Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has some amazing thoughts on The Bachelor franchise


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s third act is a real pleasure to behold. He’s long since retired from professional basketball, and for years now, he’s been a writer, a passionate progressive advocate, ally, political commentator and pop culture commentator. He regularly appears on cable news shows and he always has something interesting to say. Well, this week Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has some thoughts about The Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises and I absolutely love that he cares so much. Personally, I don’t watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette because those shows are simply not my jam. I greet all of those stories with a shrug – it’s just reality show soap opera, with blandly attractive white people getting drunk and hooking up and catfighting and being stupid. But people are obsessed with those shows. And it’s obvious that Kareem has been watching them too (he knows a lot about JoJo Fletcher), and he’s been thinking about what these franchises mean for our society and for love in general. You can read his full column here at the Hollywood Reporter. Here’s an edited excerpt:

Sad news for the condom industry: millennials are having less sex than recent previous generations. A study published last month in the Archives of Sexual Behavior concludes that younger millennials (born in the 1990s) are more than twice as likely not to be having sex as the generation before them. Many people might be cheering this news as a move in the right moral direction, but that’s short-sighted. Rather than a triumph for increased gender respect it could be a symptom of a greater social problem: the replacement of sturdy realistic romantic love that might last a lifetime with the flimsy bedazzled imposter with the shelf life of a loaf of Wonder Bread. There are many lucrative business reasons for the pimping out of unrealistic romantic love in American popular culture, but the plastic face of it is the trendy Bachelor and Bachelorette franchise. As entertaining as these shows are (and they really are compelling fun), there is an insidious darkness beneath the fairytale pabulum they are serving up.

… 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? In the short term, nothing. Just good, clean fun. But the long-term effects of their choices — from the types of people selected to be on the show to the promotion of a subversive, childish concept of love — is like smoking or listening to Kenny G: it can have serious consequences.

In her novel The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison writes one of the most profound observations about human culture: “Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another — physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.” Morrison is exposing both notions as weapons that induce self-destructive behavior that harm not just individuals, but also society. The Bachelor shows perpetuate both of these harmful ideas.

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.

The real crime is the lack of intellectual and appearance diversity, which leaves the contestants as interchangeable as the Mr. Potato Head parts. The lack of racial diversity has already been commented on. If you’re black on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, you’re usually kept around as a courtesy for a few weeks before being ejected. Those outside the ideal body fat percentage index need not apply. With all eyes firmly fixed on firm buttocks, the criteria for finding love becomes how high a quarter will bounce off rock-hard abs. Will we ever witness a conversation that isn’t so bland and vacuous that words seem to evaporate as soon as they are spoken? The rest — intimate outings, group dates, visiting hometowns — is window dressing to disguise the establishment of a laundry list for love so paltry and insubstantial that nearly anyone with a hipster beard or pert breasts can make the cut. Just as some experts blame the porn industry for establishing sexual shenanigans that make millennials feel too inadequate to pursue sex, so this network romance porn may set the bar for falling in love so low that only divorce attorneys and Ashley Madison subscribers can endorse it. Oh, the humanity if this becomes the template for true love.

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

Kareem goes on to say that the contestants are, almost entirely, play-acting this idea of love, that of course there’s very little passion or authenticity, and that treating these shows like they represent real courtship, love or commitment is a joke. All of which we knew already, right? Right. But I absolutely agree with him about the weird Aryan-esque homogeny of the contestants – it’s one of the reasons why I’ve never been into the franchises. I would absolutely watch The Bachelorette if she was an African-American woman choosing from a racially diverse group of men – I think that would be amazing television! I would totally watch if The Bachelorette was Asian-American too.




Photos courtesy of WENN, covers courtesy of Us Weekly.

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38 Responses to “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has some amazing thoughts on The Bachelor franchise”

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  1. TQB says:

    Oh man, “like ravenous crabs on a washed up seal corpse” AND linking Kenny G to smoking in the SAME PARAGRAPH. Kareem has made me feel grammatically inadequate ;) .

  2. QQ says:

    I read this a couple days ago and it impressed me but not in this pedantic way people are marveling that OOHH This man Can Think/Black dudes watch shows not targeted to them ( a La Lena Dunham-Charlemagne Interview), more like marveled that this is the third time or so that i see that such a Vapid ass Oatmeal people (+plus courtesy POC) Show actually has people writing amazing thinkpieces about the state of Modern love, I’ve read a couple of other amazing analysis in Jezebel about some bachelorette or other bucking the trend and great articles on the man that has a site spoiling the bachelor and his motivations etc

    But I’m Kaiser to me it looks like the same Pleasantiville caricature people doing the same mess every season… like cattle, I think I got off on like whatever season of the bachelorette Trista raked in all the money putting her secret bf in the pool of guys picking him and getting a sponsored wedding along with the deal.. the whole thing felt and feels ..creepy, when I occasionally catch the news or clips of it I’m flabbergasted that real people signed up to act an ass on tv like that over “Love”

    • Locke Lamora says:

      But does anyone actually think these people are there to find “love”? They’re there to get famous enough to be able to make a living selling weight loss tea and hair growth pills on Instagram. They know it, we know it and it’s amazing to watch how far people will go for a tiny bit of fame. Reality television often goes to far ( especially when they exploit mentally unstable people, like they did with Chad last season), but it’s still quite fascinating to watch.

