It was the reality show that somehow stopped the nation. Bizarre, intriguing and entertaining, our very own version of The Bachelor with local lad Art Green became watercooler fodder of epic proportions.
However in the wake of all the #BachelorNZ Twitter rants, ill-fitting dresses and koala poo, it's time to step back and question what The Bachelor represents.
Is it a glorification of an outdated view on romance? Is it akin to a thinly veiled beauty pageant? Does it reduce women to their most basic attributes and tie their worth to their ability to find a man?
A return to the archaic commodification of women?
The Bachelor reinforces the ideal of females' value and success being hinged on their desirability to men. Presented through the lens of the male gaze, their attributes seem limited to their adherence to beauty norms and inoffensive charm - virtues that are obviously integral to the stuffy tradition of being a "good wife" - as the lucky ladies patiently waited to be summoned by Green. One has to wonder how these modern, independent young women felt being part of a show that essentially objectified and simplified them as they competed for Green's attention. Although, since all is fair in love, war and reality television, Green was also subject to lingering camera shots as he lunged and squatted his way to the glory of an Alpha Male worth competing over - one would hope the visibility of his quads will help the visibility of his Clean Paleo business.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Does Bendon sell chastity belts?
One would hope that calendars were checked around the country when the "shocking revelations" of the contestant's marriage histories came to light. Pearls were clutched nationwide as some of these lovely young lasses confessed to ex-husbands and ongoing divorce proceedings. A woman's worth and sexual history should not be one and the same; The Bachelor proved to reinforce the mantra of why buy the cow if you can have the milk for free (someone tell Fonterra!). If you give up your virtue too soon, you instantly lose your "value". In fact, Art ended up choosing Matilda who, unlike the two other contestants who were offered "sleepovers", politely declined - whilst the women with their own sentient sexual appetites and agendas seemingly suffered the consequences of rejection.
What justifies a "catch" and do you even want to hook him?
Art Green himself had to compete to be chosen as The Bachelor; beating out other candidates with attributes that imply he is worth fighting for. The show celebrates the idea of a thoroughbred male that's practically Austen-worthy; Mrs Bennet herself would be chafing at the bit over the prospect. Hinging on old traditions of "marrying well", The Bachelor reinforces a stereotype of desirability that centres around a fit, white, middle class male; heaven forbid anyone should find something outside those parameters attractive.
Are we always looking for the greener (excuse the pun) grass?
Although based on outdated courtship rituals, the premise of The Bachelor is painfully relevant in the context of contemporary dating's constant worry that there is something "better" out there somewhere. When all your options are laid out on on the table (or Facebook or Instagram or Tinder), there is the constant anxiety of missing out; missing out on a party, on brunch, or on that hot girl who liked your last post and might be keen (winky face). Potential suitors are highly visible and accessible, with everyone presenting the best version possible of themselves and their lives. Doubt is inherent, trust is fragile and insecurity runs wild in the social media generation. Why commit when something better could pop up on your feed any moment?
Relationships are inherently built on trust - fidelity, emotion, financial - so how can you trust someone who's actively courting other women? Lucky contestants are rewarded with dates, whilst the others are left behind to wonder what's going on. Even eventual winner Matilda called Green out on his kissing flagrancy, calling him "Billy Big Balls" - a move that called into doubt the trust and security around him as a potential partner.
Blonde, blonde or blonde?
The playing field of The Bachelor was quickly whittled down to wholesome, flaxen haired gals. Although obviously Green has a natural preference when it comes to female appearance, the show's homogenous selection of contestants served to reinforce the narrow standard of beauty and self worth that Western society continues to perpetuate and reward; Caucasian blondes with wholesome figures generally trump all. The Bachelor sets a problematic beauty standard and celebrates a contemporary form of aesthetic competition that's not unlike outdated beauty pageants; a line up of female facsimile competing for their prize.
Obviously anyone with half a brain knows that, unlike its name suggests, reality television is far from real. However it's is representative of far more than what we see at first glance, and can set a dangerous precedent for social norms, values and interaction (case in point, the countless public humiliations seen of the American Idol franchise as some kind of twisted humour). Although The Bachelor is great entertainment and great for your Twitter feed, take it all in with a grain of salt.