Skip to content

Pop Culture Doc (CMN 2180)

So, Like, Amazing: The Misrepresentation of Women in The Bachelor
Melissa Pinto
TJ Hawkins


The Bachelor is the first of its Reality TV show kind to introduce harem dating to the nation. But as entertaining and addictive as it seems, how could anyone really fall in love in two months, with cameras following them around? why would you go on a game show, hoping to fall in love? What do you think of the women on this show? While waching tv’s popular show the Bachelor, we examine the heavy misrepresentation of women based on the phenomena of reality tv ultimately preserving antiqued gender roles and stereotypes.

What is so intriguing about reality television?

Reality television is appealing to viewers because it enables them to live vicariously through the people they are watching. Viewers are able to feel the emotions of the characters on television without leaving the comfort of their living room. Author Stephen Fuller says Shows like The Bachelor are especially appealing because they portray something that all people can relate to: the search for love. Love is a universal theme that applies to everyone watching television.

The Bachelor is a reality television show that was first aired in 2002 on ABC. The premise of the show is that a carefully selected single man is introduced to twenty-five attractive and available women. Over the course of a few weeks, the bachelor is given a chance to date and become romantically involved with the women.. At the end of each week’s show, in a highly ritualistic moment termed the “rose ceremony” the bachelor selects the women who will return for another week of growing emotional and sexual involvement with him and often increasing rivalry among themselves.

According to Author Cynthia Frisby: reality television is intriguing based on the Social Comparison Theory. Social Comparison Theory states that people build an identity and cope with problems by comparing their lives with those of others. This is because people have a drive or need to compare their abilities and opinions to others. People compare themselves to others for a number of reasons: to determine relative standing on an issue or related ability, emulate behaviours, determine norms, lift spirits or feel better about personal situations, and to evaluate one’s self-worth. Reality television enables viewers to compare their lives to the “real” ones portrayed on TV.

Author Merri Lisa Johnson also writes that “harem dating” is another contributing factor to what turns us on about The Bachelor. A harem is defined as the wives (or concubines) of a polygamous man. The Bachelor essentially portrays every man’s fantasy: dating a lot of beautiful women. This harem or group fantasy is a frequent source of erotic fascination and a recurring image in pornography.

Preservation of Gender Roles

Author Susan J. Douglas believes The Bachelor to be a reality television show that perpetuates patriarchal values through the institution of marriage. Although the show involves harem dating, the ultimate goal of all the women is to marry the bachelor. This serves the interest of men and capitalism, two dominant factors in today’s society. The show often serves to separate women from each other by leading them to invest their time in a single man instead of building a network of relationships.

Author Johnson writes new patterns of mobility, the increased presence of women in the workforce for longer periods of time, a delay in childbearing and rearing, an increase human lifespan, and a host of other social and economic changes mean that young adults may spend more years dating and engage in more premarital sex than previous generations. The Bachelor is a show that does not exemplify these values and maintains a preservation for antiqued roles.

Perpetuating Stereotypes

As previously stated, The Bachelor is a show that perpetuates patriarchy. Women in the show are portrayed as young, slim, and primarily blond. According to Douglas, Young women flock to the bachelor because they want to participate in a process that reinforces what kinds of femininity that ensures survival in a world still run by men. The show ropes viewers into damning certain behaviours while applauding others. This perpetuates a value from the 1950’s, in which women are judged first and foremost on their bodies, faces, and personality traits rather than their intelligence, integrity, talents, or political conviction.

In David Escoffery’s, he writes that the show portrays “troubling stereotypes of femininity – weepiness, cattiness, and dependency on men” (Escoffery 122). Escoffery also adds that ”many, if not most, of these women are educated, have careers, own their own businesses… However, so desperate they are to wed, they jump at the chance to marry a man whom they have known for a matter of weeks and who was, in all reality, cheating on them up until the day he popped the question” (Escoffery 124).

Jennifer Pozner  confirms David Escoffery’s beliefs in her book, when she writes that girls on The Bachelor are portrayed as “conniving, deceiving, and just vicious!” (Pozner 97). Pozner quotes Bachelor host Chris Harrison as saying “the claws were bound to come out when one man is involved with more than one woman” (Pozner 99). Pozner essentially states that The Bachelor portrays women as manipulative and seems to only show the viewer the women’s antagonism towards one another.

The Bachelorette: Counteracting These Stereotypes?

Author Annette Hill offers some objection that the sister reality format show the Bachelorette attempts to counteract such gender stereotypes. Although some might see this as the case, with this there comes double standards from the audience. According to Johnson, Host Chris Harrison sat the first bachelorette, Trista down and asked her to explain to uncomfortable viewers why she kissed more than on prospective fiancé. She immediate jumped at  the chance to maintain her reputation by saying she was a good girl and not a tramp.

With another Bachelorette, Jillian, Harrison made her justify a steamy hot tub make out session with former Bachelor Jason Mesnick — before he dumped her. To Jillan’s credit, she was the first Bachelorette to refuse to apoloize for her sexualty. She was a normal, healthy adult, if she wanted to pursue sexual attraction with a consenting partner, she saw no foul in this. Johnson calls this type of interrogation “Slut-shaming” , which has traveled from the prime time series to the media spectacle that surrounds it.


Although the Bachelor provides some sort of entertainment to its viewers, it provides a harmful message to women. Ultimately, the Bachelor maintains a 1950s approach to feminism — seeing women as dependant on men. This reinforces patriarchal values while upholding antiqued gender roles and stereotypes of women. So next time you watch the bachelor, take a second think about what you’re really watching.



Balkin, K. (2004). Reality TV  . San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press.

Douglas, S. J. (2010). Enlightened sexism:  the seductive message that feminism’s work is done. New York: Times Books.

Escoffery, D. S. (2006). How real is reality TV?:  essays on representation and truth. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co..

Faller, S. (2009). Reality TV:  theology in the video era. St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice Press.

Hill, A. (2005). Reality TV:  audiences and popular factual television. London: Routledge.

Johnson, M. L. (2007). Third wave feminism and television  Jane puts it in a box. London: I.B. Tauris ;.

Lankford, R. D. (2008). Reality TV  . Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Murray, S., & Ouellette, L. (2004). Reality TV:  remaking television culture. New York: New York University Press.

Pozner, J. L. (2010). Reality bites back:  the troubling truth about guilty pleasure TV. Berkeley, Calif.: Seal Press.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: