Tuesday, January 5, 2010

We All Need a Guilty Pleasure...or Two

One of my many guilty pleasures happens to be reality television. One of my favorites is The Bachelor. Reading NY Mag's post about last night's premiere got me thinking...I initially scoffed at the premise of the show. 25 women all competing for a husband? Really? I secretly poked fun at my college friends who gushed over the rose ceremonies. And then I watched an episode. I was fascinated by the “I’m just looking for love” shtick, the drama, the sexy one-on-one dates, and eventually I was emotionally invested in the characters…I mean…the contestants…I mean…who or what are they, those women of The Bachelor? In this day and age of women’s independence and equality I watch the show and am overwhelmed by the portrayal of women as beautiful, sexual objects who are desperate for a husband. Sure they throw the “intelligent woman” or “career woman” in the mix, but even they are portrayed as slightly desperate for a man. (Like last night's premiere where the woman who is getting her PhD dresses up in a somewhat skimpy stewardess costume so Jake the pilot would give her a chance at love). They’re all catty and willing to push the other women under the bus just to get the coveted rose (remember Lauren from Jason’s season?? Gossiping about all the other women to make herself look better.) I mean, how can you take these supposedly progressive, modern day women seriously when they say things like, “You can land your plane on my landing strip anytime” while emphasizing their mile-long cleavages? Then the twist—The Bachelorette. Now men are all jumping for the chance to be with the woman. We see the men as competitive, insecure, and at times, vulnerable. Perhaps it evened the playing field a bit and perhaps it is still slightly projecting the woman-needing-a-man-to-be-complete idea into the mind of millions of viewers. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

It’s easy to dismiss The Bachelor and The Bachelorette as shows that corral men and women into gender stereotypes; but in the end, the show really does showcase every person’s desire to spend their lives with someone else, to experience love and happiness in whatever way they can. Look at the success stories that came out of the show (whether or not they are coupled from the final rose): Trista and Ryan (who have been married several years and have cute children); Jillian and Ed (despite their tabloid troubles they are still together); Jason and Molly (despite his being a cad on television and dumping Melissa he is supposedly in love now); Melissa (who might have ended up with Jason if he hadn’t been a cad, but she now seems to be happy) and her new husband Tye; even Brad who decided he couldn’t find love on the show and claims to be content as a single man in Texas. In a way, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is a show about the everyman and everywoman’s quest for love with all the bumps and exciting adventures along the way (eg, Jillian discovers Wes is a big fat liar, but she spends a hot and heavy day with Ed kissing in fountains in Seville ). So I’ll push aside any rational thoughts about how probable and realistic the logistics of the show are and let my inner “happy ending it’s all about love” gal take over. I’m ready for the roses!

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