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''The Bachelor'': As if feminism never happened

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The Bachelor: Bob D'Amico

”The Bachelor”: As if feminism never happened

Feminism may not have died during tonight’s episode of The Bachelor, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet she’ll be paying a visit to the emergency room. Unfortunately, she’s going to have to wait her turn behind romance and human dignity, both of which are fighting for their lives after only four episodes (doesn’t it feel like twice that amount?) of this train-wreck season.

While that’s depressing news for hopeless romantics, champions of women’s rights, and folks who identify with both of those descriptions, I’ve come up with at least a temporary way to enjoy the proceedings (and no, it’s not a drinking game where you throw one back every time host Chris Harrison utters the phrase ”coming up on The Bachelor”). You see, I prefer to treat this series as the Melrose Place of reality television. You’ve got bitter rivalries, appalling plays for attention, copious alcohol consumption, malicious gossip, plenty of exposed flesh — and no serious moral consequences for anyone. (The only thing that’s missing is the crazy chick in a wig who’s seeking revenge, but then again, maybe bikini model Kristine, eliminated in episode 1, will come back in disguise for a May sweeps appearance.)

In other words, as long as you don’t show up expecting any Trista-and-Ryan fuzzies, you’ll have nothing to fret about.

Okay, okay. There is something distressing about watching six sorry strumpets compete for the heart, or at least the temporary affections, of sometime actor Charlie O’Connell, but the show is a two-way street: While the women seem desperate for Charlie, for victory, for 15 minutes of network airtime, Charlie conducts himself like a former frat boy hearing the words ”last call!” (For a wife? A career? A rum and coke? It’s anyone’s guess.)

Nevertheless, Charlie’s initially refreshing down-to-earth vibe is quickly becoming off-putting. ”I don’t know what I’m looking for,” he said. ”If I did, I’d have a mail-order-bride book and I’d just pick it out.” (Yeah, that’s my emphasis on ”it.” Should a guy speak of his future spouse the way Jame Gumb referred to his hostage in The Silence of the Lambs?). Or how about: ”I grabbed [Sarah W.] out of the bathroom and told her to get back there and start cookin’, woman.” Or even later, his directive that she ”settle down or just keep quiet.” Why not just hit her over the head with a club, dude?

You could lay all the blame on Charlie for his unenlightened attitude, but behind every sexist Bachelor, there apparently lies not one but six fawning women. Krisily and Sarah W. seem downright intoxicated by Charlie’s Cro-Magnon pheromones: They started shrieking like a pair of territorial baboons at the nail salon, although in this case, it was delightful to see Sarah W. take over as alpha female. After enduring weeks of Krisily’s reality-speak blather about revealing the truth and ”being there for the right reasons,” Sarah W. finally decided to dole out the same nasty medicine. ”I think you should be honest with your feelings,” she said, every word dripping with sarcasm, to a flabbergasted Krisily. Sarah W. then landed the killer blow: ”I really hope Charlie doesn’t end up with you, Krisily, because you’re horrible, you’re a nightmare.”

Taking the women from a verbal catfight and placing them in a fencing competition only heightened the girl-fight theatrics — and produced the evening’s most hilarious zinger in the process, again from Sarah W.: ”I’m not comfortable with putting a sword in Krisily’s hand . . . because if she were to stab me, she would be thrown in jail, and there’d be a major lawsuit pressed on her, which really would be the ultimate revenge.” I know what she means: Who cares if you get maimed on the third date, as long as that b—- gets her comeuppance? And anyway, why not focus on petty rivalry when the man in question can’t be bothered to shave or comb his hair for an afternoon outing?

Still, Sarah W. might want to spend less time discussing Krisily’s case of ”classtrophobia” (sic) and more worrying about Sarah B., who nabbed herself a rose during a dull horseback-riding date that yielded little more than Charlie coining the nicknames Little Sarah (B.) and Big Sarah (W.) to describe the dueling babes.

I’m not certain how much chemistry Charlie and Little Sarah actually have, but they were Bogey and Bacall compared with Charlie and Anitra, whose liquor-soaked dinner featured so many ”wacky” cases of opposites (she loves dessert, he has no sweet tooth! she lives for e-mail, he doesn’t type!) that I half expected the producers to cue ”Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Anitra, on the other hand, was ready to cue ”99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” as she observed that ”maybe Charlie’s had one too many cocktails,” a fact he surprisingly apologized for the next morning. He should’ve also apologized for failing to wash and comb his hair before dinner, but maybe it’s his strategy to just keep it real and see how much he can get away with.

Certainly, his behavior wasn’t enough to make Anitra (who seems like a pretty cool chick) drop out before the rose ceremony. Since she clearly wasn’t all that into Charlie, I’m not really sure why she didn’t take a stand on behalf of womankind, or at least on behalf of herself, and flee for the exit.

But see, there’s the rub. As I said before, if you’re going to enjoy this season’s Bachelor, you’ve got to quash any hopes for romance, feminism, and perhaps even human dignity. I just wonder: If everyone on the show can do it in front of 8 million viewers, how come it’s so difficult for me to follow suit from the privacy of my own couch?

What do you think? Is romance dead on The Bachelor? Which contender is scarier: Sarah W. or Krisily? And is this season giving women or men a worse name?

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