Women In Reality Television Dating Shows Film Studies Essay

Reality television is viewed as a form of factual programming. It is easily identified by its apparently unscripted discourse, untrained actors, and the ability to voyeuristically watch events develop. Reality television deals with a variety of subject matters and issues but dating shows in reality television are presumably seen as a way of “sexing it up”. Nevertheless, the dating shows turned reality television into another media outlet which intuitively suppresses women for the sake of entertainment. Seemingly, the cliché, “sex sells”, is proven to be true in reality dating shows because the media profits from women’s degradation as well as promotes casual sex. Reality television dating shows typically portray women as desperate, promiscuous, gold-digging, and dim-witted individuals on a quest for love.

In America, televised dating has been around for approximately 30 years. With shows such as the Dating Game and Love Connection playing matchmaker, viewers considered the most entertaining part of the shows to be the follow-up stories that were told by the previous contestants. It gave the audience an inside-view of what actually went on during the dates and how the contestants actually felt. Meanwhile, these shows also gave the television industry an early look into audiences’ capacity to root for an unhappy ending. The best laughs and fun in dating games often arise from painfully uncomfortable matches and from the ensuing tales of dating disaster, or even simply from the anticipation of such disaster.

Overtime, shows continued to follow the prototype and the genre of reality television dating shows began to emerge. As the show type grew more popular, by the year 2000 shows such as, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire and Temptation Island made their way to primetime television. Temptation Island had fairly poor ratings; however, over the next few years it proved itself as a model for shows such as Cupid (2003) ,NBC’s Average Joe (2003-5) and For the Love or Money (2003-4), FOX’s Joe Millionaire(2003), and ABC’s The Bachelor. This type of dating show, still popular today, takes a single male or female and houses them with numerous admirers of the opposite gender that are all on a quest to win the aforementioned single male or females love. More often than not, all contestants are housed together for a period of weeks or months in a luxurious mansion in which they compete to stay in throughout a process of elimination. These arrangements of the shows seem to glorify infidelity as well as promote casual sex.

Unconsciously, viewers are tuning into a fairy tale parallel. “A casual look at reality dating shows might suggest an appalling gallery of female stereotypes and a patriarchal fairy-tale ethos. According to this ethos, Girl (not Woman) meets Man in a magical setting, and Man eventually chooses her above all other suitors, thereby validating her as a person, completing her, rescuing her from a humdrum life, and giving her a chance to become princess of Reality TV-Land.” The Bachelor is probably the prime example of this fairy-tale ethos in its incorporation of ball gowns and glorifying this luxurious and idealistic standard of living.

The relationship between ethics and reality television is problematic. One writer claims the reason viewers continue to watch these shows is “because these shows frame their narratives in ways that both reflect and reinforce deeply ingrained societal biases about women, men, love, beauty, class and race. The genre teaches us that women categorically “are” certain things – for example, no matter their age, they’re “hot girls,” not self- aware or intelligent adults.” By portraying the woman as ill-witted, it simultaneously makes them appear inferior to the man. Even if a contestant on the show is intelligent, after editing, the show’s producers will make sure that the intelligence not be conveyed on television. For the sake of ratings, characters that are pathetically unintelligent remain on the show for longer periods of time due to their likeability. Their unintelligence gives them a distinct personality on the show which makes the shows seem more like serve for entertainment purposes or a competition for character likeability rather than the proposed purpose. This is probably why producers cast for type, choosing contestants they can mold into a predetermined slate of characters. Dating shows all too often render the date, and more specifically the woman as spectacle. Overall, the women are treated unfairly.

Women are presumably promiscuous when sign the consent form to come on the show. Being that it is a competition, the women are expected to be consensual to the bachelors requests in order to remain on the show. Those who do not comply definitely stand out.

