The Bachelor: On the Wings of Sexism

A friend recently sent me this article discussing the upcoming Bachelor Pad –the latest in the Bachelor franchise.  The article points out the trouble the franchise runs into with race, so I won’t cover that again.  What I do want to point out is the sexism issues in the show.

The premise of the show is this: 19 men and women (straight men and women I should say) compete in challenges to win immunity and a chance at ‘love.’  When a player wins a challenge, they get to pick one of the other players for a date night.  Players get eliminated by the other contestants (aka for no real reason at all).

All of this sounds like good, trashy, reality TV matchmaker shows, right?

Well here’s my question: If the show is about either men and women hooking up with each other on a somewhat level playing field, why is the show called Bachelor Pad?

A bachelor pad is, by definition, a place where a single man lives alone, with the pop culture add on being that that is the place where he brings back many ‘conquests’ in the form of women he met at a bar (See Barney Stintson for a clear picture).   A bachelor pad, in that connotation, is all about bringing home women for sex.  By naming the show after that, it is giving the idea that this is another show about men looking for hot, skinny, tan, women in tiny bikinis (which it is).

I’m not sure what disturbs me more: the lack of any person of color, the harem attitude that is present in The Bachelor and Bachelor Pad, or that the title of this show dispenses with the premise of finding ‘love’ altogether.

Thoughts from the blog world?

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3 Responses to The Bachelor: On the Wings of Sexism

  1. I agree for the most part with your post.

    I agree that the use of the term bachelor pad connotes that men are “scoring”, there by relegating women as mere “conquests”. It continues a double standard that looks down on the idea of women actively seeking sexual gratification if she so chooses.

    I agree with you (and the article that inspired you) that there is a very very very obvious lack of racial diversity on the show. I’m from Toronto were interracial dating is the norm, so the sheer whiteness of the show has always seemed so odd to me – that coupled with the fact that the Bachelor and Bachelorette have always been white.

    The heteronormative factor of the show doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, it’s what I like to call uberhetero – the kind of displays of straightdom that make be hurl. I’d be pleasantly surprised if there were a queer factor (hey – that could be the title of the show! Queer Factor), but on a major network like ABC? I can only wish.

    The only thing I disagree with you on is the fact that this latest in the series tosses the premise of finding ‘love’ altogether. We both recognize that the show – in any of its forms – is not about love, considering we both typed love like ‘love’. I like they aren’t pretending anymore. It is what it is – ‘hot’ people having a ‘hot’ time. Nothing wrong with that. Just call it what it is.

    Just don’t call it Bachelor Pad.

  2. Colleen says:

    My friend and I were having a discussion last night about how actresses and actors are cast firstly on looks and secondarily on talent. Partially the shallowness of the industry, but also precisely what consumers want to see. There was a talent show here called Over the Rainbow (4th in a series done by Andrew Lloyd Weber to cast leads in his new West End productions) and the judges kept stressing that they wanted to find a new type of Dorothy (they were casting The Wizard of Oz if that wasn’t clear…). Every kind of girl was put through to the top 20: tall, ditsy, mixed-race, ginger (gasp), gangly, goofy, etc. Each week the public voted a girl off. And who were we left with? The MOST Dorothy-esque of them all. Cute, dimpled, brunette, and in her acting, was most Dorothy. She could have been Judy Garland’s grand-daughter. Plenty of other girls were just as talented and would have played the part well (and possibly more interestingly). As much as the show tried to stress diversity, what the public wanted was what the casting directors would have picked, anyway.

    My point being that the Bachelor Pad is another case of product developers knowing exactly what will draw viewers. A show about reasonable people dating and rationally evaluating their emotions and being careful is gonna tank. A show where at any point someone could hook up with someone else, someone might get into a cat fight, and there will undoubtedly be girls in bikinis in a hot-tub is much more consumer-friendly. I can’t think of a reason not to include different races, I can’t address that. But certainly the title was chosen to evoke the images I just described.

    Also, have you seen Mad Men? I’m almost done with the first season and I still cringe at every misogynistic, racist comment. Can’t decide how I feel about it–whether it’s an apt sort of time-capsule or just… *shudder*

  3. Thank you both for your comments!
    @tomboyinhighheels: Thank you for pointing that out — I think where my disgust at the lack of finding ‘love’ comes from is that the Bachelor franchise has always been so serious about it. Last semester I took a class where we discussed the Bachelor, and I commented that the show bothered me as a feminist much more than Tila Tequila where there is no false idea what the show is about. So I think what bothers me is that this is the same formula as Tila Tequila, but reaching a broader audience.
    @Colleen: I completely agree that it is more consumer friendly. I think that’s part of the problem. Not only is it reproducing the heteronormativity and the standard objectification of women, but it is doing so because this is ‘what the people want to watch.’ That thought depresses me.

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