What "The Bachelor" Taught Me About Women, Reality TV and Myself

Every Monday, from the beginning of January through March, I joined half the country in shamelessly tuning in to ABC’s “The Bachelor.” Colton Underwood, deemed “The Virgin” in almost every promotional video from the beginning to the end of the season, looked for love among the 30 women vying for his heart. The show thrives off a spirit of competition, and every season thus far has featured one contestant who becomes the villain and causes drama among the other women. One of the most notorious Bachelor villains is Corinne Olympios from Season 21. Corinne was hated and slut-shamed for constantly attempting to seduce Nick Viall in a more brazen way than is typically exhibited by the women on the show. One of her most famous moments was when she wore a trench coat and smeared whipped cream on her breast while talking to Viall.

In addition to the classic “villain” role, the women on the show constantly bicker with and resent each other for the attention they receive from the male love interest. In Colton’s season, Caelynn Miller-Keyes and Hannah Brown were set up to hate each other because they were former friends during both of their pageant days. Prior to the show, they had a falling out, and it was clear from their first interactions on air that the show was going to milk their feud for ratings for as long as possible. The tension reached its peak when both girls relayed to Colton their true feelings: that each was a liar and a master manipulator. However, instead of their relationship ending in doom, the women talked it out and decided that they needed to support each other as fellow women, and proceeded to interact cordially throughout their time on the show.

This was the first time I’ve seen this happen on the show, and I found myself feeling disappointed. I’d wanted more drama, for one of the women to go home, or at least for a screaming match to erupt within the walls of the Bachelor mansion. I soon found I wasn’t alone in this feeling, as I talked with friends who found their resolution “extremely fake,” and “just so they would remain in good favor with the audience.” The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if it was problematic for me to like “The Bachelor” at all. I’ve always known it was completely ridiculous, but yet here I sit, year after year, completely invested in the drama. Am I the ridiculous one here? I mean, the entire premise of the show relies on pitting women against each other for the attention of one usually average white man. It goes against the idea of women supporting women that I truly believe the world needs and which I try to exemplify in my daily life. So why do I like this show so much? Why does a huge part of America, as well as other countries across the globe, like this show so much?

Not to be a “feminist killjoy,” but I came to the ultimate conclusion that women all over enjoy “The Bachelor” so much because it lures us into thinking the events on the show are fake and completely insane. While in a way they are, these issues also resonate in society, which can be a terrifying idea to confront. It’s easy to sit on the couch and root for women to tear each other apart when really, we do so because it allows us to pretend like it doesn’t happen on smaller scales every day. Will I continue to watch “The Bachelor” and all its accompanying franchises? Most definitely. Will I try harder to recognize and adore the moments where the women do lift each other up? Absolutely. We can’t allow ourselves to grow passive and complacent, even when unwinding with some binge-watching. There’s always a lesson to be learned, and there’s always a way to be better than you are. If you’re a reality television fanatic like me who spends hours indulging in “trash television,” do the world and yourself a favor and try and recognize just how real it can be. You might just learn something along the way.

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