‘Gavin Henson and a female friend exchange vacant stares (Picture: Channel 5)’ – Metro
The reality TV dating show format is dead. The Bachelor is its funeral.
The Bachelor is very very difficult to watch. I only managed it in five minute bursts, with breaks in between to regain my sanity. I have found it harder to watch than any ‘reality’ sex/dating oriented show so far. Here are the reasons why I think it marks the end of ‘love’ on the box:
1) It is so orange.
Yes, Geordie Shore may have been the most orange show on TV in terms of the bodies on display, and it was sponsored by a fake-tan company. But somehow the gritty north-eastern context brought a bit of light and shade to proceedings. The Bachelor is set in a tropical ‘paradise’ which is all sunshine and sea and swimming pool blue, and the orangeness of the people, but especially Gavin, is illuminated and exaggerated to tacky extremes. You can’t focus on anything else but the tans! Aaagghh.
2) The contestants are so young
There is one token ’33 year old’ woman on the show, but she is surrounded by what seems to me to be teenagers. So watching these young women vie for the hand in marriage of the bachelor, is a bit like seeing St Trinians Go Forth the movie, with extra nail varnish and bleached hair. I feel kind of well, voyeuristic obviously, but like I am witnessing child-brides lining up to be bought by the lord of the manor. I know they know what they are letting themselves in for- they have seen The Bachelor USA – but I still think the word ‘exploitation’ could be relevant here. And the word ‘ icky’ – a word I do not use except in very extreme circumstances.
3) It is too lesbian
I watched a similar show from America a while back, about a young woman singer looking for love, and I got quite into the ‘homosocial’ bonding and fighting (sometimes literal fights) between the men competing for her attentions. It was actually very homoerotic in places, with the men – very buff fit boys- stripping off at every opportunity and physically showing off their assets- to each other. Their friendships and love/hate relationships were far more exciting than the manufactured ‘romance’ with the young woman. But this show, though it is ostensibly about ‘the bachelor’ – really mainly features a bunch of girls on holiday, wearing as many different swimming costumes as they can, and bitching about each other. They really could be on the island of Lesbos, with Gavin stumbling onto the beach, lost, smiling inanely, not realising where he is.
In the Lads’ Mag Top Gear mythology of heterosexual masculinity, the myth is that it is every red-blooded man’s dream to be surrounded by a bunch of half-naked sexy chicks. But we all know that really, in Top Gear, in GQ, in Loaded, ‘chicks’ are just accessories to enable men to be homos(ocial) together. So, when The Bachelor show presents a situation where one ‘lucky man’ is actually surrounded by adoring and adorable girls, rather than fulfilling every hetero man’s dreams, it just looks like a bit of a nightmare.
I don’t know for sure, but I expect Gavin may in ‘real life’ indeed be a bit of a ladies’ man. But I also expect he is used to playing the field with his buddies. He looks like he really misses his ‘wingman’ and doesn’t really know how to pick up girls without him, even when they are there for him on a plate. Or how to enjoy it. Because for many lads, chasing women is all about the fact you do it in a group, and tell each other about your conquests afterwards. It is almost as if he just can’t see the point of ‘birds’ if there are no guys to share them with.
Metrosexy culture is all about the self-love of men. Henson was chosen for the show because he is particularly and perfectly self-loving. But he doesn’t quite pull off the narcissism, here, and maybe it is partly because he is used to adoring himself, and being adored, in the company of men.
4) There is no sex
Big Brother, Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore – they are all going to go down in TV history as mediated gang bangs, aren’t they? But, these shows have revealed the uncomfortable truth: the problem with making a whole reality TV series about sex, is that it is actually decidedly unsexy. Mediated, performative sex, without the production values and professionalism of porn, is just bodies in mundane motion.
So programmes like The Bachelor seem to be trying to rekindle the Reality TV sex format, by bringing back some old-fashioned ‘romance’. This is traditional heterosexual ‘courtship’. The drama is all about the ‘will-he, won’t he’ ask for her hand. Not ‘when will they shag?’ Dating In The Dark is another one of these shows, which is trying to revive the dying swan of heterosexual relationships in this age of recreational sex and internet porn and voyeuristic TV. There, people fumble in total darkness on ‘dates’ then have to see each other in a fully illuminated ‘reveal’. And if they survive that, they might agree to meet and go on an actual date. Both shows are positively medieval in their values. Once we have seen real people fucking on TV for the hell of it, however dull this may be to watch in reality, the very concept of The Bachelor becomes obsolete. None of the girls even get it on (so far). What’s the point of a heterosexual ‘lesbian’ show if there is no girl on girl action?
5) Nobody even pretends to mean it
At the beginning of The Bachelor, Henson tells us unconvincingly that he is looking for someone to fall in love with and spend the rest of his life with. Because that’s what reality TV is for isn’t it? Then, when one of the young women - a vixen who looks devilish in a leopardskin swimsuit brandishing a whip on one photoshoot they do - starts to play him up quite stylishly. He and his ego don’t seem to like it, and he confronts her, saying
‘It looks to me like you are playing a game’. Well yes, Gavin, of course she is! The difference between this ‘psycho’ as you kindly call her, and you, though, is she is honest about the ‘game’. But thanks to her honesty, the game is up, and your attempts to make it seem ‘real’ are looking more and more lame by the minute.
That’s as far as I got. I don’t fancy Gavin Henson. I find him incredibly wet. And this show just brings out his wetness. And the obsolescence of the reality TV dating show genre. And the fact that ‘heterosexuality’ is defunct. And my age. And my lack of swimwear wardrobe. I won’t be tuning in next week. But I already know the ending anyway: he gets the girl. But it doesn’t last. What does?
Metrosexy by Mark Simpson explains the end of heterosexuality, and men like Gavin Henson, and shows like The Bachelor, in case they remain a mystery to you:
I have been reading Mark Simpson’s Male Impersonators recently, and I expect, as often happens when you read and write at the same time, some of the ideas in this post were influenced by that book. It really is a brilliant dissection of masculinity in postmodern culture and the fact it is not a contemporary ‘classic’ in the popular sense, is a crying shame*.
*like I said, subconscious influence. I have updated this post to include a link to Simpson’s essay on The End of Sexuality As We’ve Known It as that is what I think the central idea is here.