As one of ABC’s most successful shows, The Bachelor has been on the air for fourteen years. For just as long, however, this romance-centered program has come under very harsh, very valid criticism. Accused of promoting and perpetuating blatantly sexist themes throughout its time on TV, some might say that a more appropriate name for the show would be something along the lines of Search for the Perfect Housewife.
As early as the first episode of the new season, a number of the women are unknowingly and quite unluckily assigned tropey roles by ABC themselves that they will be stuck with for the rest of their time on the show. Utilizing camera techniques that appeal to the male gaze, the woman of that particular season who has been named “the sexy one”, for example, might later watch her episodes and find that for over half of the footage used of her she is wearing a bikini, and rarely speaking at all. A very similar experience, meaning being portrayed on screen as more of a character than a real woman is had by the women that are titled things like “the stuck up one”, “the mom”, “the party girl”, and “the dumb one”, respectively.
Every week and in each episode, two dates take place. The one-on-one date, during which just one of the twenty-five women is selected to spend a magical evening alone with the bachelor, usually complete with a helicopter ride and a private concert, and a group date, when a large portion of the women are forced to go on an outing that feels more like a school field trip than a date, only with more cameras, crying, competition, and public humiliation. If the women are especially unlucky, there might even be a two-on-one date. This happens about once a season when two women go on the same date, effectively creating a humiliating atmosphere for whichever woman is being treated like the third-wheel. At the end of what is always the most uncomfortable date of the season, only one woman is given a rose, and the other must go home immediately. Televised mortification to this extreme degree is not only disturbing to see but also perpetuates the inconsiderate nature of which this show treats its female contestants.
It would not be difficult to write off The Bachelor as just some reality garbage. Due to it being one of the longest-running reality shows on any network, the shock of the ridiculous premise (one man dating twenty-five women at the same time to hopefully meet and fall in love with his future wife) has worn off, each episode becomes more and more predictable, and all drama is so obviously staged it almost hurts to sit through. Through each group date, catfight, breakdown, scandal, and glass of wine, in the last episode of each season the bachelor is expected to pick one woman to be his wife. But why do they have to get married right then? Can’t they just continue dating like a normal couple until they are positive that they are both ready to take that step? Shouldn’t this happen organically? Those All great questions, all ones that the production team at ABC has never bothered to acknowledge. It is for that reason that a bachelor couple very seldom ever actually makes it down the aisle.
Through all of the criticism and reasonable disapproval of the show by onlookers, The Bachelor remains ABC’s biggest cash cow and longest running reality show. For fourteen seasons, the obvious promotion of countless examples of sexist ideologies have taken a back seat by viewers to utter (maybe slightly morbid) curiosity. The show’s sheer ridiculousness is enough to keep its viewers coming back each season, if only for the helicopter rides and dazzling dresses. This fascination that each new season brings, unfortunately, is still too strong for many to step back and consider the potential problems and unhealthy standards that airing a show like this could plant in its supporters minds.