Women and Love, and The Bachelor

The other night I saw an episode of the reality TV show The Bachelor . I think it's the first time the series has been aired in South Africa. I couldn't believe my eyes. It's about a bachelor and a group of single women desperate to get married. They stay in a gorgeous house for a week, and He Visits. He can go on single or group dates, and if he likes a woman he gives her a rose which protects her from being eliminated that round. At the end of the week, the women he hasn't dated get a chance to prove they're perfect for him, at a soiree. But he already has decided he doesn't like them, so they just humiliate themselves.

After that there's the mandatory ceremony where Somebody Goes Home. The women get all dressed up and stand together, hopeful, vulnerable, terrified. Mr. Gallant and Charming stands next to a podium with a bunch of roses on it. He gives roses to the women he likes, one by tormenting one. His best choice is first of course, so that woman is in seventh heaven. The shock and pain on the other women's faces is heart-rending.

Of course this ceremony was full of nightmarish dramatic pause which made the emotional torture and humiliation even worse. Eventually He got to his last choice. The woman he chose was so relieved and grateful she groveled. It was nauseating to watch, but the vulnerability it showed was touching and so sad.
“The participants on The Bachelor were intelligent, interesting women. That's what puzzled me.”
Then there were a couple left, and with a glum face, he said sorry, gals, it breaks my heart but you don't make the cut. One of the women was so beautiful, within and without, and she had given up her job as a teacher to be on the show. She walked away very sore, but also very thoughtful, and I knew she'd be okay, she'd learned something very important about herself. I get goose bumps thinking about it.

The mind boggles at what this show represents, how it illustrates that some women still don't realize their value, and still believe it only has any substance if a man chooses them. They don't even seem to be aware that they have choice. Certainly not the ones on the show, anyway, but I know this to be true of many women.

On the episode I watched there were 12 or 13 women, of varying ages; all of them attractive. A couple were pretty ditzy, but many had wonderful personalities. Some had children or careers, dreams for their lives and what they wanted to achieve. They were intelligent, interesting women. That's what puzzled me. As for Mr. Bachelor, he was a nice-enough looking man, in great shape, with a small child he "loved more than anything" - the veracity of which was slightly cast into doubt when, on camera, he asked his son "who loves you more than anybody?" and his son actually didn't know the answer!

Then Daddy said, with a sad, tragic look on his face that kiddo had to go away for a week because Daddy had this important thing to do. He was going to choose a new Mommy! Right, this wasn't about a big ego trip harem fantasy at all, it was for the kid. Kiddo didn't really understand that either. Poor little sod.

It was amazing and sad - to watch these women, a lot of whom really had something going for them, be so desperate for attention from a man who had less personality than most of them, who they didn't know, and who made no effort to please them. The ones who weren't chosen went through hell. It was hard to watch, to see their real pain, and how they believe their fulfillment is dependent on the whether a man chooses them or not. Worse that if he doesn't, it's because there's something wrong with them. Even if he's a jerk, which Mr. Handsome and Charming rather was. He wasn't an out and out scoundrel, but it didn't ever occur to him that his merits might be in question. And he took the ones he liked the best out on spectacular dates which he took kudos for even though they had been thought up and paid for of course by the show. He played romance with them, drew them in, kissed them, and tossed them out. And they let him.

We all want love. We're all vulnerable and hate rejection. But being a willing participant in a meat market? Every one of these beautiful women were desperate to please him. Only one of them said "I don't like this". His response? She was too needy! It was like something out of Jane Austen. Both Greg and another friend of mine, Heather, commented on how disgusting these reality shows are because the basic premise is how much participants are willing to humiliate themselves for a prize. I agree, it is disgusting, and I get angry and cringe at the humiliation. The tormenting reminds me of people being thrown to the lions in Roman times.

But more than anything, I think they're a very pertinent comment on our society. We can slam those women for being such idiots, but idiots they are not. Perhaps more than anything, they're honest. My heart goes out to them, because they have much to learn about their own value, and I think that learning process is going to be painful. But at least they're engaging in it. Did you ever see the film Miss Congeniality? Sandra Bullock was interviewed about it and said she had been so scornful of women who enter beauty pageants until she met them.

I feel the same way about these women. They touched me. The reason I'll keep on watching is to see if any of them realize they don't have to put themselves through this to find happiness. I think the winners will be the ones who are sent home. They get to keep their lives and build on them authentically and have the chance to find love that's real and is a two-way street. I hope for them that they do.

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