short and sweet) and repeat as necessary.

  24. YouCanBrewIt!*

    Removed. Please don’t name the show/what you think the show is, since the OP seemed careful not to do that. – Alison

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        No, but you’re speculating in the exact direction the OP has already stated that they are very uncomfortable with, in a situation that already has made them very upset and stressed. Let’s not add to it.

        The only plus side to this comment is that it really could apply to anyone that has ever appeared in any sort of those shows, but that is often not where the mind first goes. And really, if that was your intent, you could have just said that flat out.

    1. Liane*

      Please, no. Any of us in AAM Land speculating on which show/episode/network features the OP is really unkind to them, especially when they’re trying to avoid mentions of it. (I know you weren’t trying to be unkind)

      1. fposte*

        Yes, since the OP wrote in about being upset that people recognize her online appearance, I think it’s especially unpleasant for comments to say “Hey, I recognize your online appearance!”

    2. Sid the Science Kid*

      So I watch a lot of court shows. They’re my guilty pleasure. I don’t think I would recognize anyone out in the world. I’ve recognized business and locations that I’ve know from the world and saw on TV (as in That photo of the accident scene is familiar…its down the street from my old house! Or (name of business)?! The same (name of business) I’ve been to! Wow!) But I would never recognize the people after the episode on the street or even remember a business I saw on TV if I didn’t know it before. Your case is on the screen for 15 minutes max and you’re actual face, maybe 5? That’s not enough time to remember someone enough to recognize them on the street. Maybe coworkers (if they caught the episode since most are on during the day) but they already know you enough to take the judge’s opinion for what it is – an edited opinion by judge who makes a living off being a bit mean on tv. I think if you say, “I can’t talk about it, but (did you see the game last night? do you need my help with the teapot report?)” It will drop.

      I had a case (not on tv) that I signed a nd for. People knew about it and no one argues when I say “I’m not able to discuss it.”

      1. Sid the Science Kid*

        Hmmm, didn’t mean to nest this here. Maybe I need more caffeine today!

  25. So Anon For This*

    I once had a similar experience with a “news” show that included a clip of a co-worker. She was certainly recognized a few times, but it died out more quickly than I would’ve ever thought. I don’t really have any recommendations for how to react to it, but this will go away soon.

  26. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This will pass, this kind of thing is so fleeting and momentary before they watch a few more episodes of this dreadful show. I’m so sorry that they treated you so badly, there is nothing embarrassing about being poor, you’re employed and making your way in this life, they are vile for treating you like that. We don’t have debtor prisons anymore, instead we just degrade and punish people on television, I guess.

    You will make it over this hurdle and this will be in the past but right now, the mud you’re pulling yourself through is really heavy and feels like it’ll last forever.

    1. OP*

      It’s right we don’t have debtors prisons, but I do think that American society is general is hateful towards the poor. Due to the cultural myth of the “American Dream” – “You can have anything and earn all the money you want if you just work hard enough” – there’s an assumption that if someone is struggling financially, it’s because they’re not working hard enough, so, in other words, poor people are just poor because they’re lazy.

      One particularly stupid thing about letting millionaire TV celebrities arbitrate cases between people living hand to mouth is that they’re so far separated from the reality of not just being poor, but of life among commoners in general. The judge asked me, for example, why I didn’t just set up a payment plan with the veterinarian. I’ve had pets my whole life. I have never, ever come across a veterinarian or vet practice that permits payment plans, except for a very few in cases of dire emergencies (our vet only allowed one once since our dog needed stitches in his head and was bleeding badly). When she said that, I even remember thinking at that time, “Wow, you have NEVER personally dealt with a vet in your life, have you?” And I guarantee you she hasn’t, or at least she hasn’t been in a situation in which she ever had to set up a payment plan for anything. She probably thinks that McDonald’s is more than willing to make Wimpy a hamburger today that he’ll pay for on Thursday.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve been at the bottom too, I understand. I grew up in an area where parents didn’t let their kids visit our house because it was the “poor side”. My friend moved her family to the area after I was long gone and noticed it too, they relocated to the “nice” area and suddenly everyone sent their kids over to play. [It wasn’t dangerous by any means, the crime level was low and it just had a bad reputation because it was run down and everyone had to work hard to keep what little they had, just a small little dirt-town]. Heaven forbid you ever live in trailer park because it’s affordable either! Despite owning the trailer and being a productive citizen. [I now have massive guilt for “making it out” of there, so I’m a living breathing example of “You can take the girl out of the trailer park but you cannot take the trailer park out of of the girl”]

        This is exactly like when we had the government shutdown and they were handing out the “advice” to just ask for landlords and utilities to take IOU’s. It’s not how things work in reality, yeah some places took pity on workers and others just wanted their money or they’d start issuing evictions or shutting off lights.

        This is putting entitlement and privilege out there as entertainment. It’s vile and I’m sorry you fell victim to it. They love to find honest, hard working people and make them look bad because it pulls in ratings because they know you don’t stand a chance or heck you’re not ever given a chance to defend yourself because they just shout at you to shut up and that they’re in charge. Ick ick ick ick. It’s a mockery of our courts system [since it’s not our courts system, it’s bypassing it and using it as a sideshow act]. And we all know our courts system is broken AF of course, so it’s like salt in an open wound.

        You are not alone. I know you’ve been tracked down by trolls too and that’s even more frightful. You are not alone.

      2. Veryanon*

        Right? I’ve never met a vet in my life who accepted a payment plan – they either want cash up front or at most, they will put you in touch with some kind of financing company if the service is going to be very costly. They’ve probably been burned too many times by people who didn’t pay after the treatment was complete.

        1. OP*

          Exactly – one thing I heard again and again was “Have you tried CareCredit?” – which is a credit card specifically made for use with vets. But you have to have good credit to get it – which most poor people absolutely do not have.

          It’s similar to the argument “You should just sell some of your stuff!” like that will automatically deposit money in your bank account.
          1. Being poor, I don’t really own much that I don’t need.
          2. 95% of my stuff is virtually worthless.
          3. Selling requires a buyer. I could put everything I have in my possession up for sale and never find a single person interested in any of it.”

          But yeah, well-off people, just go on writing articles about how we poor folks can have tons more money if we just stop going to Starbucks every day. *eyeroll*

          1. Autumnheart*

            You’d have tons of money if you would only stop wasting it on food, clothing and shelter! /s

          2. A Petri Dish of Scammers*

            I’m a poor person with good credit and I would not get a CareCredit line. The terms are terrible. Avoid at all costs.

          3. No Mas Pantalones*

            A translation of most “suggestions” people with money have to those of us without: “Just stop being poor!”

            Thank you, Money Having Person. That is very helpful.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Also the reason vets do not offer payment plans like a hospital would for a patient [and I’m well aware even hospitals like to pick and choose what they will “finance” of course] is because vets are usually a shoestring budget to say the least.

