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.

Latest

Keira Knightley shines in bodice-ripping period drama Colette
102397 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Movies

Keira Knightley shines in bodice-ripping period dr…

by James Robins

The story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a heroine of French literature, focuses on her early struggles.

Read more
Is barbecued meat bad for your health?
102255 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Nutrition

Is barbecued meat bad for your health?

by Jennifer Bowden

Sizzling meat on the barbecue is the sound and smell of summer, but proceed with caution.

Read more
March of the Algorithms: Who’s at the wheel in the age of the machine?
102434 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Tech

March of the Algorithms: Who’s at the wheel in the…

by Jenny Nicholls

Complacently relying on algorithms can lead us over a cliff – literally, in the case of car navigation systems.

Read more
IBM’s new quantum computer: The future of computing
102458 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Tech

IBM’s new quantum computer: The future of computin…

by Peter Griffin

The Q System One, as IBM calls it, doesn’t look like any conventional computer and it certainly doesn’t act like one.

Read more
James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth gap
102456 2019-02-15 14:54:45Z Politics

James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth…

by RNZ

The week before a major tax report is released, Green Party co-leader James Shaw has again challenged his government partners to back the tax.

Read more
Jealousy, murder and lies: The killing of Arishma Chand
102448 2019-02-15 10:28:12Z Crime

Jealousy, murder and lies: The killing of Arishma…

by Anneke Smith

Arishma Chand was just 24 when she was murdered.

Read more
Top wine picks from Central Otago
102233 2019-02-15 00:00:00Z Wine

Top wine picks from Central Otago

by Michael Cooper

Tucked into small corners, Central Otago vineyards offer nuggets worth digging for. Wine critic Michael Coopers offers his top picks.

Read more
Ivanka and her tower of crumbs
102404 2019-02-14 10:33:12Z Arts

Ivanka and her tower of crumbs

by Preminda Jacob

For two hours each evening, an Ivanka Trump lookalike has been vacuuming a hot pink carpet at the Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Read more