Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Bachelor- This One's For You, Beth

My friend, Beth, asked me to write a post on The Bachelor in honor of her *cough*th birthday. Considering what a sweet friend she is, of course, I am happy to oblige her and do just that. However, you should know, I do not watch The Bachelor. I'm not above it, don't misunderstand. I love me my own share of reality TV. Flavor of Love, The Real Housewives of ____*, America's Next Top Model, Top Chef, Project Runway, Celebrity Rehab, Intervention... I'm a connoisseur. I've watched and loved them all.
However, though I have seen episodes of The Bachelor, I've never enjoyed it. In fact, I've disdained it. Why? For the very reason that most people feel okay about watching it. It is one of the only reality TV shows that people don't judge you for watching. For some reason (maybe because it's on network TV?), it does not carry the same stigma that other reality dating shows do. It is the Kim Kardashian of the genre- the one that everyone knows and likes. I think people feel like it's less tacky or more normal or just realer.
On the contrary- I would contend the exact opposite. See, there's an honesty to the camp of the Rock of Loves of the world. They aren't trying to pretend to be something that they're just not. No sane person really thinks that Bret Michaels and whatever anatomically enhanced bimbo he ends up picking are going to ride off into the sunset and sing "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" forever after. You know it's a contrived train wreck, beautifully concocted for your mindless enjoyment. People call it trashy, and it is. But so is The Bachelor. It just masquerades under the guise of "real love" and respectability.
Do you think that The Bachelor is any less contrived, fake, or trashy? Of course not. It's just missing some of the over the top kitchsy elements and the ironic editing (VH1 is the best at this particular skill... you know, someone saying, "I'm a really good listener" and then cutting to a shot of them ignoring someone who's weepily telling them about how they weren't hugged as a child, set against spaced out music- it's awesome). Rather than playing off the contestants and eponymous single guy as comedic characters to be enjoyed for their own lack of self awareness, the producers have wrapped the whole thing in a candy-coated shell of girl emotional porn.
Crazy as it seems, there are women out there who weep over this show. They wish their lives could work out so magically and think that whatever single guy is the star for the season is a dreamboat catch. All other reality dating shows' entertainment value is derived from the absurdity of situation and the lack of reality. The Bachelor's entertainment value is derived from their ability to convince you that the people are truly in love and that this is how real love should be. But what is real about it? Is it real to have 20 women living in a house together, denied access to TV, books, and the outside world, so that all they can do is obsess over a guy that they barely know, hoping to win his affections? The only remotely similar situation I've heard of is when Xerxes is choosing his bride from the populous in the book of Esther. That actually is a pretty good parallel, because The Bachelor does end up being a kind of sexless harem, where the king is able to take each concubine on extravagant dates and she must do all she can to impress him in the small time window that she has, before his attentions are diverted by a dozen other beauties who are equally desperate to capture his attention.
I guess what I'm saying is that I have no problem with this genre of television show- they can be farces and ironic commentaries on our culture's romantic values and pitfalls. And they're just funny, for the most part, and I don't begrudge anyone a little laughter. But what I do resent is pretending that the plastic product you're producing is the genuine article and then having women trying to measure their own love lives up to an impossible standard. This show emphasizes dating as a fairytale in ways that it just shouldn't be. Obsession, over the top expensive dates, exaggerated promises- these things are not the stuff of fairytales that a woman should expect in romance. But the true parts of the fairytale - the intentional, declared pursuit of one man for one woman, the setting, keeping, and building on of reasonable promises and expectations, the security a woman should have of a man's intentions and affections towards her - these truly magical elements of romance are missing from this show. And what woman really needs another reinforcement that she will not be enough to keep a man's attention so she better work extra hard to try to hold onto him? From my own life, the lives of my girlfriends, and the lives of the women I have discipled, I can tell you that the answer is a big fat zero.
Anyways, what do I know? I'm still single and one of these women is about to be engaged for at least 3 months. I guess they're the ones living the dream.

Happy birthday, Beth. :)

*Except for the OC. That one's a snooze. Give me NYC, Jersey, or Beverly Hills any day.

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