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Real women vs. reality television

Submitted by Liz Fox on March 22, 2012 – 3:51 pmOne Comment

In recent years, the cultural lexicon has come to dictate how we define relationships through seminal oh-no-they-didn’t classics such as “The Bachelor,” “Flavor of Love” and “Beauty and the Geek.” These programs bring to light the aspects of a caricatured relationship, only to culminate into a temporarily happy ending that will boost ratings enough for the same person to philander themselves into another season of newsworthy heartbreak. Because these shows are widely watched, they manage to have an unconscious effect on average relationships as well as reinforce flawed stereotypes and expectations concerning appearance, gender and god knows what else.

The primary perpetrators in this case often appear on VH1, where washed up celebrities are goaded by producers into finding that one lover that’s worth a 15-minute lifetime. As addicting as it is to watch the events unfold in all their tragic splendor, it can get tiring when the viewers catch on to the characterization of the people involved. “Flavor of Love” contestants are usually one point away from appearing on Maury, and “The Bachelorette’s” all-male ensemble are shallow and seemingly spineless in the face of physical beauty. This pattern, whether we realize it or not, has an adverse effect on how we view (and sometimes idealize) relationships.

Now, this tirade will not be based on the foundations of physical stereotypes. It’s a no-brainer for viewers that most reality show staples are buxom blondes and muscular men who can fall in love with each other only after falling in love with themselves. The harm lies not in appearances but in the interaction between these characters, as women are unmistakably portrayed as emotional while men are more cunning and even intelligent. These hackneyed personalities offer false accounts of relationships that are supposed to be taking place in real life situations. Women who end up in the rejection pile bid their farewells with tearful, overblown goodbyes, and men bow their heads in a surface kind of disappointment and walk offstage to gather their promised lump sums. Because this merely reaffirms what is “expected” of both genders, fans apply this version of reality to their own. This is, for all intents and purposes, wrong.

I’ve come across more than a few people who are looking for that quintessential fairy tale ending, and it’s not a coincidence that most of them are reality television addicts. But the puzzler is this: why do women continue watching the show when the portrayals of women are so negative? You’d think that with the “real women” movement, there would be a massive backlash and eventual boycott of programs that only seem to horribly generalize the female entity. But this masochistic ritual seems to continue, as the loyal audiences who keep these shows going are mostly comprised of women. It’s disheartening to know that women are promoting the same ideals that are damaging them.

However, a silver lining has formed in the face of all this grandeur. During the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette,” filming will take on the main female’s home front -a first for the show, as producers have allowed Emily Maynard to take the reins on the program’s location. It might not be the most empowering aspect of what’s to come, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. You go, girl.

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