[31 March 2011]
On this season of The Bachelor, Brad Womack is looking for love—again. In 2007, Brad was also ‘the bachelor’ but rejected both of the women he chose as finalists. In the four intervening years, he apparently conquered his fear of commitment and is now ready to find a wife. What is surprising about this is not that he’s back on the show, but that this show continues to come back. The Bachelor does little more than advance silly notions about single women and their approach to relationships.
The Bachelor gives us roses and dinners by candlelight. This season, Brad says thing like: “You can talk to me about anything” to one bachelorette, while later, he makes out with another. If I could talk to Brad about anything, I would ask him why he thinks his attempt at fame, I mean love, is going to be successful this time around. But most of my deep and meaningful discussions (and Brad has a lot of these) would be reserved for the women who compete for the attention and ring finger of a man they just met.
I think it’s obvious that most of The Bachelor’s contestants are really only interested in their 15-minutes of fame, but let’s pretend that they’re looking for Mr. Right and decided that televised rejection was a good life choice. So how do they capture the attention of a man when the pursuit is more a strategic game plan to distinguish themselves from 30 others, than a natural one on one discovery? They could be a little sluttier than the competition but you know what they say about the cow and the milk. Or, they could do the opposite and go for the hard to get approach. This might work if they didn’t have to make an impression in time-managed and limited social interactions.
With neither plan a good option, the bachelorettes are left with the pressure of having to both see and live with the competition in a sort of Mean Girls meets Big Love scenario. This often leads to random emotional outbursts that promote the idea that single women are desperate and unstable.
The show’s ‘love as competition’ structure also creates ridiculous stereotypes as the women are forced into a game of dating death match. With little variation from season to season, there’s: 1) The crazy one who declares that she is IN LOVE after speaking to the bachelor for three and a half minutes. 2) The eye candy who has physical attraction all sewed up, but not much else. 3) The master manipulator whose false performance is sometimes discovered. 4) The heroine who hugs her sister-competitors when the bachelor breaks their hearts and is always ‘falling for him’ but maintains her dignity. All these roles are dismal ones that sadly, the bachelorettes seem only too willing to cast themselves in and viewers seem only too eager to watch.