My lovely friend and sometimes-roommate Emily is a big fan of the popular reality show “The Bachelorette”.
She says she knows how idiotic it is, scoffing, “Well, it’s clearly scripted… but I can’t stop watching it!” She values the show mostly for hate-watching purposes, yet she cannot deny her involvement in what is happening to the people on the show.
I normally try to ignore what is happening on the screen while she watches it, but God bless her theatrical little heart, she has a tendency to gasp and scream aloud whenever someone gets a rose or goes on a date. Eventually, I stopped trying to ignore it and began listening. I agree with Emily that is is, if not completely scripted, then edited to within an inch of its life in order to homogenize its participants and dumb down its star. But I hate the show for other reasons as well.
A basic understanding of the show is not difficult to grasp; one eligible woman (always a reject from the latest season of The Bachelor – problemo Numero Uno), twenty-five eligible men. She chooses individuals or groups to go on dates with over the course of the season, eliminating prospectives along the way, until only two remain. Traditionally, she then picks one to embark on a relationship with, although only two of the eight seasons have so far resulted in an actual marriage.
Group dates, you say? Oh, yes, I do say. But not the kind of group date where you and your friends all hang out with your SOs together. No, these dates are of an altogether creepier ilk: The Bachelorette is escorted on some sort of forced excursion with five or six men, who spend the entire time circling her as though they are hungry sharks and she is a baby dolphin. The sexual threat is palpable. They are not only bigger than her, but there is far more of them. “Come on,” you might argue, “None of them would try anything while there is a camera crew there.” But apparently the presence of the crew has no effect on bad behavior. Men have snuck out in the middle of the night to see the object of their affection, which is strictly against the rules of the show, yet the camera obediently followed them without protest, eager to capture every second of their lustful nighttime prowl. I get the sense that many rules could be broken before anyone would intervene, despite the complete lack of privacy and respect for personal space that the Bachelorette is threatened with.
When the men aren’t treating The Bachelorette like she is a piece of meat, they are treating her like an expensive piece of jewelry. She is obviously an accessory, and the men are locked in a territorial struggle to claim ownership of her as their trophy for being the biggest and baddest lion in the jungle. Each of them seems to think they have the right to her – and what’s more, they think they know what’s best for her. I cringed during an episode where she was taken to each finalist’s hometown to meet their families, and upon the Bachelorette asking what kind of employment opportunities there were in the town, the finalist replied, “Well, you could always be a homemaker.”
Essentially, the show is constructed to objectify the center of its storyline. The men who volunteer as tribute do not get to know the woman they are agreeing to pursue until they get on the show – they only know that she’ll probably be hot. It doesn’t matter what her actual personality is like. All that matters is winning. The show portrays men almost as negatively as it does women in that way, depicting the contestants as witless, uninteresting lumps whose only goal in life is to find a woman to throw over their shoulder and drag into their cave.
If you’re looking for a TV show with a compelling female protagonist, try “Outlander” instead. Still plenty of lust, without any of the disenfranchisement.