Keeping up with reality

Despite their close ties to real life, reality shows perpetuate harmful and outdated gender stereotypes.

I can’t deny that The Bachelor is one of the most entertaining shows on television. I can’t count the number of times I’ve cringed when one of the women said something vapid, or swooned to a man’s grand declarations of love. It’s absolutely ridiculous and demeaning to all involved. However, I keep finding myself, along with my friends, watching it week after week.

Why is that? Most would attribute it to the escapism most reality shows provide — it’s so far from everyday life that you can’t help but be intrigued. But escaping into these shows does more harm than good.

All surface-level productions, from television to movies, follow a very strict dichotomy of men and women. Men are always masculine and buff, women are always 

pore-less and emotional. When we escape into these shows, we’re straying from the understanding that these stereotypes are unrealistic, and fall into an oppressive mentality.

The media is now open to the grey area that falls between masculine and feminine ideals — for instance, Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2016 campaign features Jaden Smith in womenswear. A world without gendered labels is on the horizon, which means that the gender binary will become less rigid and stereotypes of men and women will start to intersect.

But despite this push, reality TV remains a place where people go to escape from their daily lives. And while it’s entertaining to watch someone embarrass themselves on national television, using these shows to escape from our much more complicated lives slides us back into a mindset ruled by constructed gender dichotomies. 

Although entertaining, shows like The Bachelor represent an understanding of the world that’s no longer legitimate, and viewers must remain aware of that. 

Don’t use these shows as an escape from your day-to-day life, but watch them to revel in the relatively free and open world we now have.

In the future, I hope the “reality” of reality TV will reflect our changing gender roles.Hopefully then it will no longer be shocking when individuals don’t conform to traditional male and female stereotypes. 

Because life and dating aren’t as simple as The Bachelor — and they don’t need to be.

Kayla is The Journal’s Digital Manager. She’s a fourth-year Computing and Creative Arts major.

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