Short Take: Why There’s Nothing On The Tube

I was on my way to the New York Giants training camp, a walk-on short, old lawyer for the position of wide-out. After all, I might not have speed, hands or, well, any skills that would commend me for the job, but how many short, old lawyers did they put on the field?

Then again, if the Giants let me suit up, would you watch? Okay, maybe for the highlight film, but after you’ve seen me fail spectacularly once, would the lulz be as good the second time?

Amanda Hess makes a shocking admission.

Some background, if you are not a “Bachelor” superfan like me and the 8.4 million Americans who watched last season’s finale: The show generally chooses its leads from runners-up in the previous season of “The Bachelorette,” finding people that viewers are already invested in and extending their romantic arcs. But lately, the franchise has failed to produce such men.

She’s a “Bachelor” superfan? That certainly makes her credible enough to be in the New York Times, plus solves their elitist reputation problem as well. And I, for one, will trust her word that the franchise can’t “produce such men.”

It’s amusing, and a little sad, that “The Bachelor” so consistently struggles to land an eligible bachelor. Forget happily ever after: It just needs to find a guy we want to spend 12 weeks watching on TV.

Perhaps that’s because guys whom someone like Hess would find interesting and eligible have better things to do than be on “The Bachelor”? No, that’s not the problem Hess sees.

Now we have Mr. Luyendyk, whom Reality Steve, the show’s most dedicated gossip reporter, called “the biggest dog they’ve ever cast as lead in Bachelor history.” It’s “The End of Men,” reality edition.

Losers all? Well, at least all the men.

Meanwhile, the franchise is overflowing with female talent: professionally accomplished, emotionally intelligent, actually intelligent, witty, beautiful women who make for interesting romantic leads.

They sound wonderful, though it raises the question of why they need to go on a TV reality show to find a guy. But even assuming, as I do, that Hess’ assessment of the fabulousness of women and the worthlessness of men is completely accurate, is this just another diatribe about how women are so much better than men? No. No, that’s not her point at all.

One of the fantasies promoted by “The Bachelor” is that the patriarchy is as strong as ever, even as traditionally male power structures are waning in America. The show gravitates toward leads with macho jobs — racecar driver, farmer, soccer player, personal trainer. This is an American throwback that is exclusively invested in elevating white men. Why didn’t “The Bachelor” reinvest in one of its most eligible runners-up from last season, Eric Bigger, the sweet Baltimore guy? He says he was never approached. One reason comes to mind: He is black.

So it’s not just a paean to the patriarchy, but racists too? This sounds . . . horrible.

The show featured its first black Bachelorette this summer, and it’s clear that the producers were eager to return to casting leads who do not threaten its white, Middle American viewer base. (The season pulled an average of 1 million fewer viewers than the previous one.) It wanted to nod to diversity, then reassure its audience that white romance still reigns supreme. As one fan meme put it: “After Peter flatly refused our offer to suffer for another cycle, we scraped the bottom of the barrel as hard as we could to ensure we’d never have a black Bachelor.”

The Bachelor, as one would expect Hess to realize, is a television show, which is a vehicle to sell advertising time to sponsors. That it also produces content for the intelligentsia like Hess to watch is merely a by-product. If a million fewer viewers watched the show, then the advertising rates are lower than they would otherwise be, which means less money is made. That makes networks and producers sad.

Maybe the problem isn’t the patriarchy or racism. It’s just that the good guys don’t want to be on an insipid program like this, and the women who watch it don’t seem as interested in black contestants? This might be a terrible, even racist, reflection of viewers, but you can’t make them watch. At least not yet.

22 thoughts on “Short Take: Why There’s Nothing On The Tube

  1. B. McLeod

    There isn’t even a tube any more. Last time I went shopping for a TV, I found they are all flat now. LEDs or some such. It was flat surprising.

  2. Mark Bennett

    Spoiler: Bachelor is the way it is because that’s what will attract the most superfans such as Amanda.

  3. Matthew S Wideman

    Howard Stern has made this point many times. The women on the show are completely bat-shit crazy attention whores who go on the show and act they are normal. In reality, if they were normal they would be in a committed relationship.

  4. Nigel Declan

    Perhaps Amanda Hess was weighing in because Roxane Gay was still too exhausted from thinking about other potentially problematic tv shows to churn out a column.

    1. SHG Post author

      Now you have me worried about poor Roxane Gay. I wonder if she’s well? Everything okay, RG?

      This never gets old.

  5. KP

    Obviously women have progressed to an equality that makes them unattractive to men. Nobody wants the women they put up..

    Why can’t she see this?

  6. CLS

    So The Bachelor isn’t progressive enough to Ms. Hess’s liking? I have a modest proposal that will bring the ratings back to the table.

    The current crop is a recycled motley group from previous seasons. Fire the entire lot of them and start fresh. The new Bachelor will be a gay man, and he will pick the love of his life from a house full of gay dudes.

    Everyone wins. The Bachelor’s producers get points for being “forward thinking” and “on the right side of history.” Half the country will cringe at the notion of two dudes kissing for about two hours a week on their TVs.

    And the fights in the house…oh, they’d simply be glorious. TV talk show glorious, even.

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