          A vet once found a stray kitten at her home and called my mom, who had just lost her beloved kitty. Vet thought that my mom would love this little guy and would give him a good home. In return she offered to neuter him and give him his shots if she adopted him. My mom happily accepted, not for the freebies even, she’s just a huge cat lover and wasn’t replacing her darling kitty but knew that this guy had fallen in her lap for reason, etc etc.

          So it comes time to get that duder fixed…and my mom arrives with the cat ready to go. To find the vet really stressed out and teary. She asked her what was the matter and offered her sympathies for her bad day. Vet proceeded to tell mom that she had just that day gotten her student loan bill. And she was stressed since she had agreed to do the surgery for free and seeing the numbers was just so overwhelming. My mom was happy to pay the fees, since they’re minimal to her and she would have done so without the offer! The vet felt so darn bad and she was truly a sweet person who got in over her head.

          The vet I used to go to seemed so desolate and nobody was ever in there, I got my dude in really quickly at all times. It’s such an expensive thing because these folks have to pay so much for school and so many of us simply cannot afford their services, so we’re all struggling. It’s so sad all around =(

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        Look up ‘Just World’ fallacy, it’s very much part of the “American Dream” cultural myth. A lot of people *need* to believe the world is just or else it gets too scary for them. It’s the basis of many varieties of victim blaming and people shaming.

        But the world really does have random stuff and the US especially doesn’t have good mechanisms in place to help deal with bad random stuff.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Absolutely, this.

          People also need to feel superior and that people “choose” to be impoverished/struggle because then it removes the fact that this may happen to them one day from their minds. We degrade one another so that we do not have to think about the fact that if a few terrible events happen in our lives, we too could be in that position of hand to mouth living.

          1. OP*

            I remember reading about how some significant portion of the US population (can’t remember the exact number, but well over half) would be absolutely screwed if they missed a single paycheck. Like, oh-my-God-teetering-towards-homelessness absolutely screwed. Yet an also-significant portion of people on social welfare programs actually vote against those very same programs and vehemently spit on others who are on them.

            Why? Because in their minds, THEY have a good and valid reason to be using social assistance – but other people (specifically, ahem, people of certain ethnic/racial groups, immigrants, women, etc.) have absolutely no excuse at all. They would rather cut their own assistance than see others that they consider to be inherently “undeserving” get the same thing. Then, when they find, to their shock, that their efforts have actually resulted in them getting less assistance than before, they blame the same groups they did initially for “eating up” the program, rather than, y’know, put two and two together concerning their voting records.

            1. Former Retail Manager*

              Ahhhh yes. I have a friend just like this. Consistently votes for policies that actively harm her and her family financially, all while complaining incessantly about her financial situation. She is also someone who blames various other groups for “milking welfare programs” when out of everyone I know who has ever received assistance, she has receive the MOST.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Yep. I’ve lived my life with my extended family at arms distance because of their stubborn ways, the ways that hurt themselves in order to stick it to the “leeches” and the people “using” the system. Yet they are all on disability and have been on state funded healthcare for a long time now but yeah, screw those other people who would like to have their ailments taken care of and eat some food!

              I’m happy to be part of of the black-sheep side where my parents grew up and said “Why do you hate people exactly? Oh right because you’re broke-AF yet still got that snobbery streak, bless your hearts…” [These are the same relatives that always asked my dad for loans because he was the only one who had a savings account, meager as it may be, we never had our lights or food supply threatened because of his ability to stretch a dime for a mile.]

      4. Foreign Octopus*

        God, I had that vet experience as well.

        My cat’s iris was literally hanging out of her eyeball, and the second the vet asked me if I could pay, I knew that if I said no then I wouldn’t get treatment. I lied through my teeth and had to set up a GoFundMe account to pay the bill. Our society is set very firmly against the poor, and I hate it.

      5. Scarlet*

        OP please be careful not to reveal too much information about the episode contents.

        But otherwise I am so, so sorry this happened to you. You sound like a good person who got caught up in a bad situation. I hope everything works out for you! ♥

  27. Clare*

    Dear OP

    Posting from the UK. Over here in Blighty, there’s a big media discussion about the unreliability of reality shows and the lack of care shown to participants following at least one linked self harm incident. One show has been permanently cancelled and a parliamentary enquiry is under way in the whole sector for manipulation of the facts and lack of aftercare where needed.
    OP , you come across as balanced and I’m sure you won’t go down that path but it might be useful background to mention. Apologies if these mental health comments upset anyone; they’re not meant to trivialise or be judgemental, quite the reverse. Good luck OP; it will all blow over.

    1. Gerta*

      I came here to mention that too. In particular, the media coverage has given rise to a few articles by people with experience working on similar shows (not courtroom ones, but same idea – get people to be as confrontational as possible for public entertainment). They are trained specially to ensnare vulnerable people, convince/bulldoze them to appear, and then encourage them to show themselves in the worst possible light. It is NOT your fault that your trusted someone and they took advantage of that. It’s their job and they are very good at it.

    2. animaniactoo*

      FWIW, there have been a couple of self-harm incidents on this side of the pond. Memorably, there was the (tg it was an awful concept to start) makeover show “The Swan”. I think that was the worst, but there have been others that have popped up here and there.

      I admit that I do watch a bunch of reality tv, because the dynamics of all of it is fascinating to me, but I try to be cautious about what I watch and mindful that things are not always as they appear.

    3. Anon Anon Anon*

      Reaching out to other people who’ve been through bad reality TV experiences is an option. OP could write about her experience, or connect with others who’ve written about their experiences, or connect with relevant groups.

      It happens. I’ve been through some similar stuff. Not reality TV, but an interview with someone who had a decent rep but turned out to be homophobic and trans-phobic and intent on making me look bad because she believed I was queer and/or trans. She texted me a bunch of homophobic, transphobic insults right before the interview began and then published both false and private information about me. I still haven’t been able to do much about it, but I keep going and hope that one day I’ll have a chance to talk about it or to write about it in a place where it will be taken seriously. I’ve had some other weird media experiences too.

      This would be a good time to get your name out there for something else, to create some positive content that would get more exposure and/or last longer.

  28. Ginny*

    Hey LW,
    I had a very similar experience with a talk show my then-fiance and I were recruited to be on. The producers and staff completely misled us about why we were on and what attitude they were going to take, and it was a total shock when the host laid into us on air.

    I’m lucky in that it was a pretty obscure show and nobody I know ever saw it. But I just want to affirm that you have nothing to be ashamed of – these people will lie out their asses and don’t give a shit about the damage they might do to you. (the waiver we had to sign was quite something.)

    1. OP*

      We had to sign a waiver too – minutes before the show was supposed to tape. They just had some guy come into the “green room” with the paperwork and spent a few seconds “summing up” each item on it and then just telling us to initial everything.

