There’s nothing that I love more than Monday nights, where my ritual consists of cozying up with a tub of ice cream and watching The Bachelor, effectively silencing the world around me. Watching reality TV requires little to no brain power, something I crave after a long day.
It took the course “Romance in the Media” with Dr. Krystal Cleary for me to realize that watching The Bachelor not only silenced the world around me, but it also silenced my values and all that I stand for. In each episode of The Bachelor, everything that falls outside of ‘the norm’ is neglected. Here are a few things that, from an intersectional feminist lens, make The Bachelor cringier than it already is.
Women are depicted as overly-emotional and become healed only in the comfort of a man.
Historically, women have been seen as hysterical and unable to control our emotions, which has led to flawed stereotypes. On The Bachelor, the woman is constantly shown as unable to catch her breath because her emotions become uncontrollable, which in turn, leads to the Bachelor comforting and holding her. The tears seem to fade when she gets time with the lead, enforcing the stereotype that women need a man’s love to feel safe and happy, and in this context, to literally be able to breathe.
Women must suffer in order to find their happily ever after.
Feminist Roxanne Gay, who is also both a lover and hater of the show, compares women’s suffering in fairy tales to their suffering on The Bachelor. She explains in a New York Times opinion piece that in both scenarios, “a woman’s suffering is demanded in exchange for true love and happily ever after.” The women face extreme amounts of hate and backlash on social media, while it seems the Bachelor is always glorified for his dreaminess and sexiness.
There is a serious lack of racial diversity.
It is clear that a majority of the contestants on The Bachelor are white. Oftentimes, there are a couple women of color, but they rarely end up making it past the first couple rounds. This enforces the stereotype that only white people are deserving of the dreamy Bachelor’s love. Women of color have a chance, but priority camera time and the Bachelor’s attention seem to be predominately placed on those who are white.
It promotes unrealistic ideas about physical appearance.
On The Bachelor, women are typically wearing the hottest outfits, have long, shiny hair, and are slim yet toned. They typically have large breasts with little to no fat on any other body part. This depiction promotes the idea that in order to be deserving of love, you must fit a certain body type that for a majority of the world is unattainable. Contestants and the Bachelor do not know each other well, creating the concept of rejection or acceptance of women based primarily on physical appearance.
It fails to consider that sexualities, other than heterosexuality, exist.
The Bachelor in its very nature exclusively promotes heterosexuality. It encourages the exploration of love amongst men and women only. Although a lesbian couple appeared on the summer spin-off show Bachelor in Paradise, the relationship appeared inauthentic and manufactured. The main Bachelor program gives no room for contestants to explore their sexual identities, and to my knowledge, has never had any openly LGBTQ+ contestants (Demi of Colton’s season came out as bisexual after her stint on The Bachelor). It would be interesting to see a season where two of the contestants end up pursuing one another to send a more powerful message to viewers.
As a feminist and someone who wants to see everyone portrayed realistically and positively in the meida, I’m somewhat disappointed that I didn’t catch on to some of these tropes and stereotypes on one of my favorite shows earlier. I still watch The Bachelor, and by the end of each episode I’m biting my nails to see who Peter chooses next. But now, I’m sure to bring my feminist glasses along with my tub of ice cream to the watch party. I ask questions like: Why did the producer incorporate this scene that portrayed the girls’ relationships in that light? Why does the camera zoom in on her like that? If I were in charge here, what would I do differently? Instead of letting it silence my values and my feminism, I allow it to enlighten it, by watching critically and cautiously.
Cover Photo: Bianca Falanga