Certain shows celebrate realness…not reality TV and it’s manufactured drama, but the complex nature of the human spirit; the highs and the lows, the secret single behavior (thank you Sex and the City), and the quiet theme songs we all hum to get us through our days (thank you Ally McBeal). The Bachelor is not one of those shows.
A couple of dozen women are somehow able to take extended vacations from work to dress up, and vie with each other for the attentions of a well-to-do man. The women are picked by The Bachelor show with some attention to type; the producers always give the audience a few “good” women to feel sorry for and root for (a widowed single mom, a nurse who had to raise her younger siblings after her mom died, etc), along with casting a few “bad” women who are only out for the Bachelor’s money, and who exist solely to cause enough drama on the show that they gain notoriety as the “villain” to further their own careers. The Bachelor producers also seem to look for the crazy x-factor women that will cry the requisite number of tears, but have so many meltdowns over so many things that viewers are happy to see them go, and thoroughly entertained right up until they are denied a rose and sent packing.
The way women are portrayed in The Bachelor bothers me; the producers of the show find the most narcissistic and gold-digging people, the clearly mentally unstable, and those with the saddest life stories…and throw them all in a house together to fight it out, like over-made up and under-medicated gladiators, while we watch. Women are portrayed on the Bachelor as either only out for money, crazy, or victims…and all women are shown as catty and willing backstabbers when there’s a man involved. Any negative stereotype you have ever heard about women, will show up at some point on The Bachelor, brought to life like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, and wearing a prom dress.
Grandma and Ben
Last night’s season premiere of The Bachelor was no different. There’s Ben, the modest but good-looking wine maker with fabulous hair, and a few dozen women, all perfectly typecast. As I settled in on the couch for the first episode of The Bachelor last night, I started to ask myself when people are going to get bored of watching the same plot line play out, season after season. Then one of the female contestants grandmothers showed up…on crutches. Hell yeah! I had visions of Grandma beating the crap out of Ben, or one of the “evil” women, with her crutch. But, no; Grandma got Ben to walk her to the limo, and off into the sunset of the Bachelor show she went, crutches and all. It turns out the producers had a different twist in mind for this season of the Bachelor: THE LESBIANS.
Monica and Blakeley
While this year’s crazy person (Jenna) was having her first melt down, off in a corner of the patio on the Bachelor set were Blakeley and Monica, snuggling on a couch. Monica was literally murmuring in Blakeley’s ear, telling her how beautiful she is, and asking her for her phone number. And bonus, Monica was the one who made Jenna cry, so we not only get a woman who loves women on the show…but a lesbian bully! Before Jenna cried though, she did come up with this as a retort to Monica, “Maybe we can share a tampon sometime.”
And, with that, Jenna took the crown of crazy Bachelor contestant 2012, and planted it firmly on her furrowed little head. Jenna is a blogger and I went into this wanting to like her; now, I’ll just know to avoid her in the bathroom, or local pharmacy…
I confess, I am ashamed that I watch the Bachelor. I’m a 35 year old intelligent woman, a feminist who doesn’t want to be part of perpetuating the stereotypes shown on the Bachelor, and a gay woman who finds nothing attractive about any of the women on the show…including the predatory les-bully of the season, Monica. The woman Ben gave his “first-impression rose” to last night on the Bachelor, Lindzi with a Z, has a cute competence about her, and showing up on a horse gave me hope that maybe she was going to reverse the trend towards the vapid on the show, and act like she was Ben’s knight-in-shining-armor, but I have faith the Bachelor will figure out a way to bring her down to their level at some point this season.
Why do I watch a show whose premise I detest? Because embarrassing pieces of brain candy, like the Bachelor, are my Secret Single Behavior. I relax on the couch with my dog Mattie and a bag of chocolate at my side, and settle in for a night of Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is one of the most wonderfully honest words in any language; it means to take joy in the suffering of others. That sounds like an emotion only the Nazi’s or sociopaths would admit to, but most of comedy is built around it. Chevy Chase’s brilliant impersonation of Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live in the 1970’s consisted of nothing more than coming up with new ways for Ford to fall…down the stairs of Air Force One, or by walking into the Presidential podium, every week America laughed at how uncoordinated Gerald Ford was. And so it is for me and the Bachelor. I watch these women, who aspire to some kind of modern day Stepford wife existence, and I text my friend (the one who I blame for making me watch the Bachelor to begin with). We spend two hours laughing about the people on this show…and my friend has two phones in use; while texting me, she’s on the phone with her grandmother, picking on the cast of the Bachelor in real-time as well.
This reality TV show is not reality at all, but on a cold winters night in a difficult world, who wants reality? I’ll take my Schadenfreude with a side of chocolate and a cuddly puppy please.
Sarah Warden is the author of the novel Three Fifths of Love, available as an ebook from amazon http://www.amazon.com/Three-Fifths-Love-Marriage-ebook/dp/B005EZ3QU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318174116&sr=8-1
Images are from ABC’s The Bachelor. Use of these images does not imply that ABC or The Bachelor endorse the views expressed in this article. Image of Chocolate Fondant from James Martin [http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/hotchocolatefondantw_83381.shtml here]. Image of Mattie the dog courtesy of Mattie Warden:-)