The latest season of the Russian version of TV franchise ‘The Bachelor’ has caused online outrage over a 38-year-old multimillionaire – also a father of two – lusting after young models and pulling a juvenile publicity stunt.
Popular network TNT has seen the first episode of its flagship show create controversy as the series’ star insincerely apologized to his online audience, pretending to “cancel” the project after experiencing “outrage and indignation” from women on social media. The figurehead of the 2021 edition is Timur Yunusov, better known by his stage name Timati. He is a Russian rapper turned entrepreneur whose annual income is $5.1 million dollars, or 379 million rubles, according to Forbes.
‘The Bachelor’ series is produced in different countries around the world, with this season shot in the UAE. The setup is simple: 25 women must fight for the approval of a single man, usually a big media personality. This is obviously to ensure decent TV ratings.
The love life of this year’s contender is already a regular topic of discussion in the Russian tabloids, as Timati is the father of two children, a daughter and a son, who he had with models Alena Shishkova and Anastasia Reshetova. The rapper split with Reshetova a month before it was announced that he would feature on ‘The Bachelor’. Following the announcement of his participation, Reshetova condemned the move on her Instagram, saying, “I have my own principles and vision of how a family should exist. Reality shows don’t fit there.”
The star evidently does not have any trouble meeting women, especially models, which makes his presence on ‘The Bachelor’ all the more bizarre. It is also said that he changed the rules of the show in order to hand-pick some of the girls himself, which has caused a massive backlash on his social media over the past week.
Many women wrote to him questioning the purpose of a show that revolves around girls fighting each other for male attention. Former pop star turned TV presenter Regina Todorenko has been one of the biggest critics of this year’s series. Infuriated by the female contestants on the show being completely devalued as individuals, she said: “Girls are examined like horses, their hooves, teeth, tail and mane are checked.” In addition, the TV presenter wrote that she was “enraged by the idea that girls should present gifts in order to please a man who is little more than a rival.”
In a statement taken from the series, Timati said that “I guess I’ve said the word ‘love’ three times in 37 years.” As many commentators on his Instagram pointed out, it is surely much easier to muster up a sense of “love” given the fact that his first match was with Maria Weber, a 22-year-old swimsuit model from Sochi, and his second link-up was with Daria Pogodaeva, a 26-year-old model and TV presenter from the Urals. Both girls are dramatically younger than the rapper.
The concerning thing about many of these ‘reality’ dating shows is that they boil down to a mix of toxic beauty standards, pressure from social media, sexploitation, and women being cast in supplementary roles where their sole purpose is to compete for the approval of an ‘eligible’ bachelor.
This season promises its audiences “a lot of beauties with modelesque appearances.” As the paper Komsomolskaya Pravda put it, “It is believed that the audience is pleased to watch attractive participants. In addition, men involved in show business prefer beauties of this kind of appearance. Although the producers will dilute them with a couple of other types – which is necessary for the plot.” If the distinction is between women with model-like appearances versus “other types,” the latter category surely encompasses at least 96% of the female population.
Russia is by no means unique in promoting this type of genre; much like with the hit British ITV reality series ‘Love Island’ there is a fierce debate around the fact that most of the girls who appear on the show are models. It goes without saying that some of them are rather young. Russia is notorious for its fixation on female attractiveness, with the beauty industry amassing billions of dollars every year (it is estimated to be worth 830 billion Russian rubles by 2023). This serial doesn’t stray far away from the idea of the “ideal woman” projected by the business, namely looking youthful and thin.
Having said that, the most popular finalists of ‘The Bachelor’ have the opportunity to pick up massive PR and royalties deals. In previous seasons the finalists, small-time Instagrammer Viktoriya Korotkova and model Daria Klyukina, gained hordes of followers and fans and were able to firmly establish themselves as social media personalities. Last season, Milana Tulpanova (the ex-wife of former Russian footballer turned football manager Alexander Kerzhakov), who is known for her charitable and social work, used the show to “find herself” and accelerate her new venture as a blogger. This can be considered the bright side of appearing on the program – many contestants use it as a springboard to either launch or revamp their careers in the public eye.
However, there is a flipside to all the fame and attention. If we take Britain’s ‘Love Island’ as an example, there have been four suicides associated with the show since it started in 2015. With the amount of attention from social media there is a guaranteed degree of internet trolling. Women from ‘The Bachelor’ are often pigeon-holed into set roles: there’s the ‘feisty one’, the ‘unusual one’, the ‘well-rounded one’, the ‘scandalous one’, and so on and so forth.
Timati’s insincere apology, posted to Instagram on Saturday, stated: “It’s a pity that your feelings were offended by this release [of the show]. And I caught subtle feminist notes in your posts, [along the lines of] how and why should 10 girls fight for some bearded dude?”
The rapper played up to those who were upset by the first episode and hinted that it had been removed from YouTube before asking their forgiveness. He threw it back in their faces a mere day later, saying, “we kiss the feminists hard, don’t worry so much, no one will fight for us!” and announcing a “double Bachelor” release as the first episode was restored alongside the second one.
In this year’s edition, Timati has been cast as the ‘ideal man’, or knight in shining armor – yet judging by his previous relationships and playground antics, this role will be the most challenging of his career.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.