“For example, in the reality show The Bachelor, … in the finale of the series, it became apparent that become sexually intimate with these women…. One woman in particular had found his advances unwelcome …She explained, ” He was trying to get me into his room and I said no. And then at four in the morning drunk, in his pants, with a hard on, he tried to help himself to me.”These actions took place off camera so there was no evidence to support the accusations. When it comes to reality shows such as The Bachelor, [women] deserve to be treated in an ethically informed manner. The finale is an example of how women can be unfairly treated in reality television. The practice of informed consent needs to be discussed by programme makers and programme regulators in order to ensure the participants are treated with the respect they deserve.

If reality TV portrays women as whores, then the networks are their pimps, providing men with sexy singles in hopes they’ll get frisky on cue. Depending on the subgenre, the women casted in the shows are oversexed according to what type of woman is portrayed as the most seductive and flirtatious female of that class. VH1 seems to “special in [dating shows with] wild premises and a carnivalesque atmosphere. In VH1’s Flavor of Love, the women were extremely oversexed and promiscuous. Dating shows have made gratuitous displays of women cavorting for the camera, a regular occurrence. Overtime, what is considered sex on television has changed drastically and definitely become more risqué. FOX’s Joe Millionaire aired an episode which involved a man and woman going into the bushes and dialogue being flashed across they screen stating what they were saying as well as describing what they were doing. Including “slurp” and “gulp” in the text suggested that the female was indeed performing oral sex. With that night being the final episode, FOX attracted forty million viewers which was the largest in the network’s history. Coincidentally, this was the same night viewers believed they had probably witnessed the first time oral sex had been performed on network television. The female repudiated the scene saying is misled viewers claiming they’d added the sexual text to make it seem as if they were doing something more than they actually were.

Some people think Reality Television walks a tight rope with being pornography. Episodes of the Reality show Blind Date “qualify as pornography pointblank. The episodes could be sold at video stores in ‘that’ section.” Blind Date also features text bubbles appearing throughout the couples date as a constant element of their show. This is believed to help the female member become viewed a sex object. For example :

“In a typical episode, a young woman named Leila, who had participated in a previous segment of the show, returns for a second date, this time with a guy named Anthony. As soon as Leila appears, a large red arrow pops up on the screen and points at her breasts alongside the statement, “Breasts 14% larger than last time,” followed a minute later by the comment, “Get a load of them melons.” Later in the episode, the porgram’s producers further objectify the woman by letting an article of her clothing have its say; a drawing of Leila’s blouse pops up on the screen and tells Anthony, “You’re two buttons away from heaven.”

Blind Date is ultimately accused of placing too much importance on the physical aspects of relationships just as many of the other dating shows do. Women’s bodies are portrayed mainly as sex objects.

Men are given a sexual power when it comes to reality dating shows as well. Physical attraction is highlighted in the shows, giving off the image that beauty is on the outside or that a man looks at the exterior first. The women come dressed scantly during the eliminations or around the house, doing what they see as being attractive to the male. This survival of the fittest way of thinking highlights casual sex in its creating an environment where the male can virtually choose whoever who wants to sleep with. In all shows, the woman who denies his requests is almost always the one to be eliminated in the near future.

Highlighting casual sex also perceives reality dating show as doing nothing to educate individuals on sex, it only adding to societal problems associated with sex even more. Creating awareness of condoms, HIV tests, or STD’s in general would definitely help the way sex in conveyed in these reality television dating shows. None of the shows cannot change their messages they’ve been conveying because the race to be more outrageous, more salacious, and more sensational will continue. In short , sex sells.

Low self-esteem definitely plays a major role in reality television dating shows. All of the women are usually of a proportionate height and weight and are frequently considered to some extent attractive. Women at home would probably look at their size and extent of attractiveness before trying out for the show which forces some women to judge and compare themselves to the women on the dating shows. With the bachelors being who they are, it may also force these women to think they are not worthy or eligible of acquiring a bachelor of such stature. The cast of the show are forced to deal with self-esteem issues as well. They women are forced to relieve themselves of all communication from the outside world in the place of alcohol and constantly being around attractive women with the same goal. The specific character types are clearly expressed by Jennifer Pozner:

“There’s the Antagonizer, who declares she’s “not here to make friends”; the naive Waif, who’s “searching for my Prince Charming”; the Slut who plots to “take our connection to the next level” in the “fantasy suite”; and the wretched Weeper who wonders, when she’s dumped, “What’s so wrong with me that someone cannot love me?”

