As children, we were given our very first introduction into the world of romance with Walt Disney’s classic films. Movies like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid permitted each pint-sized viewer to catch a glimpse of what true love is “supposed” to be like. As we have grown older, however, many of our cinematic tastes have noticeably evolved from the days of genies, singing crustaceans and magic carpets. Today, programs like Rock of Love, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and The Bachelor now take on the role of media guru in teaching us how relationships are meant to operate.
I will admit that I am just as guilty as the next girl (or guy, if you happen to watch these quality television shows), and, while channel surfing, I will occasionally stop at ABC and humor myself with the awkward one-on-one dates and emotionally tumultuous rose ceremonies. However, beneath the superficial level of comic relief and entertainment, I really question the potentially negative implications The Bachelor has on our society and our perception of true love.
Is it really possible to find your soul mate on a glorified game show? After all, it’s in every human being’s nature to be competitive, and when you plop 25 single women into a room with an attractive young man, a camera crew and the opportunity to be on national television, what woman wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to be the last one standing? Even if the romantic connection between man and female suitor is lacking, no woman would ever want to be the ugly duckling or plain Jane who is cast away from the mansion without an ego booster… I mean rose.
Has the concept of love really been transformed into a competition? A game where claws come out and vicious words are spewed like spitfire in order for one competitor to come through victorious? The media’s—and especially The Bachelor’s—depictions of relationship-building have taught women the following:
- Wear something short, tight, and cleavage-baring.
- When the competition is tough, rip all of your clothes off and take him skinny-dipping (ie. Courtney Robertson).
- Giggle profusely at everything that comes out of his mouth.
- And fall into a depressive comatose state when he’s not into you after the first date (ie. Jenna Burke).
Although every girl has at some point fallen victim to some of these kinds of desperate actions, this portrayal has characterized women in the eyes of 15 million viewers as complete and utter basket cases. And all of this embarrassment for what? In 15 seasons of The Bachelor, not a single relationship has weathered the bumpy road of a highly publicized engagement or marriage.
Of course, I’m not going to lie and tell you that I value the tenets of feminism so deeply that I’ve deleted every last episode from my DVR. However, I do think we should all take a step back and realize the hazards these programs present to a youthful society that is learning to negotiate between the relational expectations we’re taught by our parents and those we learn thanks to television’s questionable reality show culture. I can only hope that our ability to distinguish reality from reality TV has the power to help us recognize real love when it comes our way.
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