How to Cope with Loving ‘The Bachelor’
Today is the day that The Bachelor finally returns to our screens. By now you have handled all your difficult conversations. Your feminist book club has agreed that a supplementary viewing party should be held prior to your discussion on Roxanne Gay’s Hunger. You have explained, with some indignation, to your partner that The Bachelor is in fact completely logical follow on viewing from the 11 hours of The Handmaid’s Tale you made them sit through. You’ve even justified and excused your own incredible excitement to yourself. But something still isn’t sitting quite right, is it?
That’s because, in truth, The Bachelor is the worst. There is no way around it. The show perpetuates and ingrains horrible stereotypes and narratives about women. It proliferates the idea that women are half-human until deemed worthy by a man. That everything in our life is disposable, if the right man comes along. That women will not hesitate to tear each other down for the attention of a man (and that other women love watching it). Basically, The Bachelor suggests that all women are hysterical, senseless messes. Not to mention, #TheBachelorSoWhite. And I mean so white. The producers didn’t even try to look like they cared this season. See Exhibit A:
It might comfort you to know that research has shown a majority of the women who watch The Bachelor, do not take it seriously. That’s right, we know that no one on this show is truly falling in love (with the exception of Sam and Snez). We know the drama on the show is the result of a whole lot of external meddling, and creative direction. We know that half an hour lapsed between the catty comment and the consequential tears we are being sold. But we don’t care, because it’s entertaining to watch. And more than that, it’s entertaining to talk about (Jo Thorley’s hilarious recaps are a great example of this).
The thing is it is entirely possible and permissible to enjoy toxic, horrible television. But you shouldn’t try to excuse it either. The Bachelor is like a donut. Just enjoy your fucking donut and stop trying to convince everyone it’s a carrot. Acknowledge that what you are doing probably isn’t the best thing, and try to mitigate it, not justify it. You are a feminist now. Gone are the days of your mindless television consumption. Women like yourself know that enlightenment comes from critical media consumption. Get your twitter fingers ready, and look out for some of the things below. Because girls we are going to have a lot to talk about over the next few months.
According to an interview with Elle magazine, Matty J suggests that the producers did a great job at casting the show. He told the producers that he was looking for someone who “enjoyed the outdoors,” someone “intelligent and confident,” someone “ambitious,” and of course someone with a “great sense of humour”. Take a look at Exhibit A again. That qualities outlined above, those desired by Matty J, are not exclusive to white women. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at the cast. Shout out to all the outdoorsy, intelligent, confident, funny women of colour. I want you on my TV, girl! As we consume The Bachelor, we are tacitly supporting this harmful lack of representation. We are supporting the idea that only women who look like the ones we see on our screen deserve a shot at love. That’s pretty shit. Don’t let the show slide on this. It wasn’t an oversight, it was a choice.
Even the all skinny flat white cast have it tough. If you think they are being themselves on screen. Think again. They are being whomever they have been cast to be by the show-runners. From episode one, those working behind the scenes have an idea of how they want certain girls to come across. No matter what these girls do, it is rare for girls to be able to transition out of their given role. This happens a little more toward the end, but usually not in a good way. Think of Sam Wood’s season: So many girls transformed from “wifeys” into lesser bachie archetypes. Emily went from wifey to snob. Heather went from dark-horse wifey to overly possessive. Sarah went from wifey to frigid. It’s horrible. But if you can identify the casting, you can remove the women one step away from the show. In doing so, you can remind yourself where your criticism should be aimed. Not at the contestants, but at the producers.
I’m Australian and have no idea how sororities work. However, I do remember that in Scream 2, Sarah Michelle Gellar sits in a sorority house by herself because she is the “sober sister” and her job is to be available to assist her intoxicated sisters if the need arises. This concept has stayed with me much longer than Gellar’s character stayed in the movie. Now, you can be a sober sister for the women on The Bachelor by simply keeping in mind (and reminding those around you) how much alcohol these girls are being plied with at cocktail parties. For any super fans out there that also tune in to the American version of the show, you might remember Lace. Alcohol did Lace absolutely no favours, but obviously the drama she created did favours for the show was great for the show. So the producers kept giving her lots and lots of alcohol, and began to paint her as the “crazy” girl.
When the audience clued on to the fact that maybe the producers were being a little negligent by consistently keeping her glass full, she was quickly shafted from the show to “work on herself”. That’s gross. You know that’s gross, I know that’s gross, and we should all be watching out for that kind of grossness when we tune in to this season.
Here’s the thing, Matty J works for a marketing agency. I’m sure he makes pretty good money, but let’s be real, no one makes enough money to consistently pull off the dates we see on The Bachelor. While women are seen as attractive based on how they appear physically, and how well they meet the out-dated ‘wifey’ criteria, Matty will be rated on dates and gifts that he really didn’t have that much to do with. I’m sure he’s a great date, but when we see a girl get whisked away in a helicopter that lands on the moon for a dinner accompanied by the dulcet tones of Ed Sheran, that’s not him. Don’t let those circumstances fool you. Come up with your own criteria and share it.
None of us are strong enough to resist a good bitchy side eye. And yet, I think we all know that it is highly unlikely that the side eye we see is in direct response to the comments we hear. The director is doing their job creating the drama, and we are doing our job eating it up. Before you cast someone as a villain, just remember to QUESTION EVERYTHING.
Subversions the shows narrative is why I am here. Remember Megan and Tiffany? Talk about there for the wrong reasons! Sure there may have been a capitalistic undertones to that relationship, but you have to congratulate these girls on presenting us with the love story we deserved not the one being shoved down our throats. My fingers are crossed for more stories like these. Maybe in the future, with women who aren’t white.
It’s great to enjoy the show, and no-one expects you to be a one-dimensional, infallible feminist at all times. But remember that when you tune in you are telling the network that putting a bunch of white women on a show and making out like they are desperate train-wrecks is what gets and keeps your attention. If you want to see a diverse cast, and complex women navigating real(ish) emotional situations, be critical of the show. Use the tools above and engage with one another. I’ll see you on twitter #TheBachelorAU