thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Interlude: The Bachelor & Weeping Women

In Interlude, The Bachelor on January 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Phoebe B.

Last year, I watched The Bachelorette and it was my first foray into any Bachelor-related programming. Truth be told, I loved it and watched the Ashley season religiously. Sometimes I even yelled at the TV, as if I was watching football, when Ashley fell for that terrible Bentley dude or made other odd choices. Plus, Ben F. who proposed to Ashley only to be rejected in favor of J.P (which was seemingly the right choice for her) was totally my favorite: a winemaker from Sonoma, outdoorsy, funny, and adorable. In case you can’t tell, I had a bit of a TV crush on him (in good company with real people like Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and David Boreanaz; and characters like Smash Williams and Tim Riggins, and quite a few others). Thus, when I heard that he was the new Bachelor, I thought I would certainly watch his season. And then, I saw this ad.

And I thought maybe not. And then Sarah T. asked me this question: “is it possible that The Bachelor is super-sexist and misogynistic while The Bachelorette is relatively progressive?” And I thought, yes it does seem that way. Although I am not too quick to label The Bachelorette as progressive, in the wake of these ads, The Bachelorette looks more and more like a mini dash of not horribly regressive TV. The thing about The Bachelorette, for me at least, is that it fulfills a certain kind of fantasy in which a bunch of very attractive and reasonably interesting (not all the time) people vie for my, I mean The Bachelorette’s, attention. And at least in Ashley’s season, the drama surrounded the choices she made, rather than drama between the guys (perhaps save for the crazy masked Jeff, remember him?). The show did not rely on the men being mean to each other in order to create the primary drama, nor did the advertisements showcase a guy crying. This choice, it seems, is due to gendered expectations and notions of what The Bachelorette audience might find appealing.

Quite differently, and if the marketing campaigns for The Bachelor this season are any indication, Ben’s season is all about women weeping. The weeping woman in the ads is meant to entice us to watch the show. Wait what?! No really, somehow a good looking woman weeping is meant to indicate that this show is one worth watching. And not only that, she is most likely crying because as other previews or the first fifteen minutes of the first episode tell you, these girls are mean to each other. There is even a “Mean Girl” teaser on ABC’s The Bachelor website (not to be confused with the great movie Mean Girls). Not that there wasn’t crying on Ashley’s season (many tears caused by that mean Bentley character), but advertising the tears alone seems quite odd and disturbing. Rather than the drama being Ben and to-be-determined girl’s romance at its the center, it seems girl on girl fighting is the axis on which this show turns–with the goal it seems to produce tears and plenty of them. Granted this women fighting with women situation is by no means particular to The Bachelor, it is also the bread and butter of The Real Housewives ladies and many more reality TV female-centered shows.

So what is it about women arguing? Much less crying? And featuring that crying on commercials for the show. Is it because The Bachelor targets a different audience with presumably different expectations? Is it because, for a reason unknown to me, images of women crying are appealing? Alas, after falling for The Bachelorette, I feel fairly confused and disturbed by The Bachelor, or at least its advertising campaign.

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  1. Phoebs! Yes! Rachel Dubrofsky is all over this question. You’ve got to read this: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14680770903068324#preview

  2. Man, also I wonder if part of what The Bachelor is showing via contestants’ emotional breakdowns isn’t just its own blatant woman-hating (though there’s definitely that) but also how damaging the whole premise is? It’s sad to see the rejected women being like, “I feel so bad because I really want to find love” and “What is wrong with me” because–of course they can find love, and nothing is wrong with them. The problem is that they’re on a ridiculous reality TV show competing with eleventy billion other women for one dude. Not getting a rose should not impact their self-worth!

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