My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

Archive for the tag “reality tv”

Why I No Longer Love the Bachelor, or, I Give Sean and Catherine Six Months

no rose

Annnnnd we’re done.  I don’t even want to count the hours I’ve spent this year indulging in my guilty pleasure, The Bachelor.  I started this season with a long post explaining Why this Feminist Loves The Bachelor.  It’s great ironic fun, I argued.  It’s a satire of gender roles and whiteness and dating rules.

Now that this season is over, I think I may be ready to take that back.  This show is just plain sadistic.

From a feminist perspective, I don’t think that this show does a great disservice to women and gender roles (although it doesn’t exactly help). While there are certainly “true believers” who watch this show, I firmly feel the main reason The Bachelor has been so successful is because it’s so fun to mock.  If you don’t believe me, just visit the snarky, hilarious weekly Bachelor recaps by Kristen Baldwin at, and the hundreds of pithy remarks in the comments section.

So I’m not terribly worried that this show is brainwashing Americans into thinking that women need to be sniveling, powerless, male-dependent half-wits.  We know better than that.

What I am worried about is that this show messes with the minds of real contestants for the purpose of persuading them to “fall in love.”  It’s good TV when women are crying hysterically for some guy they met a few weeks ago, and this show is all about good TV.  I recently read a Psychology Today article that discusses the manipulation techniques used on The Bachelor to persuade people that they are actually in love with the stranger for whom they are competing, and it made me feel bad about actually watching this garbage.  Producer Mike Fleiss is an evil genius.

Yes, these people know what they are getting themselves into.  They are young, attractive people looking for adventure and fifteen minutes of fame.  Or so I keep telling myself.  But they also are real people who get badly hurt.  The whole premise of this show is built around rejection, which, if memory serves me correctly from my dating days, is one emotion that really, really sucks.

This week, I watched Sean turn down Lindsay at the “altar,” and she was crushed.  For real crushed.  And then I watched Sean propose to Catherine in what was, in TV terms, a beautiful proposal.  But it made me feel sad, because chances are extremely high that these two seemingly nice people don’t have a chance.  (Only three marriages have resulted in 20-plus seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.) These two people knew each other for a period of weeks before he proposed, and the day before the proposal, Sean was still saying he was equally torn between Catherine and Lindsay.  Does that sound like a solid foundation for a marriage?  Combine that with the fact that these two people apparently have nothing in common, other than being very good looking and “goofy” (or so they claim).  Catherine’s a Seattle vegan with a nose ring.  Sean’s a conservative Christian boy from Texas.  Not that people with those characteristics can’t possibly make it, but the pairing doesn’t scream “perfect match.”

I give it six months.  If that.  She strikes me as a former high school nerd who can’t believe that this “beefcake” (which she called him a zillion times) is actually into her.  Puppy love.  I predict two seriously broken hearts.  Because they do seem like unusually nice and genuine people who someone stumbled into a reality TV nightmare, I actually feel bad for them.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up watching this garbage.  But I didn’t get much pleasure out of watching the proposal tonight, and I think the sadistic premise of this show may finally be too much for me.

TLC, Catholic Church Team Up for “Who Wants to Be the Next Pope?”

Vatican City — Faced with accusations that they are “out of touch” with modern life, the Catholic Church has decided to take a drastic step to become more relevant:  reality TV.

With the surprise retirement of Pope Benedict XIV, the Church finds itself in the unenviable position of having to name the second new pope in less than a decade.  The solution?  A joint reality TV venture between TLC and the Catholic Church called “Who Wants to Be the Next Pope?”

At this early date, the format of “Who Wants to Be the Next Pope?” is under discussion.  One proposal:  every week, contestants will get acquainted with Vatican officials.  At the end of the week, the favorite contestants will be asked to stay at an elimination ceremony with the tagline, “Cardinal, will you accept this rosary?”

Also unclear at this time:  who will be the host of “Who Wants to Be the Next Pope?”  A worldwide search for talented Catholics is underway, with an early list of frontrunners that includes Stephen Colbert, Paul Ryan, Madonna, an assortment of telenovela stars, and pretty much everybody from the Kennedy family.

