As one of the greatest basketball players of all time, as well as a co-star of cinema classics like Airplane! and Game of Death, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a pop culture icon, and one that has transcended that role through his thoughtful and intelligent writing career and public activism. (He was also made a U.S. cultural ambassador in 2012.) And what's driving one of his latest pointed essays? Why, his complete distaste for ABC's long-running reality show The Bachelor and how it's killing real life romance, of course. Here's one of the most gut-busting segments.
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.
Yowzah, you could be standing a mile away from those comments and still feel the burn. Crabs and corpses and Kenny G, oh my! Kareem Abdul-Jabber began his Bachelor-bashing diatribe by bringing up a recent study claiming young millennials are having sex far less than the previous generation, which he then suggests is partly to blame on the reality show and its ilk for objectifying and plasticizing romance. I don't know that the causation implied there is entirely provable, but it's more springboard than thesis anyway.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shared all of these thoughts in an essay he penned for THR, in which he specifically points out that his problem with romance-driven competition shows lies heavily with the selection and editing processes used to exploit everyone for everything, and not necessarily the contestants themselves. Though he naturally isn't too keen on those who intentionally over-dramatize everything for the camera, such as The Bachelorette's super-bad cad Chad.
While his views aren't exactly original, since he's echoing what many of The Bachelor's critics have been slinging for years, it's not as if it makes any of those thoughts irrelevant. He blasts the show's lack of diversity making everyone "as interchangeable as Mr. Potato Head parts," as well as its heightening of the expectations that come with finding a significant other. When he gets to his feelings about Bachelor-type shows' commercial approach to physical attraction equating true love, it's darkly hilarious and arguably poignant that he wraps on a callback to the Hindenberg.
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.
What do you guys think? Is The Bachelor just a ridiculous show that everyone thinks is harmless, or are these shows actually having a bigger impact on young mindsets than we think? Let us know, and if you're feeling that one kind of way, then tune into ABC every Monday night at 8 p.m. ET for Nick Viall's season, which just got underway. And, of course, head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what non-reality shows will also be hitting the schedule soon.