The Bachelor is stupid, silly, sexist and fake. And I, along with a million other viewers, love it.
Everyone knows the basic concept of The Bachelor, even if they’ve never seen the show: Dozens of hot women throw themselves at some boring white dude, all in the hope of convincing him they’re “the one.” The show treats its contestants in a ridiculous way, forcing them into sexist reality archetypes. One of them is a bitch so cruel and preening she makes Regina George look like Mary Poppins. One is a slut who can only ever hope at a sexual connection with a guy, one is always just a step away from getting a restraining order from the bachelor, and one has suffered unbelievable tragedy and thus is automatically noble and admirable.
This is seriously a show where you can hear a woman go on and on about her dead husband of six years and be forced to cynically wonder who told her that a dead lover is a giant advantage on a reality show and that it would be a great idea to perform your grief out for all of America. Besides the fact that it portrays these girls as whores and crazies, it enforces the unspoken old-fashioned rules like no sex until the bottom three (because then it’s SO much less weird if he’s only sleeping with three girls).
All these women, who are all uniformly thin and beautiful, are just there to compete for the role of wife. There’s no cash or vacation or worldwide recognition at the end of this reality show. Nope, the prize is love. Because all a woman can really aspire to winning is a man. Of course, there’s the reverse-gender take, The Bachelorette, but while you might hope that gives the show a feminist bent, you’re sorely mistaken — take last season’s Kaitlyn, for example. Kaitlyn was surrounded by sexy guys competing for her affection, and like any sane person, made out with a ton of them. While this is normal behavior in real life, it was enough to get slut shamed on the Internet afterward.
My grandma refers to kaitlyn on the bachelorette as "the slut" hahaha
— MICKEYY (@michh_rovv) July 14, 2015
Bachelorette Kaitlyn is a face sucking whore. I get sick of hearing her constant whining. I agreed with what Ian had to say.
— Kim Weatherholt (@300bowler2) June 23, 2015
And don’t get me started on the dumb ass dates they force these women on. In real life, it’s normal to want your significant other to take you on a creative date. You think a cooking class together or going for a hike would be nice. No, The Bachelor’s idea of a good date is making women feed a bunch of pigs in the ocean together. That is an actual date that happened this season. Another time they had to submit to a smell test after working out (in matching outfits, no less). That is not a date, that is a bizarre dictatorship.
So The Bachelor is clearly WTF problematic.
It’s also a smash hit, notching in millions of viewers weekly, despite it having aired for years. It’s one of those shows people actually get together and watch live. What’s the draw if it’s so fucking stupid? I have a hard time finding anyone who watches it truly believes that they’re watching someone really fall in love.
If we’re not watching it for its mission statement, watching people find true love, then why watch?
You could suggest it’s because we love watching trash TV. We love shows like Rock of Love because we love watching train wrecks embarrass themselves on TV and feeling a bit of relief as we know that no matter how embarrassing our last drunken night out or first date was, it was nowhere near as scarring as the behavior we see on these shows.
But despite the stupid dates and the handful of contestants writing, like, poetry about the bachelor after their first meeting with him, a lot of the girls don’t offer much in the way of trainwreck. This isn’t necessarily the perfect show for schadenfreude.
So maybe we’re watching the show for a little bit of both.
We’re watching because it is fun to feel superior. We’re not on a dating show feeding a bunch of baby pigs to prove our romantic worth. It’s fun to laugh at how far these girls will go to win, and fascinating to see what twists the show will throw to prove it’s not an ancient franchise.
But deep down, we’re also watching because we like watching the ritual of courtship play out.
Even if we’re not sure if it’s real and it sure as hell isn’t realistic, it’s still so fun and involving to watch two people fall in love.
We’re all obsessed with love, and no matter how ludicrous or unreal it may be, we enjoy watching it play out.
We are actually, despite our intellectual high horse, watching it for its mission statement: to see people find love. It’s an escape, a fantasy. And for all of its archaic rules and its stupid traditions and implausible contestant behavior, it’s a damn fun fantasy.