    • Indiana Joanna says:

      I’ve long dismissed The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise just because the people on the show are horrible. But I’ll read anything by Kareem because he always has something interesting to say.

  3. LB says:

    The next Bachelorette will be an African American woman who is a contestant in Nick’s season (if she still agrees to do it, that is, when it’s time to start taping it). I won’t name names because it will spoil this season.

    As for the show, I watch sporadically in the background while I am cleaning the house or something. It’s mindless television. Kareem has good thoughts though on its impact.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      I really hope she gets to be the Bachelorette, because she’s my favourite so far ( she and shark/dolphin girl).

    • hogtowngooner says:

      If it’s the one I’m thinking of, I hope she is the next Bachelorette too! She’s cool.

      I like Shark/Dolphin girl, but I also get a mess vibe from her. I think she was wasted by the end of the first episode. She seems insecure to me, but it’s only been one show, so I could be wrong.

  4. Neelyo says:

    I get the importance of representation but I cringe when it applies to situations like The Bachelor. It’s just not a party I’d want to attend.

    • Trixie says:

      Personally, I think people’s preferences in terms of what they are sexually attracted to doesn’t have to be diverse for the sake of diversity. You like what you like, and that’s fine. I am a woman who is sexually attracted to men – is that sexist? Yes, and that’s okay.

      However, I think a way for the franchise to solve their diversity problem is to cast the Bachelor/Bachelorette in a more diverse way. Like have a black man or woman, have an Asian man or woman, have a white man or woman who likes something other than generic white man or generic white woman. If you diversify the person looking for love, then you will diversify the contestants to.

      • Who ARE These People? says:

        No worries, being a woman sexually attracted to men is not sexist. Sexism is a systematic pattern of sex-based discrimination, and in our world, that means discrimination against women. So unless you’re hiring only men, or paying them more than women for the same jobs, or expecting only women but not men to do the child care, or denying women but not men of legal benefits, etc., your sexual preference is entirely different.

        They could totally diversify the entire cast and make it a much more interesting – and much more representative – program.

  5. Trixie says:

    Huh. I would have thought this generation was having at least the same amount of sex if not more sex than previous generations, given hookup culture and all that. So I’m surprised that this generation is having less sex than previous generations.

    Re The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise: There is also a huge lack of diversity in terms of personality and likes/dislikes and preferences and family life. There has never been a huge nerd contestant who isn’t into fashion and instead is into video games and science and wearing no makeup. There has never been a contestant in the final four who doesn’t have a family to show, or who doesn’t think family is “the most important thing”, or who doesn’t like their parents. And for the men, you never have a nerd guy either. It’s always the generically handsome, athletic guys (that’s why Wells was such the odd man out last season). There are so many ways in which the franchise lacks diversity – it’s not just race and size in which the show is lacking in diversity.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Yeah, they’re pretty much interchangeable parts. I haven’t watched much, but it seems like the main thing those people have in common is a desire for a year of fame and the money that comes with it, and maybe some career opportunities. Otherwise they’re really bland, and generally white as is obvious.

    • QueenB says:

      data on sex partners is very tricky as its all obviously self reported. i would take such studies which are often done badly or reported wrongly (like the study “one glass of wine is as good as an hour of gym”) with a huge grain of salt.

      there is simply no way to know. of course people had casual sex before and the hippie generation certainly had lots of partners.

      but whats often forgotten is that lots of people simply cant have casual sex because they are not deemed attractive enough. look at tinder you have to fufill very rigid standards. men outnumber women in those apps so the standards are higher for them,
      women usually report less interest in something casual and the women who have casual sex have them pretty much all with the same small percentage of men.

    • Aren says:

      I’ve read other theories, one of them saying that young people are not having as much sex due to economic stress, so they have more important things to think about, like having money to eat, not becoming homeless or broke, etc.
      And, that the same thing has happened during other critical moments for the world economy.

  6. Birdix says:

    I bumped into Kareem in Paris when I was about 14 and fell over. He stopped, helped me up, we talked a bit. I had no idea who he was aside from knowing he was exceptionally tall, but he was lovely to me in that moment, seemingly quite introverted, as was I.
    And then I went back to my small beach town home, where people would bounce a volleyball off your butt when you were sitting on the beach and judge you for how high it bounced (or didn’t). This was the early 90s, no reality tv. Yes, reality tv glorifies it and makes it ridiculous, but even then I knew it was ridiculous/outrageous and not to be internalized/taken seriously.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      I read a bunch of comments how he was rude and standoffish towards fans, so it’s nice to hear a positive one. He does seem like an introvert.

