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Smell the Roses: The Influence of The Bachelor on Young Relationships

As we approach the holiday season, it won’t be long until The Bachelor returns to television screens on January 2nd. The premise of the show: an eligible and seemingly “perfect” bachelor selects his wife out of twenty-five possible love interests who are trying to catch his attention. In its twenty seasons running, however, only three of these couples are still together, indicating that the success of a relationship does not correlate with good television ratings. Each season is filled with ample bouts of mascara-streamed crying, jealousy-fueled catfights, and the occasional “crazy girl.” Despite its immense entertainment, The Bachelor fails to employ realistic images of women, and a healthy perception of relationships to instill in young girls who view the show.

For starters, The Bachelor portrays women as dramatic, insecure, and jealous. Bachelor contestant and former JMU student, Ashley Iaconetti, represents this ideal as the show amplified her crying outbursts and demonstrations of jealousy. On Bachelor in Paradise, Ashley jealously interferes in a relationship between her two close friends, eventually pushing them to leave the show entirely. Thus, young girls are taught that women are conniving and will project their insecurities on one another when faced with rejection. Similarly, women are frequently shown gossiping and insulting one another.

Here’s a little taste of the drama.

The promotion of catty and jealous stereotypes of women can be harmful for young girls who are trying to form their own identities. The Bachelor fosters destructive relationship behaviors that are merely encouraged for the sake of entertainment.

Showing twenty-five women fight for the attention of one man also establishes harmful precedents for relationships. The Bachelor plays with the societal obsession of finding “The One” and “living happily ever after,” bringing a concept of fiction into reality. The cultural desire for fairytale endings leads to unrealistic expectations and suggests that a woman needs a knight in shining armor to be

“saved,” ignoring her personal strength and agency in situations. It also creates an imbalance, encouraging the man to take the lead in a relationship instead of sharing control with his partner. The show exemplifies this with the rose ceremony, as the Bachelor alone chooses who gets to stay and who gets eliminated.

The Bachelor turns love and romance into one big competition where the winner takes all. It suggests that anything should be done to get that elusive rose. For instance, most seasons utilize a “villain” character, who plots and schemes to get closer to the bachelor while forming enemies along the way. The women tear each other down in brutal fashion, but hey, all’s fair in love and war when there’s a rose on the line. By normalizing fighting and hatred among women, The Bachelor suggests to girls that it is acceptable to mistreat others to get what you want. It implies that the affections of a gentleman are worth more than the solidarity of sisterhood.

Isn’t it a little odd that a show about finding “love” only seems to promote hatred?

Featured image by Tammy McGary on Flickr, CC

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