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Fifteen minutes – at any cost?


Last Friday I had lunch with a wonderful girlfriend.  A long overdue catch up.  She arrived first and nabbed a table at a smart little Vietnamese joint in St Kilda.  As soon as I sat down she announced….’see that guy over there?  He’s the Bachelor.’  ‘How do you know, I asked?’  ‘The waitress whispered it to me on arrival,’ she confessed.  Really?  We took a look at said ‘bachelor’, surrounded by a bevy of beauties and a bloke, and wondered what their story was.  We moved on.

Last night I arrived home to a fed family with homework completed and a rare opportunity for some downtime in front of the tele.  Catching the tail end of Nigella Bites before SBS News, all of a sudden it was 7.30pm and Miss Matilda (13), asked if we could watch The Bachelor.  “Come on Mum, everyone at school watches it!”  My interest somewhat piqued by the proximity of the man of the moment last week, I agreed.

So let’s get this straight.  A group of women who clearly apply to be part of the show (not sure of the criteria nor the audition requirements), live together in a ‘mansion’, meet with Bachelor Man Sam whenever he feels like it either in a group date or on a single date, clearly with the ultimate ambition to be the chosen one that captures Sam’s heart.  Really?  And each week one potential lover is eliminated via a ridiculous audience with Sam complete with long stemmed red roses.  No rose received…..let me show you the door.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  A group of women, clearly all quite intelligent and accomplished in their own right (sales executive, school teacher, advertising executive, theatre producer to name a few of their jobs), becoming starry eyed pawns in a completely contrived dating game?  Why?

But not only that, they are pitched against each other, vying for some more of Sam’s attention either with a little ‘chat’ or in a date situation.  Last night, two teams had to play some crazy bubble soccer game with the winning team of four given access to Sam via a celebratory night out and drinking session.  They were brutal to each other!  “Let’s take them down!”, one of them whooped when devising strategy to knock the other team out of the park.  What a surprise, a draw just before the fourth quarter was over when – kaboom – the green team scored a sneaky goal to nab the prize.  They cheered and hollered and screamed – and the losing team looked like, well, losers.

As I took to social media to pose the question – why women do this to themselves – and each other – by choice, the responses resoundingly agreed that the cause for equality hadn’t progressed too far.  The words insulting, disgusting, bottom-dwelling television, utter crap and lower common denominator were bandied around, with one friend commenting, “it’s disgusting sexist propaganda aimed at young women to keep them undervalued, underpaid and under-appreciated.”  After wondering whether I was taking it all too seriously and in fact, it’s just meant to be escapist entertainment, I decided that no, actually, this was bad stuff sending really poor messages to primarily young women already struggling with the challenges of the modern world.

I discussed it with my daughter, who decided it was only fun, Mum, but after more discussion, she did decide that it wasn’t really nice to women.  Quite fairly, she also mentioned the flip side program, The Bachelorette, that apparently treats men in the same way.  We both agreed that that wasn’t ok either.

Maybe it does have a purpose.  A colleague of mine gets together every week with her nearest and dearest besties, shares a meal and a glass of wine and watches the show.  They laugh and poke fun and wonder who will win – all good, clean fun and a great opportunity to get together.  None of them take the women on that show seriously.

So I can only figure that this is all about fame and celebrity.  At any cost.  And why are we so obsessed with our potential fifteen minutes, regardless of how we get it?  Regardless of who we demean in the process?  Regardless of how our own reputations and images are edited and sliced and diced to present a persona determined by the producers of the show?  Clearly the cult of celebrity is addictive – and certainly no cure is in sight.  Sigh…..