First published on Monday the 2nd of May, 2016, this piece comes in at number 25 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2016.
As the end of the current season of The Bachelor New Zealand approaches, perhaps not fast enough, I have been wondering what the show will leave behind. Whilst talking to a friend’s mum a while ago, she told me that her 10-year-old daughter begs to watch the show because all of her friends are watching it. Not only do they watch it, but they discuss their favorites, the ones they want to go home, what the contestants were wearing and all the other dramas of every episode, every week.
This worried me so much that weeks later I’m still thinking about it. What kinds of lessons and values could The Bachelor be teaching these girls? What might they learn from this reality television show, that, in my opinion, is far too unnatural to have the word ‘reality’ associated with it?
It is well known that children learn from imitation, copying the actions, behaviours and beliefs of those around them, most commonly family members, but also, through media consumption, from people they don’t directly interact with. Tweens in particular, who are on the verge of adolescence, are in the process of picking up the values that could shape who they are. If they internalise The Bachelor’s belief system now, it could impact upon their entire lives.
Many of the values that make The Bachelor what it is are arguably damaging. The bachelorettes bicker and talk behind the backs of their fellow contestants. The women dress up immaculately before each cocktail party hoping that the Bachelor will whisk them away for a conversation so they can impress him and win him over. The Bachelor is seen as a prize to be won, finding love is a competition and getting a man is seen as winning in life.
The show tends to subconsciously reinforce harmful stereotypes; that women are shown to be bitchy, they need a man to be complete and have to look good to get one. When these kinds of behaviours are shown on the big screen, they can become validated in people’s minds, especially young minds.
Despite what I’m saying about The Bachelor now, I watched every episode of the previous season. Although something about the show never sat right with me, I adored the drama, the glamour and the romance of it all. That’s what makes this even worse – the hype of it all is so easy to get sucked into that the effects of it may not yet be realised.
I’m not saying that everyone who watches the show will be negatively affected by it, but I think the show should be taken with a grain of salt. The problem is, younger generations may not realise that there is anything wrong with the show if they are too caught up in the popularity and thrill of it. Today’s 10-year-olds will make up the next generation of our society – do we want them to be a generation of bachelors and bachelorettes?