It Can Get Worse: Reflecting on “The Choice”

In my previous post I discussed Fox’s new dating show, The Choice, but in light of last night’s episode I would like to revisit that show. And since it’s my blog, that’s what Imma do.  For those of you unfamiliar with The Choice it’s exactly like The Voice, but it’s a dating show.  Four bachelors, or in this week’s case bachelorettes, chose a date based only on their voice. kind of. Each contestant has 30seconds to get one or more bachelor/ettes to turn their chairs around, based only on the competitors voice.

Last night’s (6/28) episode of The Choice shook things up by “reversing the roles.” Instead of four “celebrity” bachelor’s in the chairs, it was four bachelorettes. Gender role reversal, never gets old.  I was interested to see who qualified as a “celebrity bachelorette” and if the show would follow the same format as if it were men in the chairs.  I didn’t think I could get any angrier at Fox, I was wrong.

The four women included a Playboy Playmate of the year, a model/pop singer, a former Miss USA winner, and Carmen Electra.  Even though the women were purportedly the one’s holding the power they were dressed no differently than if they were the ones competing for a date.  While the show’s bachelor’s often appear casually dressed down in t-shirts and jeans, or other casual combinations, these four women were decked out in full make-up, barely there dresses, and six-inch heels.  And the discrepancies didn’t stop there.  From the time the first eligible man stepped on the stage, I knew this was a totally different show.

Usually the women competing to win a date rely solely on thinly veiled, and often cheap, sexual innuendo to get the bachelor’s to turn their chairs around.  Phrases like “I like to get dirty”, “I have six hidden tattoos, but if you turn around, I’ll show you where they are,” and my personal favorite “I’ve got a body like Jessica Rabbit” have all been uttered by female competitors.  Additionally, the audience is often informed that the competitor is a gymnast, a dancer, very flexible etc.  When women are competing for men it is inescapably clear that sex and conventional sexiness are what matter.  In order to capture a man’s interest a woman should automatically divulge intimate details, and make it painfully obvious that she is hot, and down to party.  She is not encouraged to discuss her educational pursuits, her career, her family, basically anything that would locate her within the realm of “real woman” and not “fantasy girl” should be avoided.  If she does mention something “real,” as did one competitor who stated that she was a lawyer, it must immediately be followed up by a reference to one’s hotness in order to assure the men that they need not fear her intelligence.  When men compete for celebrity bachelorettes, however, the rules change.

In general, the men do not expound on their sexual prowess or offer intimate descriptions of their physical selves.  Rather, they spend their thirty seconds discussing their careers, their advanced degrees, and how close they are to their families.  In order to capture a woman’s attention a man must firmly ground himself in the “real world,” with a “real” job, and “real” interests.  The man, whether he be competing or choosing, is constructed as a legitimate, actual, important human being.  He does not need to be validated on the basis of his conventional attractiveness because his accomplishments and other qualities matter.  In short, he matters.

The men lucky enough to make it to the second round of The Choice were spared yet another humiliation that the women normally have to endure.  When a woman is chosen to be part of the “dating pool” she is made to wear a sash (intentionally designed to resemble a pageant sash) that bears the name of the man who chose her, making it explicitly clear that she belongs to him.  The men on last night’s show wore no such sash, they were allowed to retain their individuality, they remain unbranded.

As I suggested in my previous post, the women are not the one’s holding the power, they are not even close to the power.  Even when they are the one’s in the chairs, doing the choosing, they are undermined.  It is also worth noting that all of the bachelorettes on last night’s show are famous because of their conventional hotness, not their skills or accomplishments.  We reward them because they are pretty, not because they matter.

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