Think of everything you like about the hit ABC show, The Bachelor, and its spin-off, The Bachelorette. Then, take away everything you find charming, funny, and addictive about those two shows, and you have ABC’s The Proposal. It can only be described as a show that was created on a dare, after a lot of martinis, sometime after 2:00 a.m., when nothing is open but a dinky Taco Bell with half the menu missing.
It’s not that ABC’s The Proposal is so bad that it’s good…it’s just bad.
Here’s the premise: ten women are vying for the chance at “love” with a man who hides behind a wall. He can see them, but they can’t see him, because of course “true love” is all in the hands of the man. (Don’t worry, though: if this dreck survives until next week, we’ll get to see the roles reversed, because PROGRESS!) He then narrows down his “search” to one “lucky” woman whom he proposes to at the end of one hour.
The time in between that hour is, to put it mildly, painful, creepy, and uncomfortable. It’s #PickMe culture at its worst. And it sends the message to women that no matter how much you accomplish in life — no matter how beautiful, successful, wealthy, and/or intelligent you are — it means nothing unless you have a man. And if you are not “chosen” by a man, no matter how unsuccessful, creepy, ugly, and rude he is, you should hide away for all eternity.
Case in point: Kendall, one of the ten women that got culled from the list early in the competition, was revealed to be a neuropsychologist — an actual, honest-to-God doctor.
How is she introduced by ABC’s The Proposal?
YA’LL THIS GIRL IS A NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST AND THEY LED WITH “She likes to twirl batons and sometimes they are on fire” #theproposal— Nora Beerman (@norabeerman) June 19, 2018
That’s just great.
“From the first time you stepped out on the stage...”— Madison Roberts (@madisonlaner) June 19, 2018
Oh, you mean 59 minutes ago when you were staring at her through your creepy pod blinds? #TheProposal
The women then had to “prove” to the man that they were the ones that needed to be picked — who, eventually, is revealed as “Mike,” a rather simian looking specimen with ears that stick way too far out of his head — while wearing nothing but bathing suits? What’s no longer considered a good idea by Miss America — a beauty pageant — is now considered a good idea in ABC primetime, especially in the #MeToo era.
So Mike comes out, looks at the women in much the same way as a starving Rottweiler looks at a filet mignon, and pronounces that he “thinks he can fall in love.”
But wait, it gets worse: in the final round, the women are asked by Mike to tell him why one, or the other, should be picked. We, of course, learn nothing of Mike except the most basic of information. Then, despite the fact that no one’s bothering to ask the blatantly obvious question that begged itself (why, if this guy is such a “catch,” is he on this God-forsaken show?), these women are still tasked with proving themselves worthy of his love, not the other way around.
Slate summed up everything that’s wrong with ABC’s The Proposal in one sentence:
“Why should a faceless man, with no demonstrable personality but a lot of muscles, get to pass judgment on 10 women who have eagerly performed their personality—and their swimsuit bodies—for him?”
And then there are the reactions from the viewers, many of whom cannot contain their disgust.
Seriously? #TheProposal puts control of dating + relationships in the power of a man and sexualizes women by making them pitch themselves while dressed in bathing suits. This is 2018. I can't support this.— Colleen Wong (@colleenwong) June 19, 2018
“i can’t promise we’re not gonna have a fight.”— amanda (@mandamanda___) June 19, 2018
SIS YOU HAVEN’T EVEN HAD A CONVERSATION. #theproposal
We can do better. We can be better. This totally degrading to women. Who approved this show. Let’s do better!! pic.twitter.com/e4I85t4UBb— When Women Lead (@AllWomenMatter) June 19, 2018
But there’s another, more frightening precedent to ABC’s The Proposal: Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, a show that aired nearly 20 years ago on the then-fledgling Fox Network. (The producer of the show was Mike Fleiss, who took the premise of the show to ABC after it was destroyed by scandal, and rebranded it as The Bachelor.)
But the layout of Millionaire and ABC’s The Proposal are exactly identical, as HuffPo‘s Lauren Duca explains.
“Revealing nothing other than his silhouette, husband-to-be Rick Rockwell sorted through the assortment of women chosen for him. He was treated as a “prize” based on his alleged riches alone, to the extent that his eventual pick, emergency room nurse Darva Conger, did not see his face until moments before she was legally wed on national television.”
There was just one problem: Rick Rockwell had a restraining order placed against him by his ex-fiancee who alleged domestic violence, he was a failed comedic actor (not a real estate mogul, as he’d pitched on the show), and Darva Conger (who would go on to capitalize on her reality fame in the pages of Playboy) filed for an annulment after only seven weeks of marriage, while telling Oprah that she couldn’t believe “how nasty people could be” after the general public branded her a “gold-digger” and a “fame-seeker” for her affiliation with Rockwell.
There’s actually a term for this phenomenon: the Lolita effect, as dubbed by feminist author Dr. M. Gigi Durham.
“[Dating shows] persistently tie in ideal femininity and attractiveness to a very specific mode of sexuality, one that involves exhibitionism and a submissive appeal to the male gaze, without any consideration of the girl’s own interests, ideas, or sense of well-being.”
But whether we’re talking about a failed reality show, its much more successful reboot, or ABC’s The Proposal, the message is all the same: women are only as valuable as the looks they have, and they should only use those looks to snag a man — preferably one with money — or they’re deemed worthless.
ABC’s The Proposal thrives in this dreck, and it deserves to be off the air.