      Now someone might say, “Well, you should’ve read all that before you signed it!” But we honestly didn’t have time, and again, the producers and everyone we spoke to up until the taping was so incredibly nice and supportive, we had no reasons not to trust them. It really is a gigantic set-up. It makes you wonder how these people sleep at night.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, but the OP’s recourse for that now is to sue the television company, for which she’d need a much higher-paid lawyer than she’d have needed for the initial problem.

        2. mark132*

          I see where you are going with this, but getting that sort of “justice” requires money. And based on the posts from the OP. It’s unlikely the OP can afford it. Not to mention trying could cause a “Streisand effect”.

      1. Ginny*

        Oh ick, that’s even worse – they at least gave us ours in plenty of time to look it over in private.
        The whole experience left me feeling a little sick and unreal, like, the contrast between the warmth of the production team and then realizing they were putting us up there to be skewered. And they went back to being totally friendly afterward, like their host hadn’t just called us a lot of horrible names in front of a live audience. It’s really dehumanizing. I also wonder how they sleep.

  29. Bagpuss*

    OP, I’m sorry you had such an unpleasant experience and that your trust in the producers turned out to be misplaced.

    I think other commenters have already mad good points – there are a lot of this knid of show, and to those not firectly invovled they do all tend to blur togther, so probably it will be less noticeable and be forgotten faster, than you think.

    I think it is reasonablfor you to mention to the person who has already commented that you don’t want to talk about the show, and ask them if they could not bring it up.

    If others mention it in future, then for friends / coworkers I would go with “I’m not comfortable talking about it. I hadn’t realised before how misleading those shows are”

    For people youdon’t know, even a relatively smallchange such as a new hair cut may help, and slightly changing your appearance in other ways – e.g. if you wore a red dress to the recoding, try to wear dark colours / a pant suit around the time that it is being broadcast. If you wore your hair up, wear it down, and so on.
    That way, you are less likely to be recognised, as there are ewer similarities to jog the memory of people who don’t know you personally.
    If you are not required to wear a name badge / provide your name when dealing with members of the public then you can also defelect ;
    Them “Hey, Didn’t I see you on [programme]?”
    You “Weird, I’ve been getting that a lot just lately. I must have one of those faces! How can help you?”
    (You aren’t lying, because you never answered the question, but the implication is that you haven’t been on the show but just look a bit like someone who has. If you can achieve a bored tone rather than appearing upset or defensive, so much the better)

    If there are people who do know your name and can connect the dots then somthing like “I can’t talk about that at work” is appropriate, but again, if you can come over as bored rather than upset, it becoms less interesting or memorable an encounter for the other person.

    If this is very recent, could you ask your manager if there is any possibility you can move tempoarily so your desk / work space is frther away from the areas where the public a most likely to be, or for you to spend less time in the roles that ned you to deal face toface withmembers of the public, if only for a few weeks? Obviousyl this depends on how diruptive / practical it is, but it might help.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      These are great ideas! Also, in this day and age, it will be replaced soon by whatever is the next big thing.

      I once was given a chance to have 15 minutes of fame during a very painful event in my life. I chose not to take it. Now I am really glad I didn’t.

  30. Memyselfandi*

    Perhaps this is off topic, but I would like to hear from the lawyers on this. Those shows infuriate me because the experience described by the OP seems to be common. I have no idea whether or not what is depicted reflects a real courtroom. In my imagination court is a place where you get to tell your side of the story, but invariably that is not what happens, and I suspect that court really isn’t about being heard. I think there are a lot of people who go into court with the same image that I have and are sorely disappointed.

    OP, I hope you feel heard by all of us here. I am sorry you did not get to present your side of your case in court, but you certainly revealed the underbelly of these shows, and we are all grateful.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Having been in a real small claims court, those shows are nowhere close to reality. If you are white, polite and have good paperwork, you’ll usually get a fair hearing. PoC have a lower chance of being treated fairly, but polite + good paperwork does help even there.

      US small claims courts are more rushed since 2010; courts were one area whose budgets got cut and the funds have not been replaced. Being clear and brief about damages and goals helps a lot, eg, ‘I want $x to fix my fence after his cow pushed it over. I know his cow did it because a, b, c.’

    2. Temperance*

      The shows are typically binding arbitration with much more relaxed rules of evidence than in an actual courtroom.

    3. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Even in a traditional civil/criminal court you usually don’t really get a chance to “tell” your side of the story in that you can just get up on the stand and have free time to tell everything from your point of view. If you testify in your favor (if you are the plaintiff/defendant) you have to answer specific questions during direct and cross examination. The lawyers are the ones who get more of a chance to “tell” your story during open/closing statements.

      1. Tammy*

        The only time I’ve ever seen someone just get to “tell” their story in court was once when my ex-business-partner and I sued a former client for non-payment. The client didn’t show up to court and didn’t send a lawyer, so it was just my ex and I and our lawyer, plus the judge and clerk. And it was a Friday morning, so everyone was super relaxed. The judge basically just let us tell what happened, with some prompting from our lawyer to keep things on track.

        The former client declared bankruptcy 2 weeks after the default judgment was entered, which sucked, though.

    4. Yikes*

      I don’t think the people involved in these shows are super concerned about things like due process or the fact-finding power of the adversarial process. They really are “entertainment,” at least for anyone not participating. Just like more typical mediation, where you’re typically in a room (or each party is in a separate room), and a neutral third party helps reach a solution, there can be pluses and minuses. Obviously, since the typical laws and rules of court don’t necessarily apply, participating in a mediation rather than a traditional court proceeding makes sense if the law is against you, especially if the law is against you but there’s reason to think common sense might nonetheless be on your side. Mediation can also be an important tool in resolving disputes much faster than they otherwise would, and can save litigants money.

      But anything involving television is going to be unpredictable and exploitative. I saw a presentation once by an entertainment attorney where he said the only ethical advise you can give a client regarding appearing on reality tv is not to do it. I personally don’t see any positives to these courtroom shows, but obviously people love them and they’re moneymakers.

    5. Anon From Here*

      In my experience (I’m a lawyer who had a case on one of these shows), you are asked to give the judge (actually an aribtrator) all the evidence you want them to see. If they ask you for paperwork during the filming, it’s for entertainment value. They pretty much know how they’re going to decide the case before they walk in, because they have pre-prepared their “docket” for the day’s filming.

      It’s a binding arbitration where they do the paperwork to dismiss your case from the small-claims court you started it in.

