I have a confession to make. For the past who knows how many years of my life, I've had an on and off fling with the popular show "The Bachelor." I used to really enjoy it. After all, it's mighty entertaining to see hearts get broken on primetime television. I used to love watching all of the awkward dates, laughing as The One Everyone Hates got sent home, and seeing the one girl that I liked actually get the guy. It was a fun little trip for me, a guilty pleasure.
But I guess you could say that the honeymoon period for "The Bachelor" and I has long since passed and it's time to physically divorce myself from the show and everything it promotes. This time, I'm asking you to do the same thing.
On the surface, "The Bachelor" is a show about finding true love and happily ever afters. Girl meets boy, they kiss, they fall in love, and they marry, right? Isn't true love a good message in this war-torn world of high divorce rates and rampant singleness? You might ask.
Not the "true love" ABC would love for us to gobble up.
At the risk of sounding extremely over-dramatic, I would argue that "The Bachelor" is the most unrealistic "reality" television show to date that not only exploits female insecurity, but advocates shallow, uncommitted relationships, somehow manages to both glorify and condemn hyper-sexuality, and completely strips marriage and family of any sanctity. And that's the nicest thing I have to say about it.
The more we fawn over the show, the more we normalize it, and the more we normalize it, the more we mold our relationships to fit what it idealizes. That, as I'm about to express, is a very bad thing, and if you're a grown woman who wants the best relationships possible for your daughters, you should probably not be allowing this show to play in your home. It's your judgment call, but that's mine.
Here are five very good reasons I think that you and "The Bachelor" should call it quits:
1. "The Bachelor" warps sexuality and how we should think about it.
From the get-go, "The Bachelor" tries to dictate what sexuality is and whether or not it's okay. When you watch the show, you're immediately drawn to the dresses and the personalities of the women. You mentally itemize them--she's pretty enough, she's too weird, she's annoying--and then, if you're like me when I watched the show, you pick out the girls you immediately know you'll hate. Those girls are the promiscuous ones, the ones who flaunt their bodies and do everything they possibly can to be physical with the Bachelor. They're the ones who are extremely sexual.
We all hate them, right? Why? Because they seem to get whatever they want and are not truly there for love. The producers know we hate this, or they wouldn't cast them in such negative light in all of the previews and interview the other girls who have a bone to pick with them. The message the show likes to pretend it sends is: "This show is all about finding true love, not sex."
That would be all fine and dandy if it weren't for the fact that "the fantasy suite" exists. This is where ABC's attempts to glorify true love completely fall apart.
The "fantasy suite" is essentially an overnight date. It's displayed as a reward for the girls who get far enough in the show. Like a magic wand has descended upon the set of "The Bachelor," the arrival of the fantasy suite seems to send the message, "Sexuality is okay now. You can be as sexual as you want. In fact, it would be really embarrassing if you weren't at this point." Not only is the hypocrisy of ABC overflowing at this point, but the message it's sending to young girls is horrifying.
"The Bachelor" treats sex like a reward rather than an expression of love between two people. Hollywood and the world would love to convince us that we only know we love someone if we are intimate with them, but the truth is that being intimate with another person should be evidence that they are already loved. More than anyone. Sex between multiple people outside of marriage, from my perspective, is an act driven by selfishness, completely free of commitment. That's why I hate this portion of the show. It mocks the model of the chaste journey to a monogamous marriage by treating sex like a Hunger Games parachute, a little silver key slipping into the arena as an incentive, a "you've gotten this far, you deserve it" reward. And, disgustingly, it's handed out to multiple girls at the same time. The emotional trauma that causes is apparent afterward when one or another of them is in tears over it. If a boyfriend were to sleep with multiple girls outside of a TV show, he would be ripped to shreds for cheating. But television somehow seems to make it okay, and maybe, if we keep supporting shows like that, we'll find that kind of behavior okay in real life, when it absolutely is not.
2. "The Bachelor" makes family the bad guy.
We've all seen the teaser trailers. Desiree takes Shawn home, but her family causes problems! Dun, dun, dun. Cue legitimately concerned brother. Cue father who wants the best for his daughter. Cue mother who can see what no one else seems to see: the show is manipulating her daughter into thinking she's the one the Bachelor loves when there are two others.
This show, which likes to pretend that it's all about families and marriages paints a very negative image of the very families who should have a say in their child's life. The families see through the show like it's glass because they are the ones with a child who might be hurt by it.
