I admit that I watch The Bachelor. It’s been on for years and I’m just now getting around to it. Every Wednesday night (because I only have Hulu.com) my husband and I sit down to watch this train wreck and we love it. But there are some of the things I’ve seen have started to bother me. Let me break it down.
At this point of the game, with only two or three episode left, I believe that no female who wins this game, wins life. I desperately want the “winner” to leave Ben at the alter and make a phone call to her father to say: “Hey dad, we’ve probably got things to work on. Wanna get a coffee and catch up?” But here we are. There will be a winner and they will end up with Ben.
Let’s talk about Ben. Ben Higgins, software engineer from Indiana, is a nice guy. America came to know him from the previous season of The Bachelorette, when Kaitlyn Bristrowe dumped him. We felt terrible for Higgins because he believe he “could never be loved.” This season, however, everything is looking up for ol’ Higgins because he’s got the cards now. 26 of them, in fact. What bothers me about Ben Higgins is not quite his humorless personality, but his somewhat obsessive demands that his girls be more vulnerable around him. Ben wants honestly, like anyone I assume, but he is constantly badgering the women to be more open. Be more vulnerable.
Which should be easy enough for the female contestants, since it is literally their jobs. The whole show depends on the women constantly being their feelings. Whether it’s through their own insecurities or the steady stream of alcohol offered to them, these women are all about their feelings and they have not been afraid to tell Ben Higgins.
What I would like to know is: How vulnerable do the women have to be for Ben to take them seriously? After all, Jubilee Sharpe (you know, the black one) laid everything on the line and revealed to Higgins that she was the only person in her family to survive the an earthquake in Haiti. She was literally the last of her bloodline. Nothing gets more vulnerable than that.
Amanda Stanton bared her soul about how much her two children meant to her and how they’ve picked up the pieces after a turbulent relationship with Stanton’s ex-boyfriend. Higgins met her children. He told her how wonderful her children were and how he had no qualms about being a step-father.
Caila Quinn was badgered by Higgins to open up, say what was on her mind, be more vulnerable. He said that Quinn was so very smiley, but wondered what else was there. Well Quinn was vulnerable too, much to her demise. After introducing Higgins to her family, after voicing her reservations about being too open, she broke down and told Higgins: “I’m in love with you.”
Ben’s response? A placid smile. He didn’t return the favor, instead he took her to the Fantasy Suite and probably had sex with her.
What happened to these women?
Jubilee Sharpe’s pain and heartache was just too real for Higgins to handle. In the face of it, he may have kept Sharpe on the show out of pity. When she rebuffed him in the form of not acting grateful enough to go on group dates, he had to let her go. While Laura Stanton was gung-ho from the start, one has to wonder if the potential non-traditional family was to be avoided at all costs. Stanton raised an important point for Higgins when he dismissed her: “If you knew you had doubts. . .”
Which was similar to Caila Quinn’s sentiments. While her expression looked as if she wanted to ask an important question, Higgins started rambling about how difficult decision-making was and revealed to Quinn that he was in love with two women that weren’t here. Had she taken a breath and collected her thoughts, I believe she would have asked: “Did you know I wasn’t the one before sleeping with me? A question that must have hung on the lips of many viewers as they watched the fiery car crash that was Ben and Caila.
Vulnerability. What on earth does this mean on The Bachelor?
Ben doesn’t want to know the truth behind any of these women. And if we look really hard at ourselves, we viewer don’t want truth and honesty either. What worries me the most, is that this show teaches women the same awful lesson: women are wholly responsible for supplying the emotions and vulnerability in their relationships. In order to please “any man” (and Ben is our substitute for “any man”) women must be available and open at every turn.
On this show, Ben has absolutely no obligation to be open and vulnerable. In fact, it’s impossible for him to be open and vulnerable because there are too many women and this is a competition where the audience should be surprised in the end. Maybe Jojo Fletcher’s brothers were right: “Ben, you’re brainwashing these girls.”
The dangerous thing about this show is that men have no reason to vulnerable with women. Sure, Higgins cried while talking to Lauren Bushnell’s sister (he made that very very clear when he told Bushnell all about it). But on the whole, this show’s narrative gives men permission to be completely closed off from their emotions and it demands that women must stay open and available to men they barely know. Yes, the current Bachelor is a “nice guy,” but these women don’t know him.
Women already have anxiety about being nice to men they don’t know. Any woman who is approached by a man in a bar, feel obligated to be open. The consequences of not being open can be dangerous for a woman. We’ve seen news reports that show what happens when a woman keeps to herself and rebuffs a man. The results are not as trivial as a rose refusal, no, women can get killed for it. Janese Talton-Jackson was gunned down after she refused a man’s advances. Because she said no, she’s dead.
In a world where women are trying to keep safe in the face of misogyny, The Bachelor (which we’re all watching. . . ), only teaches us that gender constructs in popular culture are a dangerous thing. Men don’t have to be vulnerable, honest or open. Women, on the other hand, must stay in their place. Since popular culture shape can the way we interact with one another, viewer have to remain critical about thing junk we watch.