  31. Stella70*

    OP, I hope you see this.
    A similar thing happened to me. I did something I was immensely proud of and it got attention. A very famous magazine – let’s say it rhymes with Beeple – interviewed me in prep for an article. I was told it was just a quick chat with a top editor, as I had already been chosen to feature. I was further told it was off the record.
    In the phone interview, I was specifically asked a question, the answer to which required me to say that I had been raped. (I say “required” because I hate lying and frankly, I was a bit intimidated talking to this person, regardless.) That answer led to other questions, which I answered truthfully.
    This quick phone call was never mentioned again when I was flown to NYC for further interviews, photos, etc.
    The magazine came out 6 weeks later, and the rape was prominently mentioned.
    The problem was I had not confided in my family or friends, just my therapists. I was at work when a screenshot of the article was emailed to me. I felt like throwing up at my desk. I ran outside and tried to track down my mom by phone, who was driving around her city, trying to buy the magazine “fresh off the rack”. I had to not only tell her what happened all those years ago, but also to explain why I hadn’t felt I could share it with her then, or since. In my moment of triumph and excitement, I was instead reliving that night over and over and over, with family (I have a sister who was furious because that was a “private” issue she felt should have been kept private), friends, co-workers. It was hell.
    I called the writer at Beeple and explained how it upturned my life. I was told this was “the way things work”.
    I was not a fool to trust them, and neither were you. We are just better humans than they are, and I don’t give a rat’s rump how judgmental that sounds.
    You will get through this. Keep your head up and feel perfectly free to tell anyone and everyone that you don’t wish to discuss it. You own them nothing. Peace to you.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          You’ve been through something terrible, so it’s understandable you don’t love the media right now. But can we not label all media as “the devil”? Media focused on entertainment, sure, they can do terrible things. But there are countless journalists out there doing good work who would never pull something like this.

          I agree with you though that entertainment media is not usually on the side of the greater good.

          1. Batgirl*

            They’re not trained journalists but they make a juicy product, that’s the problem. I used to work for a really responsible publication and we did a lot of good; but man, you have to be well trained (at a high cost!) to be both ethical and interesting. It takes no training at all to wind people up for fun or lure them to tell you things on the record when they think they’re off. Any snake oil seller can do that.

        2. Kat*

          Dear Stella70 & OP,

          Please don’t blame all media outlets for that unscrupulous editor. I have worked for the media for decades all over the world. Neither I, nor anyone I have worked with, would EVER do what that magazine did.

          And if something is off the record, it’s off the frelling record! The unethical behavior of that editor is appalling! I’m so sorry you went through that.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Sociopaths sleep like babies, it’s a helluva drug when you don’t have any emotions to burden yourself with!

        1. fposte*

          Or they engage in the pastime of self-justification the way most of us do. There are probably few people posting here who live a carbon-neutral life and ensure they buy no products involving child labor. But just like the relevant media people, we correctly tell ourselves that the systems are bigger than we are and that our opting out wouldn’t be enough to solve the problem.

        2. Temperance*

          I think that’s pretty unfair. We all – myself included here! – do things that are morally not ideal. I get phone calls from people looking for free legal advice, and sometimes … I just don’t call them back. To the folks on the other end, I’m denying them something, but really, I’m just doing *my* job.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I don’t think it’s the same thing to deny someone free services as it is to purposely mislead someone, get them to trust you and then use their stories they pulled from you after luring you int what you thought was a “safe space”.

            I wouldn’t just do everyone’s tax returns for them, despite being more than capable. I wouldn’t call someone back if they were asking me for anything for free, I ignore a lot of charities as well because I’m not interested in their mission or cannot find the spare change for them.

            I had someone call me asking me to replace their furniture once because they had a house fire. I had to say no, we simply couldn’t offer them a replacement that they would have to go through their insurance.

            But if I lit someone’s things on fire so that I could write a story about it and then was all “oops my bad, sorry for your loss.” then that is terrible behavior.

            Media has gotten ugly and cutthroat over the years, more so with the fact others want to feast on other people’s misfortune. There’s a lot of good people still in the business and I have many friends who are journos. Lying to get a story is unethical and shows lack of character.

            1. pancakes*

              There are certain publications that have always been sensationalistic, though, and they’ve always found a market of people who are entertained by what they publish. People who are contemplating giving an interview should strongly consider the tone, purpose, and practices of the publication. A magazine known for tidbits of gossip, or, say, depicting obviously staged paparazzi photos as candid isn’t at all likely to publish well-researched long-form journalism alongside them.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh, these soulsuckers exploiting others to sell some salacious rags. That publication used to be pretty solid but then as with many others, the temptation got too much and they jumped into the mud to start playing dirty with other people’s lives. I’m so sorry this happened to you and I’m glad you know that you didn’t do anything wrong.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I have worked at major consumer magazines, and am grateful that the places I’ve worked, there are six or seven people saying, “Is this public? Does she know we’re printing this? Have you specifically asked her?” One of those people is always me; the other is our fact-checker. And our stuff is vetted by lawyers.

        But I have also seen how rushed publications have become since I started in this business. And how much pressure there is to get something exciting to say. And how under-trained so many of the content editors are.

        I’m really surprised at the Sheeple publication, though; if it’s the publication I’m assuming it is, I’d have expected them to be much more careful.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That is horrific. I am so sorry. That is absolutely *not* the way things work – off the records means just that. And they had absolutely no right to ask that question in the first place. I wish only good things for you from now on.

  32. Artemesia*

    Any tangle with TV media or reporters is likely to burn you and most of us don’t find out until it happens. My baptism was in a contentious issue at my workplace where I agreed to give a little off the record background information to help the reporter contextualize the case — and yes he didn’t name me, but he described me in a way that it could only be me and then in the same paragraph gave an inflammatory quote from another co-worker. The way it was presented made it look like I said this inflammatory thing — the equivalent of saying the President of the organization was a crook and should go to jail. I said nothing at all like this and yet most people reading it thought I had. Not fun. The good news is that your situation was personal and not professional and it will blow over quickly. Hop it is forgotten by next week.

    1. Auntie Social*

      Yes. My elderly mom died in a fire, so there were news crews outside the house, which drew a small crowd. A TV reporter ambushed my daughter and asked her how she felt (?!?) and she let loose on him. “Macabre vulture” was the kindest and most repeatable thing she said. And of course, people had their phones out. In the meantime, the city came to fine me $500 a day for an unsecured residence. But Lauren got recognized for a few days, and people drove by the house looking for her.

    2. PSB*

      I was very mildly burned (or seriously annoyed, really) by an investigative reporter from one of our local TV stations several years ago. It involved a picture that a deeply unethical person passed off as evidence of a supposed conspiracy and coverup in my workplace (at the time). The reporter repeated the story breathlessly and uncritically as evidence that we were trying to hide something. Except the picture was taken in my office, with my permission, in the normal course of business. Nobody was trying to hide anything. Having a blurry cell phone picture to sensationalize sure added to the atmosphere of the story though. I wasn’t mentioned, even indirectly, but seeing something I was directly involved in completely misrepresented taught me to be more skeptical of reporters and the TV business.

  33. Erin*

    This is so horrible and I am so sorry. I think shutting it down firmly in the moment and sticking to your guns is your best bet. “I’m not at liberty to discuss the situation, sorry about that. So about your X case I’m working on…” “Like I said, I can’t talk about it.” “Again, I can’t talk about it, can we please move on?”

