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The Quad: Exploring the toxic underbelly of ‘The Bachelor’

In order to advance to the next round, the Bachelor gives the chosen contestants a rose. (Creative Commons photo by Brandy Cross via Wikimedia Commons)

By Claire Hubert

Jan. 26, 2017 2:23 p.m.

It’s not me, it’s you.

Over the past two years, I’ve been embarrassingly addicted to ABC’s reality show “The Bachelor”. The show is zero substance and pure entertainment. It’s provided for me a much-needed break from the hectic life that is being a student at UCLA. Lots of girls my age tune in habitually with pals and Chardonnay.

“Me and my girlfriends watch it every Monday night after a day of stressful classes,” said Ilayda Sekercioglu, a second-year biochemistry student. “Even for a little while we can pretend that we always have an (option) just in case college romance doesn’t work out.”

While Sekercioglu, like myself, watches the show to escape the stress of being a student, Kristi Trinh and her friends watch it for other reasons.

“I absolutely love gathering everyone up to tune in to the drama and shenanigans on Monday nights,” the second-year psychobiology student said. “Even though it’s the most unrealistic way of dating, we all still enjoy the scandalousness.”

For the past couple seasons, I have also enjoyed the scandal and drama that the show showcases. This season, however, I’m starting to drag my feminist heels. I decided it’s time to break up with the show.

“The Bachelor” is intrinsically problematic. The premise revolves around one bachelor – generally suave, but possessing varying degrees of accomplishment – looking for love among twenty-something-year-olds. The women live in an $8-million mansion in Agoura Hills, California, for weeks as the Bachelor eliminates girls via a convoluted “dating” process in order to find his future wife and live happily ever after.

Many former contestants on both “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” have gone on the record to say that the show’s producers cut off all their contact with the outside world while they were in the mansion: They weren’t allowed phones, TV or music. Often they were confined to the mansion (or hotel if they were traveling). The fact of the matter is that everything in ‘The Bachelor’ mansion centers around the person lucky enough to be dubbed the “Bachelor.” This year, it’s Nick Viall, who has been a contestant on ‘The Bachelorette’ twice as well as the show’s other spin-off ‘Bachelor in Paradise’.

It should go without saying, but in making the show, the producers create a world in which the Bachelor is the sun in the center of the contestants’ universe. Contestants are left to fixate over the Bachelor, talk about the Bachelor and dissect the Bachelor’s every move. There is no other option for contestants but to orient their lives around whatever the Bachelor does or says.

I used to only be mildly bothered by this, but not enough to get on my soapbox and boycott the show. I’m a proud feminist, and as such, it is my belief that women should support women and affirm their choices, as long as their choices don’t harm other people.

Whether that choice is to try to break the glass ceiling, be a stay-at-home mom, pursue a degree in higher education or go on a ridiculous game show to “find love,” I believe it is my role as a feminist to affirm a woman’s choice as to how she lives her life. So if people who chose to go on the show get caught up in the drama of making a singular man the center of their universe, I’d begrudgingly say “so be it.” It’s their choice.

However, the more and more I watch this season, the more and more I see that not only are these girls putting the Bachelor at the center of their universe, they are using the experience as a whole as an excuse to tear other contestants down. For me, that is the absolute antithesis of feminism.

The idea is hardly new to the franchise. Women have been pitted against each other from the first episode of the first season, and there is pretty much always one woman who becomes the universally disliked villain on every season. I’ll admit that I’ve looked past this in the past because, after all, this is reality television. However, the conflict between my principles and what the show does to get ratings has been gnawing away at me for a while.

I reached a tipping point this week when I watched Raven, a contestant from Arkansas, gleefully rejoice that she got a one-on-one date with the Bachelor when another contestant – Corinne, this season’s ordained “villain” – didn’t.

“Not only do I get the one-on-one, but Corinne doesn’t and everything is good in the world,” Raven squealed.

The fact that she was procuring joy out of someone else’s misfortune is revolting, but it didn’t stop there. All of the girls in the mansion bashed Corinne throughout the episode for being too sexual and too fake. They formed a sort of anti-Corinne coalition and told Nick how terrible of a person she was. For what it’s worth, he didn’t listen and she moved on to the next round, but the fact a group of women organized to tear another woman down is beyond repugnant to me.

The woman-bashing happens both inside the mansion and on the internet. Often, producers edit and splice clips and twist words until they create caricatures of women that viewers love to hate. A Reddit user who posts on the same Bachelor subreddit I frequent compiled data sourced from tweets. He found that the seemingly villainous Corinne was the most tweeted about contestant in 21 states during week two’s episode. Perhaps the same people that are making fun of Corinne on Twitter aren’t the same ones that identify as feminists, but regardless, a women-bashing crowd is not a crowd I want to associate myself with.

So I’m quitting “The Bachelor”. I know my protest is a mere scream into a ratings-fueled, fake-drama-driven void and that the show runners will not lose a single wink of sleep over my decision, but it’s a principle-driven choice. As someone who believes in equality and empowerment for women, I won’t support a show that uses women tearing each other down as a source for ratings.

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Claire Hubert
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