The Bachelor is a dating show that first aired in 2002 that displays a man’s search to find true love among twenty-five beautiful and lonely women. Many hours of my life have been devoted to The Bachelor, and I always find myself unnecessarily emotionally invested, even though the track record of the program is far from perfect. Of the seventeen seasons of The Bachelor only two have resulted in successful long-term relationships, yet somehow the drama and absurdity keep myself and the other seven million viewers coming back for more.
Historically it seems that the media, particularly television and film, has consistently presented users with images of what constitutes a successful and happy romance. These media images have created a fundamental ideology and understanding about what romance means. The Bachelor presents viewers with what seems to be a realistic depiction of the “ideal” love story; complete with fantasy dates, roses, fine wines, world travel, and of course stereotypically “beautiful” human beings.
The show’s romantic ideals and dramatic nature can be seen in this promotional clip from Season 17 of The Bachelor:
The media, The Bachelor included, is swimming with stories of heterosexual love and romance and fills viewers’ minds with the idea that a prerequisite of success and happiness is finding a soulmate of the opposite gender who you can share a passionate love with. When people do not have these things, they are subtly told by the media that they are not living to their full potential, and may turn to concepts such as The Bachelor to create their own, probably unsuccessful, but seemingly realistic love story. People crave romantic relationships such as the ones they see in the media, especially when it is portrayed with real people in programs like The Bachelor. The reality aspect of this program makes the social constructed ideal romance seem attainable to the average person.
The Bachelor not only reinforces the concept of the ideal romance, but it also upholds many gender stereotypes, particularly for women. The women who the bachelor is vying for reinforce the commonly represented beauty ideal, as most of the women are tall and white with beautifully styled hair and an amazing wardrobe. Not to mention they are “hot” enough to run around the Bachelor mansion and go on dates around the world in their bikinis. The men on the show are also expected to be physically and socially attractive. They have chiseled muscles, greats smiles, and successful jobs. Additionally, women contestants on The Bachelor are often represented as catty, emotional, and willing to do whatever it takes to get there man even if it makes them look slightly insane. Not quiet a fair representation of women in America, if you ask me. The women who “win” the man at the end of the show are most often expected to move to where that man lives in order to meet their lifestyle, which demonstrates the idea that men are superior to women.
These stereotypes of women are problematic because they tell viewers that in order to find love successfully, one needs to be what is socially accepted as beautiful and feminine. It also implies that women can be defined by the man they are with. The main goal of the women on the show is to be appealing to the man that is the bachelor. On The Bachelor, the women live and breath for the man they want to win. Love becomes a competition, which brings out the worst in people and sets unrealistic relationship and gender performance standards for viewers.