    This reminds of a quick story: When Say Yes to the Dress was slammed by that one bride who was pissed that it was airing before her wedding date – I read a blog post from a local (to me, at the time) radio DJ. She was almost on that show. She went through basically the entire process except for signing her life away, and at the last minute was like, “Oh, I just have one silly question – this isn’t airing before my wedding, right?” and the producer actually paused for a moment before being like, “Actually it’s going to air in the summer” (she had an October wedding). They weren’t even going to tell her!!

    So yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with Alison to give yourself permission to not be as hard on yourself. Chalk it up to a learning experience. Obviously these people are deceptive and skilled at what they do. It’s not just you. You are NOT a stupid person.

    One more piece of advice: I understand why you deactivated everything. But when you’re ready to get back out there in social media/online world, build up new content to replace the negative out there. Start a blog. This is what’s recommended to people who are publicly shamed online (not that that’s what happened to you, but I think the advice still applies). Make it so that when people google your name they have to get through a couple of pages of things before this crap comes up.

    1. anon4this*

      I’m confused, why does she care if the episode aired before (or after) her wedding?
      Isn’t the show just about the overpriced wedding dress? What difference does it make if it aired in the summer before her October wedding?

      1. Erin*

        (I have not watched this show either.) I believe it’s because your family and friends know you’re on the show and are excited to watch…and then they’ll see your dress. When the big dress reveal should be at the wedding itself.

        1. Erin*

          Also, I understand this PALES in comparison to the OP’s situation, I hope I didn’t come across as making light of that. I just thought it was worth mentioning I know of someone with a story about a reality show intentionally deceiving them – and from the comments, it looks like the OP is far from alone on that. Hopefully there’s some comfort there (and paradoxically, rage).

      2. Dahlia*

        The moment of the groom seeing the dress is a big deal for a lot of people.A

        Also like… what if you split up before the wedding.

  34. Why isn't it Friday?*

    I’m really sorry, OP. If it helps at all, my brother was on an episode of a really trashy MTV dating show. He dressed up in a ridiculous outfit. No one recognizes him, no one cares, and he’s in a very respectable line of work now.

  35. Former TV Contestant*

    Eighteen months ago, I was on a popular TV game show (think the one where someone has been winning a LOT of money lately). My experience was overwhelmingly positive, but Twitter and Facebook? Completely different story. Solidarity to you. Being a woman on TV really, really stinks, even when you think that someone has your back.

    Corollary to that, I was called repeatedly at MPOW by producers for a famous, long-running court TV show just three months after my first spouse died. My late spouse’s ex was trying to pick a fight with me about some property that my spouse had left to me, and wanted to air it all on national syndication. My late spouse had told me that those court shows were their ex’s favorite, and it was the ex’s lifelong dream to be on one of them! I wouldn’t play ball, to the ex’s deep displeasure. It was pretty tough not to take the bait. My probate attorney said, “Well, returning a call to reality TV is a first in my career.” I was not happy to be so singular in his experience.

    I’m so sorry that this happened to you, and please, please don’t blame yourself for falling for their garbage. Court TV is not real, in any way, and I hope that you can quickly put this behind you and move forward into your next chapter.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      Jaw. On. Floor. Glad you didn’t engage with Ex.

      The comments in this post have me in a constant state of Baby Fish Mouth.

  36. Fake Courtroom Victim*

    Ah, sounds like another victim of Judge Judy. In my naivete, I fell for the same scam. I won my case, got my payment and the money the other party owed, but I had to basically be called names and treated like an idiot by Judy herself. She’s a horrible human being who just bullies people for ratings.

    I also got the questions and I just said, “It was literally the worst thing I’ve ever done. I hope no one else falls for it because the whole thing is theater. I don’t want to talk about it any further.”

    1. mark132*

      I’ve watched bit’s and pieces of that show, and most of the time, I hated everyone on the show, the judy for being a jerk, the “contestants” for being so stupid, the audience for clapping on cue, and then myself for watching it and believing that it was actually “real”. I realize it was “inspired by real events”, but mostly just dramatized for the viewers, with the big emphasis on DRAMA.

      1. Fake Courtroom Victim*

        It is truly fake. The “audience” are all paid extras. I mean, I guess that could be a good gig–dress up nice, sit quiet and get a paycheck?

        But the entire experience as a “litigant” was horrible. I really feel for the OP.

      1. nutella fitzgerald*

        I will forever despise Judge Judy for the time one of the participants mentioned having a bladder infection and she snidely asked, “Why? Too much sex?”

  37. Jennifer*

    Oddly enough, the latest episode of This American Life is about the same subject. I’d give it a listen.

  38. Mavis*

    If letter writer has been thinking about a big hair style/hair color change, different glasses, etc. now could be the time!

    Even if only to give your self plausible deniability!

    Your mind: no one will recognize me.

    Stranger/customer mentions…

    Oh I’m not familiar with that show, will check it out….

  39. mark132*

    “Reality” TV is such a misnomer. Some of its really trashy. The modern court shows seem to fit in here. (I actually liked the old Wapner one). We aren’t even talking about the really evil stuff like Sylvia Browne on Montel. To the stuff I liked and thought was interesting/informative like Dirty Jobs.

    The challenge of appearing on one of these shows is the producers and editors have lots of film and by clever editing voice overs etc, can create almost whatever narrative they would like.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Very much this about the editing. It can be used to completely distort reality. Go on one of these shows thinking that you will be presented as a good person? It is the luck of the draw where the producers slot you into the desired narrative.

  40. Goya de la Mancha*

    “There’s a strong tone of blaming yourself in your letter, and I want to push back against that. You trusted someone who misled you. That happens.”

    This! So much this!

  41. I usually lurk*

    Oh god I’m so sorry this happened to you. My situation is not at all the same, but I was on American Ninja Warrior last year and had all my friends and family there to cheer me on and then I fell on the first obstacle. :( They didn’t air it, though. Then I tore my ACL and had to have surgery.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      To me, anyone who even attempts to go on ANW is far more of a bad ass than I ever will be! Hope you’re healing up well!

  42. Case of the Mondays*

    I know you said you couldn’t bear to watch the show but I think you either need to get someone you really trust to watch it or watch it yourself. So much gets edited by producers that what is shown may be very very different from what you recall. You might be presently surprised that the aired version isn’t as awful as you remembered. Or, maybe something is edited in a way that gives an impression you will at least want to know about it.

    This isn’t anywhere near as bad as what happened to you but I once wrote a letter to the editor of my newspaper and they edited in a way that it was no longer my voice AND put the name of my employer under my name in the signature block. I wasn’t impressed.

  43. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP: after reading your update, I was reminded of a series of posts done over at about online bullying. Those posts are worth a read just for your own sense of well-being.

  44. Broomhilde*

    OP, I’m so sorry and angry on your behalf!

