Is ''The Bachelor'' sexist, or something worse? Mary Kaye Schilling offers a female point of view on the reality TV show that millions of woman (and men) tune in to every week
The Bachelor
Credit: The Bachelor: Byron J. Cohen/ABC

Is ”The Bachelor” sexist, or something worse?

I love ”The Bachelor,” though maybe not for the same reasons 10 million other viewers have fallen in love with ABC’s reality show.

Women between the ages of 18 and 49 have apparently become obsessed with the weekly quest of 31-year-old Alex Michel, a Harvard-educated (as we are reminded again and again) business management consultant in search of true love and/or a wife. The show’s producers have supplied this ”carefully chosen” young man with 25 comely possibilities, to be narrowed down each week (and if that conjures up images of a beauty pageant, you wouldn’t be wrong).

As of this week, we’re down to two finalists the Miami Heat dancer who also works with kids, and the only one who’s name I can remember because she’s someone I might be able to spend five minutes with — Amanda, an event planner from Chanute, Kanasas (which begs the question: are there enough events to plan in Chanute?).

You’re probably thinking I sound very condescending. Maybe, but isn’t that, ultimately, the intention of the show? Are we really supposed to take these people seriously? Everyone is kind of silly and a little pathetic — Alex most of all. Can someone please explan the attraction here? He looks like a Ken doll and is about as deep as a Ken doll (a Harvard-educated Ken doll), yet these women took one look at him — literally stepped from the limo and took one look at him — and decided he was (and I quote) ”everything I’ve ever wanted in a man.”

And the clichés keep coming. In fact, ”The Bachelor” strikes me as the culmination of years of self-help books and women’s magazines telling us how to get a guy, what to look for in a guy, how to behave around a guy. The show’s ”ladies,” as they are consistently referred to, speak Dr. Phil — ”I will only settle for what’s best for me”; ”life is a series of growth opportunities”; — and then have panic attacks when Alex doesn’t pick them to move into the next round.

They talk repeatedly about their lists — the qualities they consider essential, all straight out of ”Cosmopolitan”: intelligent, sensitive, kind, funny, etc. And yet Alex hasn’t displayed one of these traits; indeed, despite frequent giggling from the gals, he hasn’t said one even remotely amusing thing since episode one (except perhaps when he described Amanda as having a ”rockin’ bod.” Did I mention he went to Harvard?). These women want to get married so badly they don’t even care who the guy is as long as they can plug him into their fantasy. And who better to plug in than someone with little or no personality?

I’m not going to be one of those women who argue that ”The Bachelor” represents a step backwards for my gender. These people aren’t representative of either gender. Besides, it’s not like sexist entertainment ever went away: Scratch beneath the surface of the most empowered of women and more often than not you’ll find a ”Pretty Woman” fantasy.

I’m guessing ”The Bachelor” is like porn for a lot of my sex — those who consider single-red-rose-romance the ultimate turn on. (In fact, a lot about the show is reminiscent of soft-core porn, including that smarmy soundtrack.) It’s not my personal fantasy, but that doesn’t make it any less rewarding to make fun of.

I could argue that if the situation were reversed, and it was a woman who was doing the choosing, it wouldn’t be the googly-eyed love fest we’re seeing here. Guys couldn’t tolerate a woman having so much power — nor would they find it appealing. But even bringing that issue up means I would be considering this show as something beyond the comedy it is.

A colleague told me that a female friend won’t let her husband watch ”The Bachelor” with her because she can’t bear to be distracted. That’s understandable if she means she doesn’t want to miss an Alex gem like ”Amanda has this really creative sexuality, and she’s handing it to me like a gift.” I somehow don’t think that’s what she does mean, and frankly I don’t want to know. If you sincerely care about smug, dim-witted Alex and his sad harem, then you probably should be watching alone.

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