Critics are already accusing TLC of reaching a new low of tacky, scandalous television that has the potential to offend over a billion believers worldwide.  Network executive Brad O’Malley, an Irish Catholic, countered these claims.  “We realize that this show might be pushing the envelope a little,” said O’Malley.  “But if people are offended, they don’t have to watch. Just like they don’t have to watch Toddlers and Tiaras, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Hoarders, and our many shows about little people and conjoined twins.”

“Here at TLC,” said O’Malley, “we’re always looking for reality shows that viewers never in a million years thought that anyone would ever put on TV.  That’s why we’re called The Learning Channel.”

The Holy Ghost, who is usually a key participant when choosing a new pope, has already declined TLC’s offer to participate in the program.

Top 10 Political Reality TV Show Ideas

Once upon a time, citizens were willing to listen for hours to debates and other lengthy political discourse. Unfortunately, today’s American attention span is better equipped for the likes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

To get modern Americans more engaged in politics, maybe it’s time we changed things up from C-SPAN to America’s favorite television format — reality TV!  Here are ten ideas for how to use reality TV to rejuvenate the political process.

1. The Bench-ler

There’s just not enough drama behind the process of choosing a Supreme Court nominee. Why not make the process like The Bachelor? Every week, the House and Senate can go on “dates” with the nominees to exciting locations like the Harvard Law School Library.  And instead of a rose ceremony, they could hand out… “Clarence, will you accept this robe?”

2. The Vice Apprentice

Similarly, choosing a Vice Presidential candidate would be so much more dramatic if the nominee did it Apprentice style. Every week, the potential VPs would be assigned to degrading tasks with lots of product placement involved, and whoever screws up the worst gets fired.  This may actually happen if (God forbid) Donald Trump ever gets the nomination.

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Lincoln, Civility, and Reality TV

cspanWould we be better off if members of Congress abandoned all vestiges of civility, and instead went after each other with a cruel barrage of insults?

This goes against our modern sense of how politics is supposed to function. In 2009, when a South Carolina Congressman shouted, “You lie!” as President Obama spoke, people were horrified. What has happened, we bemoaned, to civility in American politics? It’s bad enough that commentators are screaming at each other on Fox News, but now, in the House of Representatives?

But then, this past weekend, I went to see Lincoln. And to me, the most fascinating part was watching the Congressmen debating each other in the circa-1864 House of Representatives. These weren’t just any debates. Out of the mouths of these distinguished gentlemen came personal attacks and painfully clever barbs, which were followed by partisan roars of approval. Along with the cigars and spittoons, I almost expected to see these guys with frothy mugs of lager. They may as well have been at the pub.

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House Hunters, or, The Wish List of Ubiquity

I live in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis in a house that was built in 1949. In postwar America, my neighborhood was the pinnacle of American normalcy, where people retreated from the madness of the war years into adorable 900-square foot boxes.  Women were pressured to abandon their wartime jobs, crank out babies, and make lovely concoctions out of lemon Jell-O and Veg-All.  (All of this, of course, was dependent on whiteness.) And no, not everybody subscribed to this notion that conformity was synonymous with patriotism, but many did.

These days, we tend to look at the little houses and shake our heads at the conformity. But have things really changed? You might think so—until you warm up your television and flip the channel (so to speak) to HGTV and House Hunters.

If you’ve never seen House Hunters, the premise is simple. There’s a couple, or a single person, or a family. They want to buy a house. A realtor comes by and shows them three houses in their budget. The pros and cons of the house are weighed, and a decision is made.  They buy their house. They are thrilled with their house.  Buyer’s remorse does not happen on House Hunters, ever. They are always thrilled with their house.

Occasionally, House Hunters features people who are looking for something a little different, although the “different” people kind of fall into tropes, like the prototypical artsy couple who wants to fix up a 1920s Craftsman. What’s stunning to me, though, is how rare this is. By far, the majority of house hunters essentially want the same house.

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