‘The Bachelor’ and Other Drugs
The Bachelor is proof that modern entertainment has reached an all-time low. For some reason, we viewers delight in seeing our world sketched in caricature, divorced from any type of “reality” that exists in real life.
I started watching The Bachelor because I was bored. I continued watching because I got hooked. The Bachelor is like looking at our world through a funhouse mirror. It takes iconic elements of relationships and distorts them until they are exaggerated, barely recognizable versions of themselves. A rose here, a ring there. But love? Not so much.
We watch the show with the full knowledge that if there ever was a right way to find true love, this definitely isn’t it. However, we trade our common senses for the addictive entertainment that the show provides.
And it’s entertaining as hell. When we overlook the ridiculous contestants and the blatantly scripted nature of the show, The Bachelor tempts our inner romantic, whether we like it or not. But the drama between the contestants is what fuels its following, in my opinion. We all want someone to root for, in earnest or in mockery.
The Bachelor pits women against each other by setting them up on group dates, two-on-one dates, and the glorified one-on-one. The stakes are always high and sometimes invite the use of “unorthodox tactics” by the desperate women to secure a rose, a confirmation that they are still in the running for another week. One contestant this season, deciding to lead with her sexuality, boldly kissed the bachelor on the first night and proceeded to remove her top for him within the first week of dating - a move that has proven to be strategic for her in this setting, as it has led her to nab a spot in the final four contestants.
But if you do stop to think about it, you realize that The Bachelor represents anything but love. In fact, most of the relationships forged on the show never make it past the screen. According to a study done in 2015 by the Huffington Post, out of 18 seasons of The Bachelor only two couples took the leap from proposal to marriage. The Bachelorette (a show with a similar idea to The Bachelor except 30 men compete for one woman) didn’t have much more success, with only three marriages resulting from ten seasons.
The failure of The Bachelor to cultivate a “petri-dish love” is not a surprise. Relationships are meant to be spontaneous, not contrived. No one falls in love because the producers tell you to. Moreover, nowhere else in the natural world do 30 women earnestly vie for the love and attention of one mediocre guy (except maybe in the shidduch world) but for some reason, these women sacrifice their sanity and self-worth for the possibility of finding some watered-down version of love.
The Bachelor sets up a relationship doomed for failure.
So if they show is as genuine as the painted faces of the contestants, why do we keep on watching it?
Aside from the drama that keeps us hooked, The Bachelor, like many other Reality T.V. shows that air today, is comforting. When we watch it, we can’t help but feel more secure in our own lives and relationships. Because however much we think we’ve screwed up, it can’t get worse than the people who have left their professional (or pseudo-professional) lives to “find love” on national television.
It’s the same reason we watch shows about manic hoarders. We may have neglected to toss the take-out for a little too long, but that woman on TLC can’t even see her floor. We’re doing just fine.
But let’s not kid ourselves. The success of The Bachelor also points to issues within its viewers. Reality T.V. shows fulfill Americans the way that bread and circuses fulfilled the residents of ancient Rome. That is, the conscious mind knows that what it is seeing is purely meaningless, but the subconscious mind begs for more. We have resorted back to a society that basks in the hollow and shuns the reality in front of them.
But maybe that’s just what we need today, an escape from a world that people deem too “unfair,” too “hateful.” To many, The Bachelor may be silly, but it’s a welcome distraction from the bills, work, and protests of the world beyond the screen.
In this way, The Bachelor is like a drug. And like all drugs, it is something to be used in moderation. With all its exploitation, hyperbole, and dramatization, The Bachelor reminds us that entertainment is meant to do just that – entertain. And entertainment, like drugs, can comfort and alleviate the realities of life.
But I don’t need to tell you what happens when you have too much.