Do good feminists watch The Bachelor?

by Diana Wichtel / 24 March, 2016
The bachelorettes show themselves willing to plumb the depths reached by Cowell, Clarkson and co.
The Bachelor.
Jordan Mauger, The Bachelor.

The Bachelor is back, intent on draining all meaning from an uncaring universe. Still, when romance means swiping right and collecting another dating horror story, The Bachelor can seem like a safe space.

The bachelorettes are locked up in a sort of ­nunnery with rules and rituals: single date, group date, the desperate masochism of the rose ­ceremony. Forget the age of gender fluidity. This show is as binary as Barbie and Ken, with as rigid a dress code: ball gowns of the sort that hinder mobility as effectively as bound feet, and beachwear because, well, you get your kit off. There are endless tense cocktail parties in which the Darwinian savagery of the interactions calls to mind the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones.

Life isn’t fair. While the women scheme, primp and pose, all the bachelor has to do is rock a too-tight tux, rise damp and brooding like Mr Darcy from a lap pool, and ritually cleanse himself before sacrifice to the gods of reality television.

Last year the bachelor was Art, a man who knew how to activate his almonds. This year’s model – he’s an actor, actually – is a nice, stubbled chap whose name eludes even the contestants.

“It’s something beginning with ‘J’,” mused Harmony, the dangerously unselfconscious jockey. She looked as if she was fighting the urge to take a nap. I know I was. She was soon talking the Suzuki Swift to oblivion.

The ladies tried to impress Jared … I mean Jordan, with their stethoscopes, novelty handshakes and gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free bliss balls. “I’m ready for kids, I’m ready for love,” piped the ill-fated Catherine. Jordan looked ready to do a runner.

Awful, obviously. But there’s a whiff of double standard in the condemnation of shows such as this and The Real Housewives franchise, in which females behave badly, or at least sadly. After all, the more gladiatorial end of the reality spectrum – Survivor, Big Brother, even Grand Designs – is based on a certain amount of ritual humiliation. New Zealand’s Got Talent made small children cry.

Men behaving like dicks on television – think Simon Cowell, Gordon Ramsay, Jeremy Clarkson – get a much easier ride. As Paul Holmes, Paul Henry and Mike Hosking have demonstrated, blurt obnoxiously at regular intervals and in no time you’ll be vacuuming yourself a Ferrari.

Men capitalise on their physical attributes all the time. All Blacks don’t get underwear endorsements just for their passing and handling skills. Yet women who deploy their so-called erotic capital are, well, bimbos.

As for toxic levels of self-esteem, it’s done Donald Trump no harm; in a woman, not so much. I’m struggling not to judge The Bachelor’s pushy, ludicrously competitive Naz – “First Rebecca gets a rose, then Sarah gets a rose! I just don’t agree!” – as I write.

This time around, even by reality standards, it seems very contrived. Jordan has been an actor. So has Rebecca. There are sometime beauty queens and models. So far it’s the ordinary folk – Harmony, Emily, Catherine – who are heading home.

There is, sadly, no equivalent of farting English yoga instructor Poppy. This series it’s all about the mean girls. Like a member of the dating-show secret police, Naz narks compulsively to Jordan on the deficiencies of the other bachelorettes. “It’s my duty to @#$! her right off,” she raged to Claudia, of introverted Anna. “She’s not here for Jordan!” It’s scary. Naz is out to win at any cost. “He was staring at your tits,” Claudia tells her encouragingly. When Anna went roseless, Naz crowed, “One down on my hit list!”

Is it being a bad feminist to watch? In the end it’s just television, reflecting the Darwinian dynamics of our dog-eat-dog times. Take your best shot, ladies. As Naz says, if you snooze, you lose.

THE BACHELOR, TV3, Monday and Tuesday, 7.30pm.

Follow the Listener on Twitter or Facebook.


A big science investment - but where’s the transparency?
99199 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z Tech

A big science investment - but where’s the transpa…

by Peter Griffin

An extra $420m is being pumped into the National Science Challenges - but the reasoning behind the increased investment won't be released.

Read more
NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – and a wild past
99182 2018-11-16 13:32:58Z Music

NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – an…

by Donna Chisholm

We revisit this profile on award-winning guitarist Gray Bartlett, who's just released a new album, Platinum!

Read more
Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on what his creation has become
99178 2018-11-16 13:13:08Z Tech

Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on …

by Peter Griffin

"We were just a bunch of engineers trying to make it work. It didn't even occur to us that anybody would want to wreck it," says Vint Cerf.

Read more
Win a double pass to the NZ premiere screening of Mary Queen of Scots
99165 2018-11-16 10:51:28Z Win

Win a double pass to the NZ premiere screening of …

by The Listener

Starring Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart.

Read more
Goodside: The North Shore’s new food precinct
99155 2018-11-16 09:33:23Z Auckland Eats

Goodside: The North Shore’s new food precinct

by Alex Blackwood

North Shore residents will have plenty to choose from at Goodside.

Read more
The death of Radio Live
99147 2018-11-16 06:54:48Z Radio

The death of Radio Live

by Colin Peacock

14 years after launching “the new voice of talk radio”, MediaWorks will silence Radio Live. Mediawatch looks at what could replace it.

Read more
Should Lime scooters stay or should they go?
99103 2018-11-16 00:00:00Z Social issues

Should Lime scooters stay or should they go?

by The Listener

For every safety warning, there’ll be a righteous uproar about the public good regarding the environment. It's about finding the right balance.

Read more
Kiwi drama Vermilion is hamstrung by a frustrating lack of clarity
98992 2018-11-16 00:00:00Z Movies

Kiwi drama Vermilion is hamstrung by a frustrating…

by James Robins

Academic and film-maker Dorthe Scheffmann has had a hand in some of New Zealand cinema’s most beloved movies. So what went wrong?

Read more