I originally wrote this piece for a work blog and when I shared it with some clients I had mixed responses. The Bachelor has a way to polarise public opinion. There’s not a lot of fence sitting going on.
I have a number of friends, colleagues and clients who watch The Bachelor and see it as nothing but a banal yet amusing show that they can laugh about whilst simultaneously admiring the lovely dresses and fascinating commentary that exists alongside it. Escapism at its trashy best.
Friends, colleagues and clients who are intelligent women who have the capacity to distance themselves from the mindless drama, smart women who don’t see it as a fairytale to aspire to. They watch it with their tongues firmly placed in their cheek and joke at the irony of 22 women dating the one man. Equality at its finest.
I know that many people watch the show with a similar perspective, but I suspect, or rather I know, there are those who secretly wish it was they who had the opportunity to seek their clichéd 15 minutes of fame on the pretence that they are there to find love.
From what I’ve seen and heard about this season though is that it has taken a more sinister turn and there is a level of cheap behaviour that no expensive dress can disguise. For the intention of good ratings, controversy and conflict is manifesting in the manner of being mean. It is Perfect Match meets Mean Girls and I think that when society is comfortable with advocating being mean in the interests of reality television marketed as entertainment then that’s a dilemma and it’s kind of sad. Surely we are better than that? Surely we want to be better than that?
Though the casting is questionable, these are real people not fiction characters. Seemingly there are contestants on the show that are delighted at being portrayed as the villains, the mean girls. Really? I cannot fathom how you can be happy to be perceived in such a way regardless of your intentions. You see, if those ladies are happy to be nasty on television what does this then say about their moral compass in other parts of their life? Are they the friends you want as part of your tribe? Do you want them on your team at work? If placed in the position of having to interview one of these contestants (because as a Recruiter, that’s what I do) would I feel comfortable recruiting them?
Not a chance.
Imagine if a colleague said to you “Do I intimidate you? Because I should”. Because in case you missed it that is what was said. Much like my clever, feminist friends who watch the show and only take it for what it is (crappy, guilty pleasure) I understand that I should do the same but the reality is this. Rarely does a week pass that my office does not come across a situation where a candidate we interview has not previously been exposed to this kind of social grace within the workplace. They come to an interview lacking confidence because on a daily basis they are dealing with the mean girls. High school drama in a professional workplace setting masked as apparent assertiveness. By definition it isn’t bullying but it is distasteful and it leaves people feeling vulnerable and often it isn’t addressed because though it might be unwarranted and unkind, it isn’t illegal to be mean. We see this on our television screens and we gleefully watch and wait for the drama to unfold and then glorify it when it does.
Are we not then condoning the behaviour?
I’m not saying that if you watch the show then you excuse it or approve it. I just think there are impressionable people, mostly young girls (an accurate generalisation I’d say) whom are yet to enter the workforce, who watch this and see that acting this way is the way you win. It’s how you get ahead in life, in love and invariably your career. That cannot be good for a society that is forever attempting to stamp out workplace behaviours around bullying and intimidation.
There is a sense of mixed messages that we are sending to a generation who are still finding their feet and perhaps I should give them more credit that they know what is appropriate and they support the sisterhood. Added to this is that it seems as though some of the contestants are probably highly competent, bright women who are “dumbing it down” in order to win the affections of the viewers and the Bachelor. Perpetuating the problem further by adding “ditzy” to the qualities it takes to accomplish what you want out of life.
Pretty girls acting ugly is pretty ugly.