Although these types exist in the real world, for the sake of television, the characters are somewhat formed by the producers and each character type definitely suggests low-self esteem. The anatagonizer is almost always oversexed and comes from a hard background. Always reluctant to make friends their trust issues are always effortlessly conveyed in the show which eventually forces their sketchy past be revealed. The naïve waif is always the desperate character who uses the reality show as a last resort. Unable to find men in the real world, they turn to the reality show and truly accept it as their own personal fairy tale. This character type is often always intimidated by the other characters as they are more competitive because the other women seemingly throw a “wrench” in their plans for a fairy tale. The “slut” is always easily recognized on the show and extremely comparable to the anatagonizer in their being oversexed and a possibly a background worthy of note. The “slut” seems not to care that they are on television and most of the time they are conveyed as being a gold-digger so they use their sex in exchange for money they hope to get from the eligible bachelor. The “slut” is also always constantly bashing the other woman which is mostly conveyed as jealousy they attempt to hide through a tough façade. They use their sexual appeal they have to their advantage by making the other women believe the bachelor likes them more. The character with the most clearly stated low-self esteem seems to be that of the wretched weeper. In many cases, the wretched weeper could be any of the aforementioned character types. The weeping comes from their self-assurance and confidence they built up throughout the show after making it past many eliminations or what they believed to be a “good date” or “intimate conversation” with the bachelor , which in their mind creates a sense of security. After they are eliminated their entire persona changes and more often than not, the real person comes out. The wretched weeper is also seen in the reunion shows which are aired after the final episode. It shows each woman’s course on the show as well as the elimination. The Bachelor ‘s cheerfully cruel teaser, “Who will get sent home brokenhearted? Find out!” is repeated ad nauseum, and in reunion specials, alumnae rejectees are forced to watch mortifying montages of their most pitiful moments (“I’m a loser!”), while the host says in mock concern: “Wow, that must be uncomfortable for you.” Also, in most cases, during this point the producers make this portion of the show as comedic or humdrum as they can depending on the situation or character at hand.

The “slut” however, is not the only one who is conveyed as a gold-digger, it seems to be a large percentage of the cast. Most of the women sign-up according to who the bachelor is and the other percentage signs-up for a chance to be on television in hopes that the reality television show will be their big break. A classic example of that would be Tiffany “New York” Pollard from VH1’s Flavor of Love with rapper and personality Flavor Flav. Taking an obviously physically unattractive man who the women would not have been attracted to and surrounding him with beautiful women who repugnantly compete over him was pure pleasantry in terms of entertainment. New York was portrayed as both the antagonist and the “slut” which made her character even more interesting. In the end, she was also conveyed as the wretched weeper when she made it all the way to the final two contestants as well as sleeping with Flavor Flav the night before as a way to secure her position. After his relationship did not work out with the woman he chose, he received another show in which New York appeared in the middle of the season. She entered the house with the same character types, made it to the bottom two contestants and was not picked. Ultimately, she received a spin-off show of her own, VH1’s I Love New York in which she played the single bachelorette in a hunt for love. After two seasons of her show, she received another show, New York Goes to Work which shows her performing different task and being paid for them in order to fund her acting career. The entire time, New York was an aspiring actress on the hunt for her big break, which she received in due course.

And so it can be seen, women are forced to face the reality of yet another media outlet providing a dismal and unpleasant image of them in what is supposed to be “reality television”. Reality television dating shows typically portray women as desperate, promiscuous, gold-digging, and dim-witted individuals on a quest for love. By promoting casual sex, choosing a well-off bachelor, and highlighting their more unintelligent moments, reality dating shows are in essence a poor representation of women.

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