Every Bachelor episode I've ever seen where the family is not so welcoming has been advertised like it's Romeo and Juliet or any other silly chick flick where the parents hate the fiance. The biggest difference is that there are typically not three other girls in a relationship with said fiance in those silly chick flicks. Family members, ironically, seem to be the most intelligent people on the show, but because they get in the way of "marital felicity," they are the villains.
"The Bachelor" sends the message loud and clear that you should love whoever you want, completely rebelling against your family's concerns, completely disregarding your mother's gut feeling or your dad's inability to get along with him. The truth is that though your choice of a significant other is yours and yours alone to make, your family is an important part of that equation. Real life relationships teach you to respect their discretion and use your own. "The Bachelor" teaches you that discretion is the enemy of happiness.
3. "The Bachelor" advocates uncommitted relationships.
I one time knew a girl who was dating two or three guys at the same time because she thought it was okay. I don't blame that on "The Bachelor," but when you think about it, the show isn't doing anything to prevent situations like that. In fact, it's doing the exact opposite.
One hypocrisy of the show "The Bachelor" is that everyone expects the winning girl and the man to faithfully date and then marry each other at the end. They expect a proposal. They expect happily ever afters. I hate to burst that rose-colored bubble, but the kind of long-term relationship you have is completely dependent on what kind of dating experience you have. If you date multiple women at the same time, telling all of them that you feel strongly for them, you're going to feel tied down in a marriage. That's just how it goes. Seriously dating without commitment sets the stage for marriage without commitment, and what a disastrously unhappy marriage that will be.
Why, I wonder, does ABC keep forcing fidelity and the idea of soul mates onto this show when there is no place for the two of those things? More importantly, can we as viewers truly care about happily ever afters and true love while simultaneously taking pleasure from watching a man cheat on live television? This is not Cinderella, nor is it Beauty and the Beast. These are real people with (you would hope) real emotions on a completely unrealistic show that trains them to think that it's okay to date lots of people at the same time. That it's okay to not commit. How can you commit when your emotions are going ten different ways?
"The Bachelor" demands a committed relationship from people who have not prepared properly for it. In so doing, it insults fidelity and the very thing it sets out to advocate: love.
4. "The Bachelor" is emotional torture.
"The Bachelor" does an excellent job of convincing women that they are loved, when in reality, they're just being strung along until inevitable heartbreak. It causes them to invest in something and be loyal to someone who does not feel the same or commit in the same way. In that way, the show is incredibly painful for me to watch. I know how badly they'll be hurt, I know how it will feel when they get sent home. They don't even see it because to see it is to distrust the relationship, and to distrust the relationship is to destroy everything.
Lots of people like to think, "Well, this is what they signed up for." Maybe it is, but it's so painful to go through and to watch. Imagine going through that simply to entertain the general public. "The Bachelor" is emotional manipulation at its finest, and we're kind of sick to enjoy watching it.
(Also: are we as women really going to criticize and laugh at the girl on TV who acts like a complete jerk when we know full well that if we lived in a house full of other women dating the same person, we would be complete jerks, too?)
5. "The Bachelor" degrades marriage.
If it hasn't been reiterated enough times, here's one more for you: "The Bachelor" prepares no one for marriage, and by forcing marriage onto the same people it has confused and manipulated, it is insulting the whole institution.
Marriage isn't something you compete for, nor is it something you do to please other people. Marriage isn't prepared for by dating lots of people at the same time, putting on a TV face as you date, or doing extravagant things in beautiful places. That is not how you prepare for marriage. You prepare by doing hard things, like dating one person at a time and communicating with them and seeing if it goes anywhere. You prepare by doing simple things, like complimenting people and serving them, not jumping down their throats or back-biting. You prepare by being your best, even when there aren't cameras demanding that you have to be.
Marriage and commitment and felicity are everything that this show DOES NOT promote. You don't "put a ring on it" because you "like it." You put your trust and your faith and your love in another person because you love them. It isn't just because you love them more than everyone else, either. It's because you know them and you understand them and they make you a better person.
That is what prepares you for marriage. That is the kind of attitude you need to have going into it.
Some of you reading this are happily married or in a happy relationship, and if you watch this show, you're probably thinking, "Wow, Ari. Way to waste your time on us. It's just a bit of fun. It's just a TV show."
In a world where kids play violent video games and then go homicidal in schools, in a world where young girls seek out BDSM and sugar daddies, as normalized by books like 50 Shades of Grey, and in a world where I'm less likely to go to the beach after seeing a meteorologist on TV point out rain, I think we're safer to say, "Exactly. It is a popular TV show. Let's make sure it's teaching us the truth."
What's "fun" to you is an example to someone else, and the last thing we need is a nation full of relationships like the ones glorified on "The Bachelor."