    I’m operating from the ignorant perspective of a mere secretary with some background including limited legal expertise required to do a job in a lawyer’s office effectively. Furthermore, I am not located in the US, but in a country whose legal personnel is collectively smug about the bureaucratic and complex monster the legal system is.

    That said, if this had been a court case (which I do not think it was), you would have ample opportunity to appeal this case. A judge who opens the case with an ad hominem attack on one of the parties and then fails to properly consider evidence makes lawyers around here lick their chops and drool on the floor. They would let this go at first and then go appeal the shit out of it in the next level of jurisdiction or revision. Secondly, judging from your comments, your signed papers in a hurry – the producers conned you, alright, but perhaps in your state/country, an argument can be made for duress? Using a tactic like this is undoubtedly coercive.

    But honestly, this sounds more like a case of mediation or arbitration, there is less to do. Those are just a pain in the neck.

    I know that you do not have a lot of money – I feel you, I’ve been there, I’ve gone hungry/lived off ramen and have been ashamed of it – , but perhaps it is possible to read up on that material, get some legal counsel or friendly legal advice. I don’t know what kind of case you were building, but I’ve got a whiff of harrassment and/or omission thereof in your comments; these cases are serious business(tm) in my book. It really depends if you are ready to let that matter rest.

    If you want to pursue this, I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart. If you want to let this go, it is understandable – your situation sounds traumatic. Just know that people tend to forget TV shows in a heartbeat. In two weeks, nobody will remember. Dye your hair in a colour you always wanted to try, and nobody will even be able to identify even if they saw the show yesterday. I’m reasonably certain that this will include your co-worker.

    By the way, the TV judge? May they step on lego pieces for all eternity. What a prick.

  45. User 483*

    If it helps – those court shows post actual casting calls for actors to play the part of plaintiff/defendant/witness/etc ALL THE TIME! Like, if you wanted a small acting job, it wouldn’t be very difficult to get a part because they are always casting and they can’t really reuse people in different episodes.

    You might just explain that you didn’t realize how fake the show was and how much it is just trying to get ratings.

    Also, those “candid camera” type shows cast actors to play both all the parts.

  46. Suz*

    OP, I’m so sorry this happened to you. A few years ago I had a similar experience but it was on the local TV news. I was interviewed regarding the clean-up of a polluted lake in my neighborhood. They edited it in such a way that it sounded like I held the opposite view from what I had. I was totally embarrassed to run into anyone from my neighborhood after that. Thankfully, it was forgotten about in a few weeks.

  47. Oxford Comma*

    There is some excellent advice here.

    Some things to keep in mind:
    * A lot of people don’t even have cable or even regular TV anymore
    * There are a lot of those court reality shows and while I think viewership is significant, it’s not as significant as being on something in prime time.
    * Most people aren’t going to remember the cases they did see on the show.
    * Even if they remember the cases, they may not remember you.

    Basically, what I’m saying is, this too shall pass.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. I’ve seen a few episodes of “Judge Rinder” which is the UK version of Judge Judy. I can barely remember any of the people or themes from the episodes I saw. I think one of them was a dispute about cutting a tree down but have no more recollection than that.

      The owner of my local gym went on one of these SAS selection shows and got some recognition for it from the patrons and local publicity (which is why they went on it) but she’s not exactly name checked in the street.

      The only reality shows I remember the people instantly, would be ones where people are doing something spectacularly awful or criminal. So there’s an episode of “Who wants to be a millionaire” in the UK where 3 people tried to cheat to win the money, I could probably recognise the people in question. There’s a particularly loathsome chap who was on a number of reality shows and went on to burn down his council house, killing his children in the process and if he ever came out of prison and I saw him, I’d probably deck him.

      The point I’m making is unless you are doing something that’s so out of the ordinary, so illegal or spectacular that it’s got a wider level of publicity, very few people will actually recognise or remember you in a week or so.

  48. Xtina*

    Honestly? There has been only one coworker who has commented on your appearance, OP, and no other clients have said anything.
    Your fears appear to be unfounded, and it sounds like you’re panicked over something that hasn’t happened yet, and probably won’t. Don’t let the possibilities of embarrassment live rent-free in your head. Most people won’t even know the first thing about it.

  49. AnonForThis...*

    LW, it’s not just you!! This exact same thing happened to be on a court show. It rhymes with Judge Judy – oh wait, it was Judge Judy. No regard for the piles of evidence I had brought, and every time I tried to bring up a point I was shouted down. They ended up awarding money to the other side, who was a complete scam artist who also threatened multiple people for good measure.

    Don’t blame yourself LW. And for everyone else – I can’t speak for all court TV shows, but Judge Judy is definitely super fake. I only wish it was actually as fake as a soap opera though because what they’re doing is worse. They’re taking actual cases and fooling people into thinking that they’ll get a fair hearing. It’s pretty sick really.

  50. Nonrealitytv*

    Wow. This letter hits so close to home for me. A few years ago I was on one episode of an MTV show. I, like the OP, was mislead terribly by the producers who told me it would be a fun, positive and happy episode. I went along with it because I thought it would be a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. It was, but in the bad way. My entire situation was taken out of context and brutalized, I was made to be the villain in my own life, and looked absolutely horrible. I was devastated. There were horrible things written about me online, but luckily everyone in my life (family, friends, employers) knew the truth and knew who I really was and what had actually happened when the filming took place and they were all very sympathetic.

    To you, OP, to reiterate what Alison said, do not feel badly that you were blindsided by the producers, that is literally their job to dupe real and honest people into thinking that their story will be portrayed accurately, when that is not the case. And think about it, most people would refuse to be filmed if they knew the truth about what would be aired on national television, I certainly would have said no thanks!

    The bright side is, people will forget. It’s been three years since my episode aired and I often forget that I was a part of it. I also got through the horrible comments by disassociating myself from what was portrayed on TV, because I know the truth about who I am, and what others saw was not me. What also helps is not being defensive, but simply and politely shutting down questions or unwanted comments with an “I’d rather not discuss it” people will get bored, especially if they see that it (outwardly) does not bother you. Immediately after my episode aired some people I knew were giddy to talk to me about it thinking I was going to have a meltdown or act crazy and when they saw that I didn’t care they lost interest very quickly.

    Good luck OP.

  51. Melba Toast*

    “Roughly 750 reality shows aired on primetime cable in 2015 — 83 percent higher than the number of scripted shows.”


    As the quote states, those numbers are *just* for cable. This might be a highly crummy situation you’re in, OP, but you’re not alone. The benefit to having so many reality shows though might be that your appearance quickly loses its novelty for any coworkers or folks on the street.

  52. Angie*

    OP my heart goes out to you. Those shows predatory. Please don’t feel like this is your fault. They do everything they can to lure you in but they always have to make a bad guy in a good guy so you got a 50-50 chance of that happening. Please be kind to yourself. Allison’s advice sound spot on to me. I hope this difficult time passes quickly and you’re able to resume life as normal.

