Here at Villainesse, we haven’t had the easiest ride with The Bachelor. And rightfully so. This is a feminist website. A website that believes in the dignity, power and capability of women and girls. A website that tackles rape culture and sexism wherever we see it. And The Bachelor is a show about women competing with other women for… a random dude. We were never going to gravitate towards it around these parts.
I watched the first New Zealand season – the Art Green season – out of little more than local curiosity. How would we adapt something so achingly American to our ways? Truly, it just seems so foreign to put yourself out there like that. To broadly generalise hundreds of millions of people, Americans act as if they were born to be on camera. New Zealanders, on the other hand, experience deep shame when we have to speak in front of, like, three people. So yeah, I felt the embarrassment.
I didn’t watch any of the subsequent seasons of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette and given that, to my knowledge, Art and Matilda are the only duo who made it out alive. I don’t think I’ve missed much. But I did decide to watch this latest, current season for one distinct reason: I actually went to school with a couple of the competitors. In a country as small as ours it was bound to happen sometime. Out of respect, I won’t name who they are, but I think they’re great people.
And it was that link, along with what has been quite a friendly season of the franchise, that lead me to thinking about the feminism of the show – and if the show has any.
For one thing, it passes the Bechdel test [that is, two named women talk to each other about something other than a man]. As hard as it may be to remember everyone’s name, every woman on this show does in fact have a name, and that name is proudly scrawled across the bottom of the screen every time she talks to camera. (It also mentions her age so, minus points for that, I guess?) On the second point, that they talk to each other, the show passes with flying colours. In fact, we often see much more coverage of these conversations than the stilted ones happening on those very awkward dates. It’s on that third point, that they talk about something other than a man, that the show often falters, given that conversations usually circle around the show’s namesake bachelor. Still, it generally limps over the finish line with subplots about meditation circles and yoga and making themselves some lunch.
Of course, a person could read all this from the total opposite angle: as a way of pointing out the limitations of the Bechdel test. I can think of several films that don’t pass the test but, through the depth of the female protagonist, are a hell of a lot more feminist than The Bachelor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Arrival, Gravity, etc.).
That said, here at Villainesse we have long complained about Manels (all-male panels) and TV shows that feature eight men – and a woman for balance. So any chance to get thirteen or more women on screen is some kind of win.
The fact that The Bachelor is one of the few shows where this happens, though? Now that’s just sad.Support Villainesse