When I was probably in fourth grade, the very first season of "The Bachelor" came out and I remember watching each weekly episode with my mom, anxiously anticipating what might happen next. As a fourth grader, it was all very exciting- the dates, the glamor, the handsome man.
Then came "The Bachelorette" and I was so excited because Trista, the runner-up, ended up marrying Ryan, a sexy fireman. I always had my predictions on how the show would end. The Bachelor would always choose some gorgeous lady who may not necessarily be a good fit for him, but they would probably have copious amounts of hot sex (whoops, was I not supposed to say that?). However, ever since Trista, I've believed the Bachelorettes are there for different reasons. Trista and Ryan are still married and have kids now. I remember watching their wedding (on tv) as a little girl and just being in total awe of the beauty of it all.
And that's where the media gets ya.
I'm a media major, so I know how this goes down. I also have a Gender & Women's Studies certificate, the equivalent of a minor, and apart from throwing my degrees in your face, I'm a proud feminist. However, when getting down to brass tacks, I enjoy the franchise but I have a lot of problems with it.
The first is that I stopped watching the show for several reasons, but mainly because it portrayed love as a very materialistic concept and that's a huge lie. It felt like all of the relationships built on the franchise ended up failing miserably. I also never liked the idea of perpetuating the notion that love is inevitable by going on a rock climbing date followed by a private jet flight to Paris to nosh on baguettes at the Eiffel Tower. Love is hard work. I saw in several of the chosen bachelors that they were still in their "bro" modes. Maybe they wanted to be in a committed relationship, but at the end of the day, they were surrounded by beautiful ladies who were almost desperately wanting to get married. That in itself isn't setting up a person to find a good match- that's an orgy waiting to happen.
So my second problem with the show is a constant reliance on feeding off of women's fear of not being married. This is very much a cultural thing, where women (and men) feel like they need to get married by a certain age. You graduate college, maybe establish a career and then you get married. It's like a mathematical equation and if for some reason you can't add up those numbers, something feels off. Societal notions force people to feel inadequate and at the end of the day, all we need is some love.
When you take away the fancy dates and hot guy, you have women in their late 20s and early 30s, pouring their hearts out to America because they are scared shitless that they'll end up alone. They are literally bawling into the camera. That is a terrible thing to monopolize on.
My third problem with the franchise is the unrealistic fantasy and dramatic scripts that infiltrate every episode. I know, it makes for good tv, but teaches young girls that to get a guy, it should be a competition. You know what I learned while growing up and being Miz Independent in college? If he doesn't want you, he can watch you walk out the door. He's not worth your time. I remember one of the first days of college, my dad said to me, that if a guy likes you he will go out of his way to make sure you know that. It's totally true. How can The Bachelor do that if he has to "go out of his way" to show 15 other ladies that he may or may not have feelings for them? A relationship is a personal, intimate matter that involves two partners working together. I see several of these relationships falling apart because the show isn't created on building a relationship. It creates a fantasy. It also creates a really awful dynamic between the women living in the house. This mentality that I must "fight for my man" is a constant theme. That's not how a healthy relationship is built.
Sean, the newest Bachelor, seems like a great guy. The personality he exudes, and the many bloggers who watch the show, encouraged me to try out this season. I stopped watching a long time ago because the show's content was very surface level and I was tired of it. Regardless, I started watching again. I actually think he is there for the right reasons, which is refreshing to witness. However, the show is still as tasteless as ever.
I know I have a privileged perspective in writing this post. I'm 23, married, and have a career and college degree. My perspective is one that many of these women on the show continually talk about. Watching the individual perspective clips was often heartbreaking. A cruise ship entertainer performed a song for Sean as her way to stand out and when she was sent home on the first night, she felt absolutely ridiculous. Her she was, putting herself out there to find a husband, and she leaves feeling rejected and worthless.
The most recent episode featured a young woman with the most brilliant smile and who had been yearning for a one-on-one date with Sean for the past couple of weeks. She got the date, but if you're a fan of the franchise, the "pretty woman" dates often lead to a huge bout of rejection. She was taken shopping, given earrings, and the full on works for Sean's version of the "most romantic" date he could think of. To put things in perspective, his past one-on-one dates were more like challenges for the women. Almost like, "if you conquer your fear- you will earn my love via this rose." So her date did not fit this norm whatsoever. Instead, at the end of the night Sean told her that he wasn't feeling it. Now Sean wanted to feel something for her but going into the date he knew he really wasn't sure if there was something even there. This is the part that truly bothers me. Instead of taking her on a date that would build up her confidence in an empowering way, he chose to spoil her in superficial terms to let her down easy. It sends the message that this woman could be bought and that he could make things better by saying, "I don't want to be your husband, but hey, here are some earrings."
She was devastated.
As addicting as the show can be, it sends really poor messages out to young women. I often think about what it was like to live in a wonderful sorority house and having sisters wish that they could meet great guys. I have witnessed countless heartbreaks and ladies asking "what did I do wrong" and "why me," but there are a multitude of reasons and excuses why things don't work out. Finding the right life partner isn't going to be a beach volleyball match where the winning girl gets to spend more time with the guy. Finding your partner involves conversation, connection, and genuine interest. It involves leaving yourself vulnerable for another person and trusting that they won't hurt you. It is about honesty and openness. These are concepts that the show frequently brings up in conversations, but are rarely ever displayed.
Thanks for reading this post and if you have any thoughts on it, I'd love to hear!