  53. Linzava*

    About 15 years ago, a popular judge program tried to get me to agree to be on their show. I ignored them because I didn’t want to. You know what happens when you ignore those producers? They harass you. My parents even wanted me to do it, but I didn’t.

    It could have easily happened to me too if I decided to speak to them, they’re very convincing and got everyone in my life they spoke to onboard. I just told my parents that when they call, my answer is no and I won’t speak to them.

    Please don’t blame yourself, but what you could do is trash talk the crap out of that judge whenever someone asks. It’s up to you, but you really shouldn’t blame yourself, those producers are professional manipulators who flat out lied to you and that judge isn’t a real judge, so her opinion of you is irrelevant. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    1. Oof*

      I applaud your directness! That’s how to shut things down. I’m not sure I agree about trash-talking the TV judge though. My guilty pleasure for many years was watching tv judge shows. I’m not sure how I would react to that complaint – in that, yes, I would feel so bad for them (and I do for the OP), but I would also wonder what they had expected. I think it’s best to just drop it, re-direct, or change the subject. I can verify for the OP that there are just so many of these shows, that it will pass. I’ve watched quite a few, and I’ve never recognized anyone, nor could I identify any of the participants later. Plots yes – several of those I remember, but the people, never.

  54. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hey all. All comments on this post are now going through moderation. They’ll be released, but it might take longer to show up than usual.

  55. MissDisplaced*

    Oh OP that is truly horrible. And more so that you were mislead by the producers and it could, potentially at least, put your job and livelihood at risk. Really, that is not cool.

    I hope the show isn’t too popular and that people forget about it soon. Usually that is the case as people’s attention spans are short when it comes to TV. And there are some good examples and lines if people do try to bring it up. Basically, I’d try to make it as non-interesting as possible.

  56. Bulldog*

    I definitely don’t want to come across as if I’m piling on the OP. And, I 100% agree with other posters who are saying that you are being waaayyy to hard on yourself over this.

    However, I am curious as to what exactly you thought would happen by going on a national television show. Even if the case had been decided in your favor, did you not think people in your life who know you and the occasional stranger you meet might not recognize you from the program and comment on what happened ( Of course, those who tried to dox you online were completely in the wrong). I just don’t get why people do things which, by their nature, are designed to draw attention to oneself, and then are surprised/upset when attention is drawn.

    I was once interviewed by a local television news crew simply because I had witnessed an event. Up until that point, I had always considered myself fairly articulate. That newscast remains one of the most embarrassing things in my life. I took a couple of weeks of good natured razzing from friends and family and then it completely blew over. I doubt anyone other than my wife and I even remember it now. We still have the interview on a VHS cassette (you youngsters can look that up — of course, we have no way to actually play it now). My point is that this will pass. As AAM says, people will forget this very quickly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I took from the letter that she assumed she would be treated fairly on the show and not berated and not had her evidence ignored. The producers intentionally led her to expect something different than what happened, as they do.

    2. OP*

      It’s not so much attention as it is negative attention about something I thought I’d want to remember, but ended up wanting to forget. What I had imagined was that I’d be vindicated, and the experience would be positive and actually make me more confident. It did the opposite.

      Think of it this way: Suppose you were made to believe that you were going to Prom with a handsome boy and on top of all that, you got elected Prom Queen! You’d be all for that, right? Except you ended up getting pig’s blood dumped all over you (and as an added insult, you don’t develop psychokinetic powers, you just stand there in a sticky, bloody mess). Or you’re excited for your wedding, only to be stood up at the altar.

      All those situations are ones in which you’re trusting someone, because you were led to believe that they were trustworthy. All of those situations were ones that you looked forward to, since they would make you feel better about yourself. And it turns out, they were set-ups just made to make you feel worse.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Think of it this way: Suppose you were made to believe that you were going to Prom with a handsome boy and on top of all that, you got elected Prom Queen! You’d be all for that, right? Except you ended up getting pig’s blood dumped all over you (and as an added insult, you don’t develop psychokinetic powers, you just stand there in a sticky, bloody mess).

        Man, this would make a great book. And then maybe a movie.

        OP, please don’t be so hard on yourself. I know that is easier said than done but I am confident it will pass like everyone else is saying. And speaking as a fellow poor person, there is nothing worth berating about being poor. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this.

      2. Batgirl*

        Excellent analogy! I hate hate hate reality shows. It’s always been pretty obvious to me that a lot of them rely on bullying for drama – but until I read your letter I actually thought the court stuff was on the non manipulative side. Good job spreading the word.

  57. Arjay*

    I watch some court shows and I would never recognize you from one of them if I just met you as a member of the public. Even when the cases are memorable, the appearance of the litigants very rarely sticks. The rock and roll rabbi may be an exception, but if he was wearing street clothes, I wouldn’t recognize him either. I don’t think you have to worry about that.
    With coworkers, as Alison said, it will blow over really quickly. Just change the subject to Game of Thrones. :)

  58. Gymmie*

    I really doubt that many people will recognize the OP. How many people actually watch these shows that you might run into? It just seems like the coworker saw it, but is it realistic to think many other people will and then put two and two together?

  59. Aggretsuko*

    A friend of mine was on one of these shows. Trust me, you are just as disposable as everyone else on them and nobody will remember this soon. Very soon.

  60. LV426*

    Having been in a somewhat similar situation I do have some advice that may help. It’s best to laugh about it. Basically come across as friendly but do say that you’re not allowed to talk about it because of the contract you signed but also laugh and say things like “They sure like to make their own reality on those shows. If they didn’t create drama no one would have anything to watch!” You can basically put it out there that they created the situation and instead of being embarrassed turn it into “Well it was sure an interesting experience, I’m not sure how well I stayed on script so I think I’ll stay with my day job.” Or “Well it was pretty dramatic but I’m not ready for a role on Game of Thrones!”

    You want to convey that it was just a lark, something you did on a whim because it was a way to see what it was like to be on TV. Also you can convey that there was a script because really all reality TV is scripted in a way that creates drama. People will always say mean things but try to just laugh it off. Remember, them attacking you reflects more on who they are than who you are. It’s hard especially because right now you feel like the spotlight is on you but in a week or 2 they will have moved on to the next big thing.

  61. Kisses*

    I’m sorry you were taken advantage of, OP. It sounds like a terrible experience.
    I am very poor myself- we have to stop beating ourselves up over it. I think anyone who actively tries hard should be rewarded- you are out there working and trying to overcome your situation. I mention that I am poor not only to commiserate with you, but to say that we’ve lacked cable tv and Internet more often than not, and I frequently watched the judge shows due to having like 3 channels. This went on for years- I cannot remember a single plaintiff or defendant from any episode. I can’t even remember the suits being brought!
    I fully believe this will be a tiny blip in your otherwise hopefully improving life. I can almost guarantee that no one will remember it in 6 mos to a year.
    Hold your head up, you got this.

