Friday, February 28, 2014

The Final Rose Has Zero Diversity

Oh the joy of watching reality dating shows huh; trashy, comical, but maybe a little difficult to stop watching right?  As the majority of us know The Bachelor is televised on the local network channel, ABC; a show in which twenty-five contestants compete to find their one true love. The Bachelor is filmed within a six-week period in which a heterosexual male or female begin their journey to find ‘the one’ who may or may not become their future wife or husband in the end.  We as the viewers, begin to attach ourselves to the contestants as we learn more and more about each contestant. Within the last few years, it has become quite common for women to gather their group of friends for wine night on those notorious Monday nights to watch ‘The Bachelor  (or The Bachelorette). Meanwhile, on cable channels such as Bravo and MTV their ideas of reality dating shows appear to take a bit of a different route on how they express the reality of looking for love. Shows such as The Millionaire Matchmaker and A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila embrace the idea of same-sex love and or relationships. Like The Bachelor, ASALWTT began with a set number of contestants, with one difference. The celebrity looking for love happened to be a bi-sexual woman. While reality-dating shows vary and continue to be televised on many different channels, local broadcast networks continue to support normative heterosexual love, such as the love found on The Bachelor due to industry limitations and regulations. 

Television programing to us, the viewers seems like such an easy concept. We often find ourselves wondering why such shows are no longer aired after only one season or why channels bleep profanity out, etc. This is because the television industry holds many limitations and regulations as to what can be aired on local broadcast networks and those limitations are less implemented on cable channels. Another reason just as important is the idea that television industry is controlled by ratings. If a television program gets a low rating, it is often cancelled after their first season, and is no longer aired on any channel. There are many other demands that television industry must meet and what I my main focus is on.
The television industry has many different demographics from age and sex to ethnic backgrounds. Therefore television programing must entertain all groups of people including the gay community, the religious, women, men, children, etc. That being said, it is fair to say that local broadcast networks continue to represent the broadest audience possible, as well as reinforcing ideologies of heterosexuality. Simply watching programs on any of the big 3 network channels exhibits that there seems to be no effort in embracing diversity. As stated before ABC has never engaged in the idea of hosting a gay bachelor or bachelorette.  Which essentially can become problematic, especially in the generation we live in today. Sara Baker Netzley has considered these actions as ‘symbolic annihilation’ in which mass media ignores a group of people, which in this case is the gay community. (Gays, Gender & Sex on Television pg. 983)
On the other side of the fence are the cable channels, which maintain fewer limitations and compared to local broadcast channels have “free reign” to what they can televise (with a few exceptions). Because of lesser regulations and the ability to target a less broad audience, shows such as A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila excel on channels such as MTV.  Cable channels rely on a system of narrowcasting, in which programs are aimed at a specific group, unlike local broadcast.
All network programming industry relies on advertisements and ratings, so the risk of losing any viewer due to anything one may find ‘offensive’ calls for television to keep it as conservative as possible. ASALWTT chose to challenge the norm, as Tony DiSanto stated “the show is a roller-coaster ride of drama, conflict, and emotion, busting stereotypes and challenging the norm.” (Antony & Tomas pp.49) Now who wouldn’t want to watch such a train wreck of a show, right? Well that’s where it can get tricky for these television networks. While many compete to keep their ratings up, they target the broadest audience possible in order to not offend anyone.  What seems to be their solution, as I’ve stated before is to keep it as conservative as possible. In reality, however, it has only begun to offend more people who feel they are being excluded. Kathryn Montgomery states, “…occupational groups, and gays—have demanded more positive treatment, elimination of stereotypes and increased representation in prime-time programming.” (Gay Activist and the Networks pp.49) Because dating shows are one of the most widely viewed reality show, it would seem untrue that ratings would completely drop due to a change from heterosexual love to same sex love. It seems a little confusing on who decides whether the audience won’t accept such a change or whether the industry just assumes the audience will respond negatively.
To end my rant, recently a comment made by the current bachelor (the first minority I might add to be on The Bachelor) made a homophobic statement. Sexy man Juan Pablo stated that gay people were “more pervert. ” (Emma Gray, Huffington Post) Causing the media to go bonkers over such a homophobic comment. If the ratings are going to decline, it’ll be because of comments like the one made, to cause people to have negative reactions on same-sex love searching on television. So in the end, there are many risks in promoting the idea of a local channel showing the journey of a gay man or woman to find true love. Although it may be wrong, industries will always do what is best for them economically in the long run. While I believe networks should be open to the idea of the change, I also understand that there is channels intended to host such programming. But as we know, sexual orientation on television will continue to be an endless argument. (and just a little side note, let’s be honest everyone loves watching trashy, drama, emotional women even men on these shows! How great would a same sex reality dating show be?! Twice as good!)

[1] Baker Netzley, Sara. "Visibility That Demystifies: Gays, Gender, and Sex on Televison." Journal of Homosexuality 57.8 (2010): 968-86.

[2] Montgomery, Kathryn. "Gay Activists and the Networks." Journal of Communication 31.3 (2006): 49-57.

[3] Buxton, Rodney A. "Sexual Orientation and Televsion." The Museum of Broadcast Communications. N.p., n.d. Web.

[4] Antony, Marcy Gracy, Thomas, Ryan James. "Tequila, Straight Up: Bisexuality, Reality Dating, and the Discourse of Heternomativity." Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research 7 (2007): 49-65.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is an interesting take on the demographics the producers of the Bachelor and ABC are appealing to. I have never even thought about the fact that the bachelor is always about heterosexual couples. Nationally broadcasted TV networks do have to be more universal in order to appeal to the largest audience, but it seems like a show like the bachelor already has a very selective audience it is targeting. I agree with you that networks like ABC would be taking a risk to diversify the show with a gay or lesbian person, but this might be a worthwhile idea. From my perspective, the audience that the bachelor targets its typically young women who watch the show out of pure entertainment and the attracting to the unrealistic romantic fantasies. While taking the risk to change the sexual orientation of the bachelor or bachelorette might turn away some viewers, it also has the potential to broaden their audience to the gay community. By making shows like the bachelor more diverse, networks like ABC may also be more appealing to viewers because of their acceptance to this idea and the risk they take.


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