‘The Bachelor’ through the looking glass


As a neophyte regarding reality television, I don’t know why a saccharine-like show like “The Bachelor” has been able to continue as a production concept at ABC television. I have seen a total of five minutes of the show since its launch in 2002, and I had the distinct displeasure recently to note that the cover of the current issue of People Magazine has Colton Underwood and Cassie Randolph on it.

I asked some people who these two crazy kids were with Crest-white smiles and perfect bone structure (Photoshop is wonderful!). I did some deeper research into the semiotic, deconstructionist and/or psychoanalytical whys and wherefores of this cultural phenomenon. Here’s what I found: it’s a bad show with bad acting, lousy storylines and an editing process that makes it impossible to suspend my disbelief. In the real world (not make believe), people don’t act this way. If they do, the human race is doomed.

“The Bachelor” was created and produced by Mike Fleiss and Ken Fuchs. It doesn’t escape anyone’s attention that these are both men, and it’s no accident that there aren’t any women in positions of power in this show because the producers of any television show are the ones who control the flow of money. In the entertainment industry, money equals power. In this ode to the refined Neanderthal, the women are shut out of the decision-making process here.

Right from the get-go, Fleiss and Fuchs are the ones who dictate the arc of each episode’s script, and they control the pool of romantic interests from which the vacuous bachelor is expected to select a wife. “Select a wife?” Folks, he’s not shopping for a car, he’s supposed to be thinking seriously of matrimony.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this sounds too much like the 17th century when young girls had their coming out presentations at Versailles where Louis XIV could order a young lady of only 15 to marry a man two or three times her age. There was no negotiation, no discussion, and she was expected to do exactly as she was told. Now, unless I missed something, it’s 2019, not 1690. Contemporary women are supposed to be liberated from gender-based servitude where they had been kept for centuries.

The linchpin of this show, however, has them subjected to the very humiliations that men have inflicted on them for generations. For example, it is an elimination-style format where the “loser” each week is given a delightful parting gift, a half-hearted goodbye, when she is told to take a hike and not let the door hit her on the way out.

How humiliating is that? You take a chance on dating someone, you get cut, and all you get is a lousy ‘see you around?’ What about some cash? What about an expensive gift card to Maxim’s in Paris (or at least Olive Garden at West Farms)?

Come on, ladies, you deserve better than this passive aggressive abuse at the hands of a guy who has the IQ of a speed bump and the personality of a dial tone.

Here is something else that really gets under my skin: the elimination process happens based on the bachelor’s personal feelings about each “contestant,” and the guy even gets to date all of the women at once in a “group activity.” This is ludicrous! How can he have feelings about so many women at once? In what world does a guy get to date 20+ women at the same time and they ALL get along? Answer: nowhere. Further, in preparation for a serious date, the remaining women have to pack their suitcases in advance where a rose is at stake (when one woman is eliminated, her suitcase is taken away by a crew member). This happens in front of the others who get to stay.

Recently, the term “toxic masculinity” was coined to explain why so many guys are becoming less like gentlemen and more like toothless savages who strike two stones together to light the family barbecue. In the psycho-emotional wasteland of our current society, the guy code says that it’s not cool to diss a man in front of his peers. Question: what makes a man think that he can diss a woman in front of her peer group when she doesn’t tickle his fancy?

When a woman’s suitcase is taken away, the other women get to see her go down in flames, and that cannot send a positive image to younger viewers who don’t know that it is totally fake. Looking closely, it’s patently obvious what is going on here: women have become the objects of consumption by the male gaze. Women are no more than just paintings on a wall where the man gets to ogle them and have God-only-knows what kind of weird fantasies. I know, it’s not real, but it’s disturbing at the very least.

“The Bachelor” is a product of 21st century mass media and the deleterious impact it’s had on all of us, and each woman is there to satisfy some craven, antediluvian, pseudo-masculine compulsion to act like a jerk. Put simply, the guy possesses the power and the women are reduced to mere objects.

When it comes down to three women remaining (the point where the drama and the tension reach an unbearable height) the bachelor offers a woman a set of keys to a fantasy suite where they get to spend the night together. Like a used Kleenex tissue, she can then be jettisoned the following day. Since he gives a red rose to the ones who stay, why not give a black rose (the symbol of a death) to a “loser?” Why not go all out and put a horse’s head in the bed next to her for when she wakes up in their fantasy suite if it didn’t work out? I know that we’re supposed to take this show with a grain of salt. I prefer to take it with a bucket of salt just to get it down!

During the fourth season, allegations were made that the bachelor and one contestant were intoxicated and then involved in unsavory actions. Of course, there was a subsequent broadcast statement from both, stating that it was all a misunderstanding and that the two have remained friends (they were both kicked off of the show).

Several so-called “relationships” have ended only a few months later, and some participants have gone on to marry other people completely unrelated to the show. Having watched only five minutes of this cultural travesty, I can definitely say that I would rather have a root canal without Novocaine before watching “The Bachelor” again.

Here’s the skinny: “The Bachelor” is a scam to get unsuspecting people to watch others make fools of themselves while the sponsors hawk their products during commercial breaks. The show sends the message that relationships are merely a matter of negotiation through the paternalistic power structure. It’s about public humiliation where the final contestant is left standing to face a diluted form of vitriol at the hands of the production staff and the media.

One contestant, Megan Parris (the 2009 season), argued that the show was scripted (like we didn’t know that!). She claimed that the production staff called the participants names, berating and cursing them until they said what the producers claimed the television audience wanted. If this kind of mindless banter is what the viewers want, then television is doomed.

Fleiss has himself admitted that the show has less to do with reality than it does with making good television. All of this is obvious from the start, and I don’t encourage anyone to watch it (unless you want a good laugh).

Make sure to take some aspirin and have a bed pan by your side if you do. It’s just not worth it. If “The Bachelor” is through the looking glass, then the mirror just shattered.