Reflections on The Bachelor – Desperation TV

It’s been a while since I posted. Post Fringe Festival lethargy!

But this TV show The Bachelor and the recent uproar! Wow! I don’t watch commercial TV, but “The Bachelor” came on my radar this last two weeks, so I watched the last two episodes. It’s not that I dislike all reality TV, just the non-sensical dating versions.
Apparently, the Honey Badger (seriously, wtf? his name is Nick Cummins) decided not to pick either of the two women the shows twisted process of shortlisting had reduced the pack down to.
Outrage! Some defended him, some defended the women. I’d like to say – let’s not focus solely on the contestants and look at the format as a whole and how it diminishes men and women.

I found myself angry at the rubbish being peddled as journalism. The whole thing is a capitalist neo-liberal wank-fest aimed at diminishing women to good looking brides and diminishing men to muscle bound bread-winners who call all the shots.

The 1950’s I hear you calling and I wish you would sit the fuck down and remember you lost.  Oh! How dare you! I hear some fans say. But hear me out because you don’t have to like the show less because someone else dislikes it (fancy that!).
“But the women are smart and he is successful and…” Blah. Blah. Blah.
Yes, but the entire premise is basically about the idea that women are only handbag like accessories to men and men are supposed to wear all the responsibility and make all the important decisions.

Even “The Bachelorette” is about old toxic ideas of men competing for sexual and/or social access to a woman. Dog eat dog, get the woman at all costs. Men, don’t be vulnerable or real, women be passive and nice even when you choose the men (cause you can’t really be in control because they will have “killed” each other to be front and centre). I am not the first to say this either…

But the offshoot of that is, in the recent Bachelor Nick Cummins, who allegedly told us all to “get over it” (and I agree with him), he decided to “shock” us by not picking anyone.  I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Some commentators were horrified that he defied his duty of objectifying a bunch of women and not culling the herd to just one of beautiful “girls” (for fucks sake they are women) who gave up jobs and lives to be on the show. Whilst there is some part of that resonates because women often are the ones to move to be in relationships, I think they had more agency than that – cause they are successful women in their own right before and after they were on The Bachelor.

Perhaps we should be horrified at something else. The fact that women with successful lives and careers and still in their “prime” physically should by portrayed by the media as not having any choice but to accept him and that somehow he took away that choice. The problem is not them as individuals, I respect their choices to be there. The problem, as I see it, is that this show exists to perpetrate the view that these women are still incomplete without a man and the backlash to no one being “chosen” is proof of that.

Folks, kisses are not contracts.  Remember that? And thank fuck they are not.  I don’t want to go back to the days of being forced to marry someone cause I kissed them or slept with them and the social authorities (as the media sometimes place themselves) deemed it necessary penance for being “sullied” (such bullshit). Fuck that shit.

I need to stress that the “contestants” on these shows do have agency in the perpetration of the networks dumpster fire delusion and that I don’t see them as victims.  I hope they turn it into something worthwhile (which many of them do). But the narrative impact on the masses is worrying. I think someone should do a study on what it does to their lives long term and have contestants reflect back every five years for the next twenty. Now that would be interesting TV! Maybe that would be worthwhile to counter the sexist rubbish the current show format is.
There are no winners here from a media point of view and there should be. Some parts of the media are using this to cling to old century views of rigid gender stereotyping.
The media has infantilised the women as “girls”. Nick should “explain himself to the girls” as though they can’t have an independent thought without a detailed analysis from him. Nick is diminished for not being decisive enough and for not being sure in something that could be predation and for being honest about being “a bit lost”. What crap.
Let’s look at this through a less old fashioned lens:

  • Well done Nick for not putting these two women through any more indecision and being honest and open about your feelings on air to millions of viewers. You are not less of a man because you decided not to stuff them around any further and were uncomfortable with playing with their feelings, despite what the network may or may not have told you to do. If more men walked away when unsure rather than play head of the household power games we would have less women and children being psychologically abused or, worse, dying each week at the hands of their intimate partners because they “can’t let go”. The pressure on men to be in charge is huge and it results in suicides and other toxic behaviours.
  • Well done to Brittany Hockley and Sophie Tieman and the host of other women who put themselves out there. But most importantly bravo that you all have lives to go back to and can make choices to be able to take this time off for a potential extension of your career to TV. How you have agency in the world is a choice and you are what we all fight for, women with choices who could take time off and enter this show. It may be a career move for many of you. Even if I think the show is rubbish, the fact you got in there and were successful before and after the show and have the ability to be mobile professionally to do so is a testimony to your personal agency as women. May you go from strength to strength.

But I do think we should create a whole new channel called DTV (Desperation TV) just for histories sake. So once, these things are history, we can sit and watch them as a glorious guilty pleasures of old.

Like the time we now go to the museum and gasp at the old washing copper boilers and wood fired ovens that we once slaved over by candlelight with six children at our feet.  Cause this is where this patriarchal bullshit belongs.

We can gasp at Desperation TV just for shows like The Bachelor, Farmer Wants a Wife, Paradise Island and The Bachelorette.
We can gasp at when people watched (and often modelled their lives off) the beautiful ones in captive environments like “Ken and Barbie Zoos” preying upon each other in some inane perfection quest to maintain a rigid gender trajectory that doesn’t really exist anyway.
Heteronormative bullshit at it’s best. I do love that Vietnam’s The Bachelor had two female contestants fall in love and it went to air. That is refreshing.
So let’s call this new TV channel – Desperate TV. Not because the individuals in the shows are desperate, but because the existence of these ridiculous and insulting programs is because the old world is hanging desperately on and clinging to the patriarchal life raft that is dating based reality TV.

I hope contestants are well paid – but they are probably not and that is a blog entry for another time…

*By the way, why isn’t The Bachelorette named “The Spinster” (which is the gendered term for older unmarried woman past her “prime”)? Oh…that would mean that it is clear that the entire show is measured against the old-school gender gaze…or symptomatic of the patriarchies desperation to keep women in their proper place. Young (or young looking), pretty, dependent on men for everything and happy to be so. The fact that older, successful, happily single women of all shapes and sizes who are independent in their own right (and queer too) exist would not make good TV according to the reality TV schtick. Sigh.  Can’t wait to shove that shit in a museum.

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