  62. peppermint*

    Hugs OP. Like others have said, this will be quickly forgotten by everybody else.

    I recently read a book from a few years ago called “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson that dealt with stories of people’s worst mistakes and decisions going viral on social media and essentially how horrible that is to be the recipient of that level of scrutiny. I’m not sure how it would hold up from your perspective, but I personally found it very enlightening, thought provoking, and worth reading.

  63. Anji*

    A friend of mine was on a “reality” show, and was depicted as a terrible person. These producers will stop at nothing in the name of ratings. She went public with our local newspaper to defend herself. Though she became an instant celebrity, it hurt her. Just keep your chin up, and declare that reality shows are not truly reality.

  64. Paperdill*

    Op, I am so sorry you had this awful awful experience.

    I apologise if this is inappropriate, but I wanted to recommend to people the novel “Chart Throb” by Ben Elton. While a work of fiction, it goes into great detail into how reality tv operates and how the producers manipulate things to their advantage.
    It is a terrible, horrible industry and we should be better informed.

    1. Jan*

      Yep, great book! I must have read it a hundred times. “Dead Famous” is his other similarly themed but equally accurate novel.

      1. Paperdill*

        Yes – all his novels are just AMAZING (Inconceivable changed my life). I think he is such an underrated writer.

  65. J Kate*

    I don’t know why no one is addressing this aspect of it, but I just want to throw this out, OP. There is no shame in being “poor.” I don’t know your financial situation but it is none of my nor anyone else’s business but yours and does not define who you are. I, too, choose a less lucrative career because I enjoy it and I know I am doing good every day. As long as we are doing the best we can to be contributing members of society, whatever that means for each individual situation, there is no shame in the financial results.
    Also, these producers and the “judge” were really crappy excuses for human beings to take advantage of people with few resources.

  66. Blarg*

    I went to a taping of one of the popular Springer-like shows back in the late 90s. I’d never watched any of them, but a fellow RA got a bunch of tickets and I could go and count it as “programming.” I was shocked that they had these teenagers figuring out who the dad of the baby was. I couldn’t (still can’t) believe that it was legal to exploit these girls. So I asked a question during a commercial break, basically “how is it you can do this and why would anyone agree to be on this show?” The host simply said, “we pay for the paternity testing.”

    Then they edited my question to make it look like I was attacking the moms of the girls on the show and used it in the promos for the episode.

    Lesson learned. Exploitation for our entertainment is horrific.

  67. Luna*

    “How do I tell people – coworkers and the public/clients alike – that it’s not up for discussion?”
    “You need to stop talking about this. Right now, or I will march right up to [whoever is in charge of complaints regarding coworkers; HR, supervisor, grandboss, etc] and report you.” You need to be super hard on this. There is no ‘please’ or ‘excuse me, but’ or even ‘would you kindly’ here. Blunt. Direct. To the point. And no politeness. They already didn’t stop the first time you told them, so they aren’t being polite to you; why should you have to be?

  68. The Other Katie*

    I’ve had a similar experience, in that about 15 years ago, I rather naively agreed to be interviewed for a journalist’s story on homelessness in my area for the local newspaper. The story, shall we say, was not quite how it was described by the journalist himself. It was brought up by a few co-workers, but I just stonewalled and refused to talk about it. People had forgotten about it within a few days. So, 10/10 can recommend “refuse to talk about it” as a tactic, would do again. I hope it disappears quickly for you.

  69. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP, I’m really sorry this happened. It sounds so cruel and heartless. I hope it blows over soon. Your experience tallies with those of many others who appear on these shows, unfortunately. At least your post here will warn others away from these shows. Hope things get better soon!

  70. OP*

    Re-reading through these comments, I can’t help but wish ALL the people who were exploited/misled/abused this way could band up and do something like a class-action lawsuit. It’s like these shows just stay-this-side-of-legal, making you think one thing (they’re on your side) without actually putting any of it into writing, so they can always claim that it didn’t matter that you were led on – that was simply your impression, after all. Signing paperwork minutes before taping – didn’t they have someone there to explain it to you? Etc. So they cover all their bases, but just barely – following the letter of the law but definitely not the spirit.

    But there are many other illegal activities that are that way, as well. Merely contacting someone isn’t illegal, but doing it under certain circumstances qualifies as harassment or stalking (which is why many stalkers don’t understand why they’re getting into trouble because “I’m not doing anything against the law”). These shows may not be doing anything explicitly illegal, but what they’re doing is definitely unethical, and perhaps if enough people knew about it and fought against it, something could be done. But that’s a pipe dream….

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I don’t know enough about law to know whether this would work, but why not? Or at the very least, get organised and start a group. Share stories so people are warned. Or encourage people to stop watching entertainment that exploits people (ha, now that’s a pipe dream). We don’t see people as people when they’re on camera; even when someone is filmed in public on a phone and has their image shared without permission. That’s something we need to change.

      Your ideas here sound pretty good to me. Why not share them? Get people thinking about why they want to go on these shows and finding alternatives. A lot of people go on them because they think they will benefit in some way, but they don’t realise it’s like a casino: the odds are always with the house. Whatever you might get is nothing in comparison to what the studio/station/production company makes.

      Side note: I’ve always wondered how those Teen Mom shows are legal, given that they make a lot of money exploiting teenagers who had underage sex.

  71. Flash Bristow*

    OP this really will die down fast. I was on a TV show for 2 weeks, with several million viewers.

    At the time it was on – lots of attention (online ppl hid behind anonymity but in person they were always lovely). For about another fortnight after it all aired, I got quite a lot of “hang on, are you the person who was on [show]?”

    This fizzled and after another couple of weeks I stopped being noticed at all.

    I’m sorry your experience was so bad. It truly will pass. Today’s news truly is tomorrow’s chip paper.

    Perhaps you can grab a few days’ leave?

  72. Big Biscuit*

    If I was the OP I wouldn’t worry about it. I had a co-worker who took leave to be on a cable network reality show, there was some excited buzz at first by all of us on the team. By the time the show finally aired, myself and others didn’t even bother watching it. Reality TV is not reality. I hope the OP gave the producer a piece of her mind after the show (not that it would do any good), but maybe provide a little relief! I like those articles out there by the “disgruntled” reality show participants that drawa back the curtain on the reality nonsense.

    1. OP*

      I certainly wanted to tell them off, especially since they added insult to injury by breaking my purse after the taping and just handing it back to me with a busted strap and a missing button and walking away like it was nothing. Sometimes I think about mailing the purse back to them with a note that says, “Please reimburse me for this item which you have destroyed.”

  73. Joradn*

    Funny tangential story: A coworker was on one of these shows. When he was a new hire, he mentioned it and then sent me a link. Imagine my surprise when I watched it and saw that he was suing a friend who failed to pay him back, after my coworker lent him money so the two of them could travel to Vegas for a pornstar convention. I remember thinking, “Dude, this is not something you want to share with a new coworker.”

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