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Posts Tagged ‘The Bachelor’

House of Cards, The Bachelor, and the Villainesses of TV

In reality TV, The Bachelor on March 9, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Melissa Sexton

On the surface, the two shows I have been watching this month don’t have much in common with each other. The Bachelor and House of Cards seem pitched to very different audiences and to engage in very different kinds of story-telling. House of Cards is a surprise innovation, the product of the new age of media that goes straight to viewers through Netflix’s online streaming platform. The Bachelor represents all the excesses of big studio television plus the excesses of reality television: expensive mansions, helicopter rides to exotic locations, and petty in-fighting highlighted by studio editing. House of Cards seems pitched to savvy viewers, male and female alike, with a longing for complex motivations and a streak of skepticism towards “the establishment.” The Bachelor, on the other hand, is a show unabashedly aimed at a certain imagined type of women. It simultaneously mocks and exults in drunk, emotional engagement, hosting live viewing parties and even crashing some viewing parties in LA.

Given all these differences, I would never have thought to draw any connections between these shows if not for the overlap in their airing: Season 19 of The Bachelor just wrapped up last week, while Season 3 of House of Cards was released [for real, this time] during the last week of February. And yet, watching these shows back to back, I noticed a striking similarity in how these narratives depict women. In both shows, women’s power is ultimately equated with emotional manipulation. But even when such manipulation gets the women what they want, the audience is encouraged to condemn these characters as villains. Such a morality tale is unsurprising in the world of The Bachelor. But in the shadowy, cruel world of House of Cards, Claire Underwood’s oscillation between a will to power and self-doubt is a striking contrast to the unrepentant manipulation of her husband Frank. Why, I asked myself, in such a dark world, is our central female character still under a kind of narrative pressure to be genuine – or, more particularly, why is she still pressured to be truly “nice” to the women who stand in the way of her goals?

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This double-bind of female friendship and female competition is pretty much a staple of reality television programming. Think of all the cold, aspiring models, season after season, who announced their entrance into America’s Next Top Model by insisting, “I’m not here to make friends.” Long-time fans of the show can guess with some certainty that the editorial inclusion of such footage signals a young woman’s villainization; such ambition, even within a competition, inevitably suggests a woman who will become a “drama queen” or a “bitch” and find herself cut from the running. Read the rest of this entry »

Sympathy for the Supervillain: A Post-Bachelor Wrap

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 8:20 am

Guest Contributor Sarah H.

Before I begin, it might be good for you to know: I am a sap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a well-educated, well-rounded, well-read woman. But I’m also a hopeless romantic who self-medicates during these long single times with guilty pleasure television like The Bachelor.

But I’m not dumb, I swear. I’m a smart person and I’m freakin’ awesome. (See Sarah T’s recent GLG post “Defending Deschanel” for a more thorough defense of the kind of person I am. I get the Jess comparison a lot.) Rather, I’m just a woman who has grown up with an evolving mental picture of a perfect mate. I want what the Bachelorettes want. I want to fall in love and find that fairy tale. That’s why I watch this stuff. And to be fair, I’m not the only one in this boat. After all, both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are pretty popular.

Now, on with the show. (spoilers abound!)

I’ve liked Ben since Ashley’s season. He’s down to earth, a little off-kilter and he makes wine, which is a total win for a wino gal like me. He’s more relatable than ken doll, jock-brained Brad (Seriously, though. Don’t you think Brad probably has a pink plastic Mattel mound down there?). He’s kind of a normal guy. I believe, under the right circumstances, with my own makeup and wardrobe team, I might even be able to lure him into a conversation.

Throughout this season, I saw him act with a fairly level head. I saw him ejecting ladies in a rational and, I thought, healthy way. He got rid of the crazies, flakes, and fakes. He waded through the boring girls and kept a fairly solid final five including one larger-than-life personality that I, at first, thought was around for production value only.

Courtney simply overshadowed every other lady in the running. I watched each episode this season and have a hard time recalling the names or faces of the other 24 women fighting for our hero’s affections. For the last 8 weeks or so, since the first claws came out, she has been the entire selling point for the season. She was the topic of commercials and online banter and debate, not to mention half of the evening on the “Before the Rose” feature. What would have happened to ratings had Courtney not made it to the end of this competition? Ben’s locks weren’t enough to secure viewers alone.

Ben + Courtney "After the Rose"

What was it exactly that had people so excited about this woman? She wasn’t a villain in the Cruella de Vil sense. The crux of her evil really comes down to a trait Ben’s sister praised in her: she doesn’t “sugar coat”—that is, she isn’t careful. This saccharine series has a premise of finding true love; it’s full of Minnesota-nice, homegrown girls. They are normal girls who deal with conflict in the normal way: through passive aggressiveness. Courtney isn’t passive in any way. That’s her supervillain power. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »