Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Pens Essay Blasting ‘The Bachelor’, On Which He Is An Actual Expert
ABC's The Bachelor returned for its 21st season starring franchise fourth-timer Nick Viall last night, and the show took pains to explain several times why Nick's return is brave and exciting, rather than a safe retread. But count legendary athlete and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar among those who won't be rooting for Nick and his large pool of prospects, as Kareem has written a guest essay for the Hollywood Reporter blasting The Bachelor and The Bachelorette for "the romanticizing of love as a mystical process that creates unrealistic expectations," claiming there's "an insidious darkness beneath the fairytale pabulum they are serving up." And like any essayist worth their salt, the man has done his homework on the subject.
Name-checking Bachelorette and Bachelor In Paradise villain Chad Johnson and fellow Bachelorette/Bachelor In Paradise alum Josh Murray (among others), Abdul-Jabbar wonders on our behalf, "So, what’s so wrong with a little harmless entertainment of watching people scramble for 'love' like ravenous crabs on a washed up seal corpse?" He argues that the show's shallow depictions of the importance of romantic love and physical beauty have serious societal consequences.
The shows’ mantra repeated by most castmembers that “everyone deserves love” ain’t necessarily so. You’re not even in the running for love unless you fit a very narrow ideal of Ken and Barbie doll physical beauty. These shows promote the scorched-earth effects of raising females to be continually judged physically above all other attributes and then measured against impossible physical standards that has marginalized a majority of girls and women — and made billions for the beauty products, clothing, and cosmetic surgery industries. Even youthful Amanda Stanton, 26, admits to using Botox.
Abdul-Jabbar's most solid point may be in stating that "the real crime is the lack of intellectual and appearance diversity, which leaves the contestants as interchangeable as the Mr. Potato Head parts." Not only has no black contestant ever made it past five weeks on a season of the franchise (and lawyer Rachel became the first black woman to ever receive a First Impression Rose on last night's Bachelor premiere), there's a generally dull homogeneity to the contestant pool that's cultural in addition to physical: For example, a cursory review of the Season 21 contestant bios reveal that most of them wish they were either dolphins, Olivia Pope on Scandal, or both.
"Will we ever witness a conversation that isn’t so bland and vacuous that words seem to evaporate as soon as they are spoken?" Abdul-Jabbar asks, though for some viewers those cringeworthy exchanges are half the fun of watching.
Abdul-Jabbar also provides a scathing read of most recent Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher, echoing a point I (like many others) observed about her choice:
JoJo Fletcher’s constant whining about being in love with three men from the petrie dish of ab-fastic, bearded suitors certainly denigrates the concept of love. Throughout the show she worried about the kind of men she’d gone out with before who treated her as less valuable than she wanted. As soon as we saw Jordan, the jock who kept her at a distance, and who she described as being like her previous boyfriends, there was no doubt she would select him to relive the psychological loop of needing to be validated.
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