6 Ways ABC's 'The Proposal' Is Problematic

I’m someone who’s long loved watching the Bachelor franchise for its crazy drama, romantic stories, and exotic locales. It’s become my go-to Monday night indulgence, and this summer was no different. Then, during one episode of The Bachelorette, I noticed promos for the producers’ latest reality TV venture, The Proposal. Thinking it would be a somewhat identical version of The Bachelor franchise, I was willing to give it a shot since The Bachelor has long been a guilty pleasure of mine. 

When The Proposal debuted on June 18, it was described as a “soulmate pageant,” but that is clearly not the case. Watching the first two episodes of the series has been cringeworthy to say the least. Even in today’s dating culture, it’s ridiculous to assume that you can find your soulmate in one hour, especially if you can’t even see the suitor until they propose. 

With only four episodes that have aired, and another pulled after allegations of sexual misconduct, it’s clear how problematic The Proposal is in a society that is attempting to embrace equality and feminism. Just how cringeworthy is this show? Oh, let me count the ways…

1. You are expected to propose to a mystery suitor without knowing anything about them.

For a majority of each episode, neither the audience nor the contestants are given a full visual of the mystery suitor! Instead, a gray bodysuit and digitally-enhanced graphics conceal their identity. Can you imagine marrying someone without knowing their backstory? Yeah, that’s not creepy at all.

For shows like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, the audience becomes invested in following the suitor’s journey to find love because we see what they’ve been through (heartbreak, drama, and all). Viewers emphatically watch the Bachelor or Bachelorette sort through the beautifully disastrous individuals presented to them as a potential significant other. On The Proposal, the audience and contestants don’t even get a glimpse of the suitor’s personality. After being sequestered willingly backstage, it’s the contestants who end up competing to get a proposal at the end! How can these individuals fall in love or pursue a relationship when they can’t see the suitor or know anything about them? How can any of us possibly care about a show like this or become invested in it?

2. There’s a swimsuit round.

Hmm, let me think. Who’s going to move forward to the next round: the girl that looks the most attractive in a bikini or the girl wearing a one-piece with a cover-up over it?

Even Miss America has gotten rid of this round. (Take notes, ABC!) On The Proposal, the suitor judges the contestants based on first impressions because there isn’t enough time for anything else. Let’s just acknowledge the show for what it actually is, shall we? It’s less about finding your soulmate and more of a beauty pageant based solely on physical attractiveness. 

After judging the six, narrowed-down contestants in their swimsuits, the suitor is expected to choose four contenders to move on to the question-and-answer round. At this point, the suitor has not heard much reasoning from the contestants to alleviate the decision-making process. Now, keep in the mind that this ludicrous concept is being portrayed as a romantic story to the audience. But is anyone really buying into this?

3. A blatant lack of diversity.

While there’s some diversity in age, race, and size during Round 1, those contenders are quickly eliminated. This further proves The Proposal is nothing more than a distorted pageant that perpetuates stereotypes and skewed beauty standards. How lovely of a message to portray in 2018, but considering the history and lack of diversity on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, are we really surprised? (Not like that is a great standard for reality TV to begin with.)

4. The male gaze and anti-feminist stance of the show is jarring.

During the first male suitor-focused episode, the camera pans up and down the women’s bodies as they shake off their coverups and stand on stage in either a bathing suit or a glamorous gown. Talk about appealing to the male gaze! 

Since reality shows like The Proposal are typically geared towards a female audience, producers should take into account that women aren’t keen on seeing an extreme closeup of Girl No. 1’s thighs, butt, and legs. There’s nothing entertaining about a woman standing on stage in her swimsuit while a hidden male suitor ogles her. If anything, it’s totally sexist and anti-feminist, especially in the current #MeToo and #TimesUp era. ABC, you can do better. 

5. The mystery suitor sits behind an enclosed partition, leering at the contestants from the shadows.

That’s romantic? Peeping at the person you want to propose to like a total creeper? 

As a Twitter user rightfully pointed out, The Proposal is like an episode of Black Mirror come to life ⏤ which any fan of the Netflix series would tell you is a bit scary.

Oh, and if you go over the time limit (even by the slightest second), host Jesse Palmer has no issue cutting you off (as he often does). It infuriates me that a man still has the authority to interrupt and tell a woman to stop talking. Not buying it, ABC.

It’s 2018, we can do better. Nobody wants to watch a homogenous beauty pageant where winning is solely based on looks. There’s no time to answer even a single question thoroughly and to satisfaction on The Proposal. With all this in mind, are we to assume that people would actively get engaged to a total stranger in less than an hour? 

While The Bachelor franchise is entertaining in all its guilty-pleasure glory, The Proposal is just painful to watch. The only time you won’t be cringing is during the commercial breaks. So do yourself a favor and skip this disaster of a series.

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