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How The Bachelor Constantly Misses the Mark for Positive Female Image

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SMU chapter.

ABC has coined the slogan “expect turbulence” for this seemingly innocent past season of The Bachelor which features Peter Weber, more affectionately known as “Pilot Pete.” For reference, Peter is a ghost from season 15’s past where he was sadly dumped after his short-lived romance with Hannah Brown came to a close. This season was problematic to say the least – there seemed to be never-ending catfights going on and secrets being spilled left and right. Not to mention Peter ran headfirst into a golf cart, which gave him a painful scar and some serious stitches. Honestly, the drama within this season couldn’t be more apparent. The Bachelor consistently results in high television rankings over other shows, which can explain why the reality show has accumulated a consecutive 24 seasons. I could even go as far as asserting that The Bachelor surpasses the popularity of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and sci-fi adventure drama Stranger Things.

While watching this current season, I noticed  a few problematic details that I didn’t recognize before during previous ones. There was always a cyclical story arc for this show: A handsome suitor gets introduced and almost automatically, he wants his contestants to fight for his heart throughout the season, and in turn, they end up fighting each other, some roses get tossed out – the end. As the seasons have progressed, the perception of women has gone from innocently entertaining, to downright concerning. Yes, The Bachelor is amusing to watch and it completely allows viewers to experience a vicarious love affair through their T.V. screens, but the inner workings of the show have reason to be labeled regressive. 

Producers are the puppet masters pulling the contestant’s strings

This particular season of The Bachelor has been ridiculed for the excessive amount of producer influence, thus altering the events that actually took place on set. Producers play up the most minor events – from fights, to meltdowns, and the most private instances of intimacy. 

There have been some key moments over the course of season 15 that might’ve been overlooked initially, so I’m going to map them out for you. “Champagne-gate,” between Hannah Ann and Kelsey, sparked one of the most trivial, yet meme-worthy fights over a bottle of champagne that I’ve ever seen. After that, we got Alayah’s swift exit following Sydney and Victoria P.’s  harsh accusations about her being “fake” and “acting differently for the cameras,” even as she tried to defend herself to Peter. We also saw some high stakes drama from Tammy, Kelsey, and McKenna that started because of Tammy’s comments about Kelsey’s “drinking  problem,” and then Kelley made it a point to degrade the other contestants about their occupations. These are just some obvious examples of how the show pits women against each other over petty, but easily resolvable, situations. 

This subtle, yet intentional, underlying message that women are always jealous, vindictive, or overly emotional are archaic – but nice try, producers. 

This show seems to make an effort to erase the progress that we see daily among our friends on campus, in the media, or even on other shows. However, I don’t doubt that there are some empowering moments that coincidentally aren’t featured on screen. We should be paying the necessary attention to those on the show who respect each other, instead of scheming and projecting negativity for the sake of the producer’s requests or for their own benefit.

A double standard is in play

The Bachelor highlights a particular double standard for the participants on the show which  might not seem obvious upon your first watch. Peter, alongside every other former bachelor, wants the contestants vying for his heart to present the most authentic version of themselves. Great. However, when it comes to the actual competition itself, the same women are expected to alter their identity to fight for him. Not so great. For example, if they aren’t “intense” enough – including stealing time away – they can’t get to him, and they don’t get enough screen time. Unfortunately, they eventually fade into the plot’s background. Things like name-calling or lying don’t help contestants look good either, but on the flip side, if they don’t show the world that “wild side,” they won’t be kept on for very long. The two-fold idea that women have to be authentic while simultaneously tearing each other down to get the man, is toxic.

This double standard appears again as the audience is expected to dislike certain women. People root for a certain woman to go home over another one, especially in the world of social media. The audience also judges contestants, even though they may not know who that woman really is outside of the show. Additionally, social media users may shame contestants for their behaviors or actions during the season. Trust me, I was guilty of this when I got sucked into watching, but now I see how that can be harmful, particularly when these women go back to their real lives and have to face public scrutiny. These women, similarly to actresses playing fictional characters, are not the sum of what we see on T.V – they obviously are more than just a “character.” If women in society don’t want to live with that double standard in reality when it comes to finding love, why should this show emphasize it? Ratings shouldn’t matter here, people should. 

It’s also important to note how none of the contestants actually interact with Peter while these problems are arising (minus Champagne-gate, sort of). He really just gets to hear about them. In front of him, the women have to be on their “best behavior,” but they consistently change personas when they’re alone together fighting about different things. As a result, this pushes some contestants to involve Peter anyway, thus creating a vicious cycle of tears, rants, and Peter being confused *again.*

Overall, I’m not sure if I’ll continue watching The Bachelor in upcoming seasons. It’s intriguing, it’s addictive, and it keeps the audience wanting more, like reality television tends to be, but I’m not sure it warrants more watch parties if it continues to be heavily produced and sends messages like these. 

Hannah is a Senior at Southern Methodist University studying English with a specialization in Creative Writing and Journalism. Being from California, she loves all things entertainment, TV, and movies. When she's not listening to music on her 300-song Spotify playlist, going with friends to trendy coffee shops, or quoting Gilmore Girls, she spends her time reading novels, and hopes to write one of her own.
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