With the new year also comes a new season of the Bachelor. I am not afraid to admit that the Bachelor/Bachelorette series is one of my guilty pleasures. While I'm sure all the fans who choose to indulge in this show think that it is a harmless reality show, the more I watch the more I realize that almost everything the show stands for enforces a traditional and outdated view of love and marriage. Between the heteronormative expectations in all the relationships and the stereotyping of both men and women as certain kinds of partners, The Bachelor franchise essentially disempowers its contestants and our society as well.
Given that the Bachelor is a reality show, we can't really expect the depiction of love and romance as something ethically and politically correct, but I think the immense audience that the show attracts, it is worth discussing the way they portray couples. Just by looking at the most recent season with Colton being labeled as the "Virgin Bachelor" is enough of an indicator to see the harmful stereotypes that are highlighted within this show. Why is it that when a man is a virgin it creates such shock and attention, but when female Bachelorette/Bachelor contestants have been virgins it did not create this same level of attention?
The men on this show are expected to fit very specific stereotypes, usually a sharp contrast between the hyper-masculine tough men and the sweet, sensitive men. Meanwhile the women on the show face similar stereotypes as either villain, sluts or prudes. Along with the immense lack of diversity on the show, this show is such a poor representation of the different ways that love and romance can emerge or even the different capacities of men and women. The current generation is pushing so hard to erase the binary between masculine and feminine, as well as just stereotypes in general, so it is a little surprising that this show is so popular despite the way it depicts men and women as surface level characters who have no passion outside of getting married.
This is another unrealistic expectation that the Bachelor creates: marriage as the end all, be all. This show draws in an extremely large audience of young people who are then wrapped into a show who places so much value on a proposal after only 6 weeks of dating! The emphasis on marriage being a necessity after such a short period of time only further empowers the false expectations and misunderstandings of marriage as a form of validation for relationships. Not only the Bachelor reinforce heteronormative views of men and women, but it also places the idea of marriage on a pedestal. Without marriage, the entire relationship falls short of the happy ending the Bachelor intends to create. This is an unrealistic and outdated view that only restrains the couples on the show.
Given the popularity of the show, I think it is very important to recognize the harmful stereotypes portrayed on the show and not fall into that way of thinking. Beyond that it is definitely necessary to push for more diversity and inclusion within the contestants and couples on the show. But at the end of the day, we're all probably still going to watch the Bachelor once in a while because who doesn't love some of the drama?