Michael Rotondo
Michael Rotondo

4 Reasons Why It’s Screwed Up to Give Michael Rotondo a Reality Show

Exploiting a mentally-fragile convicted felon as a source of entertainment borders on reckless journalism.

Sued by his parents and ordered by court to evict his parent’s house, Michael Rotondo rose to infamy two weeks ago as the poster child of the lazy and entitled millennial generation. The 30-year-old man from Syracuse, New York is a college dropout with “poor work experience” (as described by his father in one of five letters imploring him to move out).

He has flown under the radar and lived absolutely rent-free in his parent’s home for eight years before his court case was picked up by every major news outlet. From cable news to celebrity gossip media, from overseas conglomerates to noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, everyone wanted a piece of Rotondo.

However, as unexpected as all of the new-found attention may be, Rotondo is taking it exceedingly well. He has been giving interviews to anyone with a camera, emailing The Daily Mail and selling his own pictures to TMZ. He is generously making tabloid journalist’s lives a lot easier.

As if there wasn’t enough of the deadbeat millennial in everyone’s lives already, CamSoda, the pornographic cam site, has attempted to strike a deal with Rotondo to provide audiences with live-streaming content of him — most likely with clothes on, unlike many of CamSoda’s other stars.  Rotondo was reportedly offered his own reality show for $1,000 a month for six months.

For the elicit cam site, it makes sense, business-wise, to offer Rotondo his own show as the man is a natural at both drama and comedy — he called the police on his parents before moving out over missing legos.  If successful, he will be like a brother to the “cash me outside” girl, Danielle Bregoli, whose meme-worthy one-liner on Dr. Phil’s show eventually got her a record deal.

Maybe Rotondo will shed his crummy exterior and transform into someone glamorous, following the footsteps of the “World’s Hottest Felon,” Jeremy Meeks, who became a successful model and started dating a rich heiress after his mugshot went viral. The truth is, it is truly fucked up to give Rotondo a reality TV show, and here are four reasons why.

1. It is mean to Rotondo.

People who watch Rotondo don’t do it because they love him; they do it because they love to hate him. The show implicitly promises that people will be entertained by watching how pathetic, helpless and stupid the man acts. Will some people watch for a heartwarming, inspirational story of how Rotondo pulled himself up by his own bootstraps? Maybe, but most won’t.

The news headlines have already eviscerated his character, calling him a deadbeat and a failure, some even invented their own words, such as “failson.” The media has already packaged Rotondo as a disgraceful figure, and now, CamSoda is selling it. The more laughable the man is, the better entertainment he’ll make.

Michael Rotondo
Michael Rotondo (left) has appeared on numerous televised interviews since his eviction, including with “Info Wars’s” infamous Alex Jones (right). (Image via Scallywag and Vagabond)

Rotondo himself doesn’t seem to realize or is denial that he is the butt of the joke. When you watch his interviews, he is always earnestly defending himself. Sometimes he misinterprets questions and has trouble forming sentences, but he is always trying to tell his side of the story, largely blaming his inability to move out on the distraction his custody battle has caused.

2. Rotondo is a convicted stalker.

While Rotondo freely admitted that he was arrested in 2009 for stalking and harassing a woman in New Hartford, NY, he claims it was just a trumped-up charge and suggests that simply looking at the woman’s text messages would’ve cleared up the situation.

He later pled guilty to a lesser charge of trespassing and harassment and was fined $1,375. It doesn’t seem right giving the spotlight to someone convicted of harassment, but perhaps anything goes in America following the presidential spirit of “grab’em by the pussy.

3. Rotondo is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who owns a rifle.

Rotondo confirmed that he was diagnosed, but denies the credibility of the diagnosis. He told The Daily Mail that he thinks his doctor was just trying to keep his job. Rotondo also blames the perceived misdiagnosis on his habit of frequently running his hand through his hair, a habit he says is normal to anyone with long hair. He also admits that he tends to frequently pace.

Worryingly, Rotondo stated that he owns a compound bow for hunting and a lever action .30 – 30 rifle for self-protection.

He strongly believes in his and other’s American responsibility to own a firearm. The mother of Rotondo’s son, with whom Rotondo is engaging in a custody battle with, said in a Daily Mail interview that she is afraid for Rotondo’s sanity and for her own safety, especially after the eviction. She has begged the police to take Rotondo’s rifle away, but they found no reason to do so.

If we take Rotondo’s schizophrenia diagnosis seriously, the reality show will be sick on multiple levels. On one level, if, and when, he exhibits symptoms of schizophrenia during his live-stream, audiences may falsely interpret them as part of the show. Viewers may laugh at him, instead of treating his illness seriously and respectfully. Also, someone who is potentially unstable and owns a dangerous weapon shouldn’t be a source of entertainment, period.

4. It’s becoming a smear campaign against millennials.

Everyone is familiar with the millennial stereotype. It is hard to look at Michael Rotondo and say: “here is a hardworking model of a young man.” He is really the perfect representation of the damaging stereotype: a lazy, entitled individual.

However, he only represents the stereotype and isn’t the exemplification of millions of people. Most articles regarding the infamous 30-year-old, mention the word “millennial” somewhere in the piece, if not boasted in the headline.

CamSoda’s offer is simply an extension of the entitled millennial hype created by the media. Rotondo’s many problems can’t be explained away by the time period he was born into, but rather is likely an accumulation of much more complex factors.

News outlets have often been accused of reproducing stereotypes. In the case of millennials being ousted as lazy or entitled can be more or less harmless, depending on who you ask, because every generation has had problems with the generation that followed. With the media’s checkered history, particularly when it comes to portraying African-Americans as criminals, the stereotype begins to look more sinister.

Although we don’t see explicit propaganda on the news, repeated association achieves the same effect. This kind of journalism doesn’t care if it results in the public viewing millennials as a bunch of Rotondo’s. This kind of material sells, and they of course — that’s the bottom line for many news sources today.

Vanessa Chen, Franklin and Marshall College

Writer Profile

Vanessa Chen

Franklin and Marshall College
Creative Writing

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