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Viewers shocked by heartbreaking documentary about ‘devastating’ reality show that ended in tragedy

Viewers shocked by heartbreaking documentary about ‘devastating’ reality show that ended in tragedy

Miriam Rivera starred on the 2004 reality show There's Something About Miriam

Warning: This article contains discussion of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and suicide which some readers may find distressing.

Viewers have been simultaneously gripped and heartbroken while watching a new Channel 4 documentary.

The three-part series chronicles the extraordinary life of transgender woman Miriam Rivera, who was propelled to fame aged just 21 after appearing on the ill-fated reality show There's Something About Miriam in 2004.

The dating show, which aired on Sky1, used Miriam as a 'gotcha' moment many have deemed to be extremely cruel.

Viewers were aware from the start that Miriam was born male but living as a trans woman, while the six men competing for her affections weren't informed about her gender identity.

The language used by the show was shocking - referring to Miriam as a 'man' rather than a trans woman.

(Channel 4)
(Channel 4)

The new documentary, called Miriam: Death of a Reality Star, revisits the dating show - originally titled Find Me a Man - that ended with winning contestant Tom Rooke, picked as a winning suitor by Miriam, being in a state of shock.

It has left viewers dumbfounded at how terribly transgender people were treated.

One particularly shocking moment comes when the psychiatrist hired by the show shared that there was no thought given at all to the toll it might take on Miriam's mental health.

He said: "I had been brought in ostensibly to look after the boys.

"No one had given a thought to how Miriam might feel.

"The reveal was her coming out to the world and as far as I was aware, Miriam hadn't been psych tested.

"How would she deal with rejection? Not just from who she picked, but everyone who thought trans people were freaks.

"They sold her a dream without anybody telling her what could go wrong. I thought, she's vulnerable, she's had a really really hard life, like a bird with a broken wing."

(Channel 4)
(Channel 4)

Earlier in the documentary, it was shown that Miriam shared the first boy she fell for reacted with anger and outed her to everybody in school upon learning she was born male.

It was also shown that she had taken hormones since age 11, was living as a woman since 16 and her father refused to accept her identity.

Following the completion of the reality show, winner Tom rejected the £10,000 prize and joined fellow contestants in a lawsuit that alleged conspiracy to commit sexual assault, defamation, breach of contract, and personal injury in the form of psychological and emotional damage.

Ultimately, they settled for an undisclosed amount.

Miriam largely disappeared from the spotlight following the negative attention she received after There's Something About Miriam aired.

Tragically, she was found dead in 2019 in her mother's apartment in an apparent suicide. She was just 38 years old.

(Channel 4)
(Channel 4)

Production executive of There's Something About Miriam Jo Josun is also featured in Miriam: Death Of A Reality Star.

She stunned viewers when admitting: "I didn't feel anything. I'm in the business of making television shows.

"I didn't feel anything about the format that I felt was bad or wrong. I didn't feel that way, I really didn't.

"Do I think it went beyond any moral codes of conduct? No."

Viewers have taken to social media to share their heartbreak and disbelief after watching the documentary.

One person wrote: "Jesus Christ! This was 20 years ago not 50 years ago. How did the production company not see that this show would be devastating for all involved? Poor Miriam."

(Channel 4)
(Channel 4)

Another said: "Cheap high ratings through the publics and contestants prejudice, bigotry and ignorance was the premise of the show and they can not claim otherwise."

A third added: "This programme is deeply unsettling, reality tv in the early 2000s was absolutely unhinged with zero thought to the damage it would do to people."

Trans activist India Willoughby, who features in episode three, added: "Tragic story. The exploitation and persecution of trans people continues to this day. What have we done to deserve this?"

Miriam: Death Of A Reality Star continues tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm, and all episodes are available to stream on All4.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected].

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123.

Featured Image Credit: Channel 4

Topics: Reality TV, Channel 4, Documentaries