This blog is part one of a three-post series on love in honor of Valentines Day Weekend.
We all have our guilty pleasures on television. Mine is The Bachelor. Let’s face it. This show and all of the franchise spin-offs are total train-wrecks. We should totally look away from them (probably for good), but we just can’t seem to. At least I can’t. Just like the title of this post suggests, I can’t stop, won’t stop.
But… maybe I should?
While I faithfully spend Monday nights curled up on my grandparents’ couch (Colby and I went rouge and opted for no cable or satellite), I am sometimes embarrassed to admit that I watch this ABC reality television show. For a long time, I could not pin-point why. After all, the show emphasizes fashion and traveling, two of my favorite things, and includes a back-splash of love that evokes similar warm fuzzies as most romantic comedies. It was not until stumbling upon Bachelor alumna, Sharleen Joynt’s blog All the Pretty Pandas that I finially figured out why I am a bit discomfited that I patronize this show.
On Sharleen’s recap of Bachelor 19’s episode four, she recounts this conversation she had with her fiancé:
Me: (to my boyfriend, Andy) “Do you ever see me so feministic as when I watch this show?”
Andy: (who’s a sport for watching) “Well, it’s hard not to be. This show takes women back about 50, 60 years.”
Wow. A more accurate description of this show could not have been stated. And as a feminist to my core, I cannot believe I did not realize sooner that the blatant issues of gender inequality that plague this ABC empire (in addition to the obvious diversity problem the show has) are what has vexed me since I started watching a few years ago.
Since we all know that I am a fan of lists, allow me to give you my top 5 reasons that I feel like this franchise, particularly The Bachelor itself, takes women back to the U.S. 1950s, just like Sharleen’s fiancé suggested.
- ABC’s editing makes sure to accentuate every negative stereotype about women.
Naggy. Needy. Jealous. Materialistic. Insane.
We have seen all of these negative stereotypes illuminated fully on national television. Every season, The Bachelor quickly becomes the archetypal tale of “good versus evil,” with a few select contestants becoming the season’s villains. While I admit that I almost always get into the game of hating on the villains, I always wonder if the hatred is warranted. A prime example of this situation is Kelsey from this season. For those who do not watch the show or have not kept up this year, here’s the rundown: Kelsey is a widowed guidance counselor. She lost her husband to unexpected heart failure.
After she shared her story with Chris, which many of the other women believe was highly-calculated move, ABC captured this interview.
Yes. She does seem insane, certifiably, just like the subjects of many of the case studies she must have read in graduate school. However, I cannot help but question if ABC took this segment completely out of context and then added some horror music to scare the wits out of all of us. She was never my favorite to win this season and I have joined in with banter online, but I do feel a bit sorry for Kelsey. I would love to hear her side of the story, and not in a staged TV setting. In the real world, I do not think she would strike me as an axe murderer.
In the meantime, ABC, why not showcase more positive attributes of the girls you cast? Give the young women who watch your show someone to actually look up to and want to emulate. Lesley Murphy from Bachelor 17 is who we should be seeing more of.
- The Bachelor promotes the old adage of “nail-and-bail.”
I suppose that women who sign up to date America’s Bachelor are aware of the fantasy suites and all that they imply, but I have always had a serious problem with the whole concept. With the exception of Sean Lowe, physical intimacy with the Bachelor is almost always implied, and then the show’s lead sends two of the three contestants home only days later. When in the real world would this scenario ever be ok?
Many may counter what I am saying by bringing up the reality that The Bachelorette and other spin-offs like Bachelor in Paradise also feature overnight dates, and to that I say touché. However, let me remind you of how unfairly Andi Dorfman was called out about the fantasy suite (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/29/bachelorette-andi-dorfman-nick-viall_n_5631543.html). At least part of America demonized her for something that should have been kept private, while it seems like all of the franchise’s male leads get a free pass for what goes on behind closed doors. Let’s move on from this double standard before I throw up in my mouth. Oops, too late!
- The show has an obvious diversity problem.
I spoke about this a bit earlier, but I feel like The Bachelor has virtually no cultural diversity minus Sean Lowe’s season when we saw contestants like Robyn Howard advance pretty far, and Filipina Catherine Guidici actually won the Bachelor’s heart. However, Sean’s season was the exception, and it still was not in any way representative of the women who make up the United States. I would feel a lot better about watching if ABC would cast more women of color.
- The show creates a divide between women.
One of the biggest reasons why the U.S. has not achieved the gender equality of other countries in the world is that women are often caught up in divides among each other. A phenomenon called “slut-shaming” epitomizes this concept. If you have not heard of the term, Google it! The Bachelor is just another paradigm that shows us exactly the opposite of what women should be doing for the greater good of our sex.
Inevitably, when the show airs each season, we have several private interviews of the girls bashing each other, only for the segment to be spliced with another in which they all act like best friends. I would be interested to know what gets more air time: the women with the Bachelor, or the women being catty toward each other.
I know it is a competition for love. I get it. But why can’t ABC do sooooommmmmeeeeettttthhhhhiiiinnnnngggg to help the women empower each other? We have seen a few instances of this, and it is heartwarming. On this year’s season, we saw Kaitlyn being really supportive of fellow contestant, Carly, during a group date. She said something along the lines of, “I was in love for them,” after Carly wrote and performed a song for Chris. And, who can forget the Catley love between Catherine Guidici and Lesley Murphy? I will be forever obsessed with them and their friendship. It seems that Sean Lowe’s season of The Bachelor was an exception in more ways than one! I’d like to see more comradery between women on the show, because that would be a positive image for all of the show’s young viewers. It is not that I do not believe these kinds of bonds are really that rare; ABC is just wonderful about editing them out.
And my number one reason? Drum roll please…
- The show is one of the most misogynistic I have ever seen.
Chris Soules asks the girls to race tractors in bikinis. Juan Pablo asks some of them to pose for pictures while scantily-dressed or not dressed at all (I do not care if it was for charity; this date was not ok). The list goes on. I am sick of these dates. The make my stomach churn when I see them, because they are probably the most regressive aspect of this show.
This will never ever ever ever ever be ok!
I know that a huge part of this show is physical intimacy. I get it. However, I do not believe that watching multiple women ride tractors in swimwear or posing for pictures with half-dressed (or less) with multiple women would help the Bachelor make any progress with individual intimacy with any of the women. All dates like these do are make the contestants seem like trophy wives in training. If I had wanted to watch The Stepford Wives, I would have just turned on Netflix. Sorry not sorry.
Almost all of the girls cast on this show have substance. They pursued higher education. They have successful careers. Many have traveled. They are entrepreneurs, educators, professionals. There is plenty to make up for the lost air time if ABC ever decides to focus on the more important elements of women than their physique.
So there you have it. I love it, but I hate it. As I watch this show, I always have to force myself to think of it as a fictional entity. I can dislike certain women on the show while I root for others, but I view them as characters. I always keep in mind that I will never know any of them personally, and I have no right to either love them or hate them in real life based on what little I see. In the coming years, I would like to see ABC use the show to create an image that society would want to imitate. Or, in the very least, I would like to see ABC create a show that is realistic for America 2015.
Obviously, I would not have fared well in the American 1950s. If I have to keep watching our nation rehash history every Monday night, I may not be a Bachelor fan much longer.