Pop Culture, Scourge of the Onelies: The Bachelor (or Matrimania Gone Terribly, Painfully Wrong) March 4, 2009Posted by Onely in As If!, Heteronormativity, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys.
Tags: abc, cruel and inhumane, matrimania, please stop getting engaged, the bachelor
To protect my dignity, I must say this right up front: I have not watched The Bachelor in a very long time. I recall seeing parts of the first season, and it took almost no time before it lost its appeal even as a guilty pleasure. Today, even the idea of the show makes me squeamish (Seriously. Just think on that picture you see to your left ). So, I did not watch the now-unfortunately-infamous finale of the most recent season, which aired on ABC Monday night. But apparently millions of Americans did, and I have since watched clips and read this detailed recap, so that I could post about it here: Not only was the finale a true “shocker,” it also underlined our culture’s deep misogynistic and matrimaniacal impulses in horribly unsettling ways.
From what I know about the show, The Bachelor has, over the course of its lifespan (please, shrivel up and die already!), almost always concluded each season with a man proposing to his “favorite” female from a large cohort of eligible women. Occasionally, the Bachelor of the day doesn’t move quite so fast and simply commits to pursuing a relationship (this, if I recall, is how Season 1 ended). But the real thrill – the only thing that will satiate an audience fully – is if the Bachelor gets down on one knee and seals the deal. We thirst for commitment. We want men to want marriage as much as women (ostensibly) do. Yes – goddamnit, we want to see “real” men who can “stand up” and fulfill their proper roles: We want them to have, hold, and love us forever!
Because if it happens on TV, it can happen in our lives.
After past seasons have ended, many of the couples have broken up. But none of them have been dumped during the post-season finale ON NATIONAL TELEVISION. And they have most certainly never been dumped and immediately REPLACED BY THE OTHER GIRL!
Which is — you guessed it — exactly what happened during this season’s cruel and unusual finale.
I know – and to a certain extent, I agree – it’s futile to feel “bad” for anyone involved, since they signed up for the show in the first place.
According to the producers, both of these women were kept in the dark until they were brought on set (separately – at least they kept them separate) for evil-Bachelor Jason to do the deed. That’s just plain cruel.
And if we look to some of the rhetoric leading up to and after Jason’s proposal to Melissa, we can begin to understand the way our culture has, in many ways, “spoken first” – these women have almost no choice but to embody the heteronormative ideology that constitutes our understanding of gender and sexuality. Take a look:
In response to Molly’s (who is soon after rejected by Jason) insistence that she can “settle down” with Jason and still have a career, Jason’s mom says:
Here’s a young lady who says she loves you to pieces, and yet she has a career, and career’s important to her. But I think foremost for you, you want somebody who is family oriented
After Molly is officially rejected (later to be selected), Molly recites the sentence that we all like to repeat to ourselves:
I just think he’s making a huge mistake.
Then, six weeks later, Molly’s dreams come true (UGH, how could you still LIKE him, Molly?!), and Jason dumps poor Melissa (the original fiancee). First, she calls him a “bastard” (yay!), but then later, away from Jason and alone with herself, Melissa blames the breakup on herself, saying:
There’s something wrong with me
No matter their relationship to the man in power (Jason), all three of these women end up repeating and reproducing contemporary culture’s “common sense” catchphrases about “normal” gender roles and ways of thinking.
It’s just fucking sad.