Last night, while queuing up Bachelor in Paradise...
Andy: “Ugh, this is going to be bad.”
Me: “Oh, come on, we’re going to enjoy it.”
Andy: “Yeah, the same way you enjoy a bad fart.”
All I want is to just sit back, dislocate my brain, and luxuriate in the trashiness that is BIP. I really, really do! But it’s hard. I cannot watch this show without discomfort at viewing people’s insecurities in plain view and to then subsequently indulge in some psychoanalysis of said people. Alas, intense delight and intense discomfort cannot be separated.
So about those insecurities. Since this show’s inception (has it really been two years now?) I’ve struggled with the roses being in the men’s courts that first week. I know the very next week the power shifts in the ladies’ favour, but I don’t know… it still doesn’t seem possible to make up for that initial unfairness. The first week already strikes me as a fragile situation for the women. So much of this show and the connections made on it begin with physical appeal and attraction; the result is way too many women feeling and acting insecure, feeling pressure to “do whatever it takes” to “secure” a rose (whatever that means… ugh), or in Lace’s words, used as a voiceover while we see her and Grant crawl into bed together, “make him want to give me the rose.” The entire season is then off to a completely misogynistic start, with those women relying way too hard on their sexual appeal. And while objectively the feminist in me wants to agree that they can do whatever they want, you know full well those actions will be held against them—by both their peers and viewers alike—if another man strikes their fancy the following week and they act on it. And that’s IF that woman lasts through the first week.
Let’s compare two paths taken.
Exhibit A: Leah came with one guy in mind (Chad) but when she discovered he was already gone, went for the next guy she found “hot,” Nick. Being the gallant gentleman he is, Nick shrugged: “Just in fairness alone I’d like to get to know Leah from a sexual chemistry standpoint.” However, shortly after he and Leah shared a date and a kiss, Nick received a date card (how convenient) and gave it to Amanda. Leah, instead of holding her head high and chalking this up to just not being her week, chose to zero in on a man (Daniel) she openly admitted to finding both awkward and unattractive, yet she flirted mercilessly with him in hopes that he might give her his rose. Also, somewhat unrelated but not really: I completely understand watching yourself on television and wanting to change something about your appearance, especially when the world’s internet trolls are involved. I also firmly believe a person has the right to do what they want to feel happy and attractive. But the extremity of her changes (Andy legitimately found her unrecognizable) combined with her apparent lack of confidence just made me worry for her, as though she’s seeking self love in the wrong places. In her teary departure she moaned, “I just want to be happy.” I truly hope she finds what she’s looking for.
Exhibit B: Jubilee arrived with one guy in mind: Jared. She gave him her date card, but when there didn’t seem to be much chemistry, didn’t seem to sweat it too much. (You know that had there been teary, insecure ITMs, they would have aired.) She appeared to spend much of her time with her friends, both male and female, didn’t waste her energy on bitchy ITMs, and the night she went home there was no scrambling. She wasn’t seen sidling up to whatever unattached man she could find, batting her eyelashes and making unconvincing promises about wanting to get to know them better. She knew that if Jared wanted to give her his rose, he would, and if he didn’t, she would get to go home (which frankly doesn’t seem so bad). Special props to Jubilee for defying the stereotype—in the hardest week to do so—and while I sincerely hope not too many young girls are watching this show, she’s the one I would want my daughter emulating.
For more from Sharleen Joynt, visit her blog, alltheprettypandas.com.
Bachelor in Paradise airs Mondays and Tuesdays on City.
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