My Beef with the Bachelor
This winter, Ben Higgins graced our TV screens once again in his search for love on ABC’s hit reality show, The Bachelor. As an avid (yet ashamed) Bachelor viewer, I’ve been thinking about everything wrong with this show. From the degrading one-sided relationships, to what is expected of the women on the painfully cheesy dates, there are so many things wrong with this show; and don’t even get me started with the lack of diversity! I could go on and on about all of the problems with the franchise, but what I really want to talk about is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot this season. If so many people (myself included) realize how stupid the Bachelor is, why do they continue to watch it? Why is it so entertaining for us to watch 20 something different women battle it out for one guy’s love?
My first theory is what I like to call the Hunger Games theory. It’s my hunch that the Bachelor is some sick and twisted emotional fight to the death whether we realize it or not. These women go on the show knowing that the odds may very well not be in their favor, considering the fact that they are competing against 20 some other “perfect” women. Just like the citizens of the Capitol of Panem find entertainment in the Hunger Games contestants’ physical pain, as the audience, we find joy in the Bachelor contestants’ emotional distress. That’s a huge problem. Why is it entertaining to watch women have their hearts broken? Why do we hate the one girl who is never in love enough with the Bachelor? Why do we roll our eyes at the women who are too in love and too vulnerable? I mean seriously, these women cannot win (that is unless they are the one woman who wins the show)!
My second theory is what I like to call the Wife Mold theory. Most of the contestants, and all the contestants that actually go far on the show, are women who fit ABC’s ideal cookie cutter mold for a wife; they’re all ridiculously gorgeous women who are usually Caucasian, looking to get engaged, and will do anything for the bachelor, including giving up successful careers to go live on a farm in Iowa (shout out to everyone on Chris Soules’s season). If the contestants are gutsy enough to even somewhat challenge ABC’s rules, they will soon find themselves being told by host Chris Harrison to “pack your bags” and “say your final goodbyes.” For example, this season, African American contestant, Jubilee, was hesitant to play into the Bachelor’s degrading nature. In one episode, Jubilee called Higgins out during a group date at a Spanish lesson, essentially telling him that he was just saying sweet nothings in Spanish because after all, he said the same “loving” phrases to all the other girls. The other women were in shock. One of the contestants, Lauren H., told Higgins that she felt Jubilee wouldn’t be able to hang out with “all the other soccer moms,” insinuating that Jubilee was not the “ideal” wife. We entertain this mold that ABC creates because we find it so enticing. We enjoy not only the unrealistic “perfection” of it, but also the drama it creates among the women, which ties back into my Hunger Games theory.
Trust me, I know that reality TV is addicting. And I’m not saying that we have to necessarily give it up. Sometimes it’s healthy to let our brains take a break while they fry in front of the TV, but I think it’s about time that we have more conversations about the serious issues with shows like the Bachelor. It’s not okay to just tolerate this injustice and sexism. We can spark reality TV revolutions if we acknowledge these issues. We can use shows like the Bachelor to discuss important topics like inequality and sexism. Instead of watching these shows for their entertainment value, we should watch them as an example of what not to do. We should use these shows as models of the issues that reside within our society, then work to solve and conquer them. As a culture that is so plagued with reality TV, it is up to us to accept its existence, but not its nature.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Bickel, Ariela. "My Beef with the Bachelor." 23 March 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 23, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/my-beef-with-bachelor>.