I don’t stay caught up on the matters of pop culture. However, once in a while I will scuttle out from underneath my rock I live under and see what’s going on in the public eye. What I see sometimes makes me want to right back under it. One of these things is the current trend of reality T.V. shows. This includes the reality dating show The Bachelor, which premiered on January sixth of this year.
The Bachelor sends all the wrong messages about dating and about relationships in general. The main point of the T.V. show is that several women are competing for the affection of one man, or that several men compete for one woman in its sister show The Bachelorette. The problem with this central theme of the show is that it tells women that they must compete amongst themselves in order to win a guy. Women feel as if they need to be the prettiest, or the most attention-grabbing, or the most seductive to get the guy, which is simply untrue.
The central creed of the show is that you must beat the others to win, but love isn’t about competition or manipulation of your partner’s emotions. It’s about connecting with another human being. No particular trait is guaranteed to get you the attention of the guy you want, but the women on this show work only for that purpose.
This leads to another problem, which is that the women are doing all of the work in Bachelor relationships, while one guy is given all the control. A good relationship should have near equal amounts of control for both partners. “Control” in this situation is that in all Bachelor relationships, the guy gets to decide what he wants in a girl and all the women scramble to be the best for him. However, on the other side of the spectrum, it is rare that a women on the show will ask, “Is he really what I want in a man?”
Now you may be thinking, “Sure, The Bachelor may send some questionable messages, but it’s just a T.V. show. Who cares?” Just this Sunday, according to thefutoncritic.com, The Bachelor had over 8.4 million viewers. That’s just in one episode. This T.V. show is popular amongst high schoolers. The problem with this is that we may not realize how negative messages are affecting us subconsciously. “I watch Bachelor for all the crazy girls. I like to make fun of them,” said Stephanie McMahon, sophomore. This problem of perpetrating negative messages extends beyond The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Many reality shows could be accused of sending bad messages, such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians (people deserve to be famous for nothing), Sister Wives (polygamy is a-ok), Jersey Shore, Toddlers and Tiaras (sexualizing children), and perhaps the most damaging, BridalPlasty, a show about several women competing for various surgical procedures before their wedding, which normalizes negative body images. But they’re just reality shows; who takes those seriously? On a scale of seriousness, from “1” to “willingly being sliced up,” studies show that some fans take things far too seriously.
According to the essay “The Influence of Plastic Surgery ‘Reality T.V.’ on Cosmetic Surgery Patient Expectations and Decision Making,” by Richard Crockett, M.D., Thomas Pruzinsky, PhD, and John Persing, M.D., “A survey of first-time plastic surgery patients found that 78 percent were influenced by reality television, and 57 percent of all first-time patients were ‘high intensity’ viewers of cosmetic surgery reality T.V.”
If viewers of a cosmetic reality show are influenced to go to the drastic measures of augmenting one’s body, it is also true that viewers of a dating show would be influenced by that show. The Girl Scout Research Institute surveyed 1,000 girls in the age bracket of 11-17 on the effects of reality shows, and these are their results: 86 percent felt the shows often set people against one another to increase the dramatic value; 73 percent thought reality shows depict fighting as a normal part of a romantic relationship; and 70 percent believed that reality TV leads people to believe it is acceptable to mistreat each other.
Some may say that they watch reality T.V. shows to make fun of the participants. This mentality is along the same lines as forwarding awful Youtube videos (anybody remember Rebecca Black’s song?). But in both cases, it is the participants that will have the last laugh. We may be laughing at their strange mannerisms, but they’ll be laughing when everyone knows their name or when they start getting the checks in the mail. We must not support T.V. shows that send bad messages.
author’s note: In the following article, I discuss how The Bachelor affects women, but the show The Bachelorette affects men in all the same ways. For the sake of brevity, I will talk about women, but know that the same issues apply to both genders.
Mikayla Rust, Editor in Chief