  7. NotSoSocialButterfly says:

    I think I need to read more of his articles!

  8. Slowsnow says:

    And for these reasons, I never watch “reality” TV. Not even cooking shows, house redesigning etc. Firmly against them. And I really do not think that the biggest issue is the white-washing of the show (which is a problem but like another poster said, why be a part of this?), it’s the horrible notions of love, companionship, sense of accomplishment (or lack thereof) that are conveyed by this marketing of stupidity.

  9. Merritt says:

    A big reason that millennials are having less sex is because many still live with their parents for financial reasons.

  10. Lightpurple says:

    I watched about 10 minutes of The Bachelor early on and could not understand how people could be so willing to degrade themselves. But Kareem. As a lifelong Celtics season ticket holder, Kareem the basketball player should be forever sitting on that bench sucking on an oxygen tank in the Memorial Day massacre (my brother made us watch a tape of that game regularly). I have always respected the off-the-court civil rights advocate Kareem. It this latest Kareem, with the wit and sarcastic humor! I am falling in love.

  11. bluerunning says:

    As I get older, I understand a bit more what they mean. I’m an adult now, so I look at the Kardashians and laugh, I don’t feel the need to post a million selfies, my day isn’t ruined if only 2 people comment on my Facebook status, and I don’t feel the need to jump on every new social media app that comes through. However, I work with high school/college age kids and…. I get it. Social media is based ENTIRELY on looks- my life may be going to garbage, but damn if my social media doesn’t make me look like a movie star! And if nobody is paying attention to your selfies, you’re not doing something right, so you’ll have to change. Again, yes, I’m making generalizations, and not EVERY young kid thinks this way, but I think there is an element of truth to it. I can preach until I’m blue in the face, but this is the society they’re living, working, and playing in… you learn to fit in.

    • lobbit says:

      Agreed. But I fear for what that means for us as a society – when we’re more engaged in an elaborate pantomime of living one’s best life than…actually living life.

  12. Pandy says:

    I don’t think we should be in a rush to wish this show on non white contestants …. it’s a farce.

  13. lobbit says:

    Totally agree with Mr. Abdul Jabbar. The entire franchise is garbage to me. A harem of women competing for fame + affection of one man and/or the chance to win their own harem of men? Gross.

  14. Locke Lamora says:

    I find his comments about physical appearance interesting, considering he’s an athlete. Now, I don’t know much about his personal life, but you could line up wifes and girlfriends of an NBA team and they would look pretty much the same as these Bachelor contestans.

  15. Hollie says:

    You’re in luck. The next bachelorette will 99% be black. SPOILER: Rachel (the black andi dorfman basically) comes in third this season, prime bachelorette positioning.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      I read a few spoilers and I like the girl who gets the ring, but her and Nick seem so ill mathced.

  16. Sixer says:

    I have no idea about the show or others like it whatsoever – why do people even watch this type of pap? I have no idea about that either.

    But I watched a documentary shown here in the UK a couple of months back that basically had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Chuck D wandering about talking about stuff and I thought what a brilliant bloke he is. He speaks with great clarity and there’s a combination of sophistication and homespun about him that is very appealing and that you don’t see in many people. Not being American or into basketball, I’d never heard of him before. Now he’s on my (pretty short) list of celebrities whose opinions I’d actually listen to.

  17. Mmm says:

    Sean Lowe didn’t marry a white Bachelorette.

    • ol cranky says:

      “She is of Filipino, Italian (her Swiss ancestors are responsible for the Italian name) and Scottish heritage.” While she isn’t lily-white , she doesn’t really come of as or lend an appearance of actual diversity

  18. Adele Dazeem says:

    As a certified gen x gal, I find these analyses of Millenials fascinating. I’ve gotten a few millenial colleagues as of late (our company had a push for hiring younger fresh college grads last year) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised both by their maturity and their….elderliness? I know that isn’t the right word but they don’t act like i did at 23. They definitely carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. I can’t put my finger on it, but the sex part doesn’t surprise me based on my limited experience w my coworkers.

    • Isa says:

      Thanks for commenting something positive about millennials . I am so sick of hearing only negativity about our generation, mainly from people that raised them.

  19. Isa says:

    I do not understand the appeal of the show. Now I get that sometimes we just want to watch mindless, stupid shit, but it’s the same thing each time! They narrow it down to a few and then cry, rub their face, and take deep breaths while trying to decide which one to cut.
    If you’re struggling over who to pick, then don’t pick me.

  20. Kori says:

    The show UNreal, which takes place behind the scenes of this type of show, had a second season devoted to a black bachelor. Both seasons had a lot to say about stereotypes. The show is wicked funny but has some seriousness too.