I have an addiction. But don’t worry, Mom. It’s not to drugs, sex, alcohol, or any of those other things you warned me about in college.
My addiction is of a different nature. Because I am not addicted to a substance; I’m addicted to roses and all the drama they bring. I’m addicted to "The Bachelor."
Yup it’s that time of year again. Where a hottie reject from 1 (or 3) seasons in "The Bachelor" franchise gets to star in his own season with 30 lovely ladies (and potential suitors) as his co-stars.
It’s hard to explain my addiction because, from a moral standpoint, I see so many flaws with the show. Having 30 ladies on the show who are “ready to be married” to a mystery man is only the mouth of the river of problems that flow from the format of the show. Most of these ladies immediately fall in love with the Bachelor, but I fear that it’s because they know they’re supposed to be in love instead of truly falling in love with him after spending copious amounts of time getting to know him. This indicates that a lot of these ladies are probably doing it for the fame (although not for the fortune, see this Mic article about how much money the unpaid contestants on "The Bachelor" spend) or out of desperation.
Additionally, the girls are given minimal time with the Bachelor, especially in the first few weeks of the show when the number of girls is in the double digits, and the time they do spend with him is often on group dates and at alcohol-filled cocktail parties. This setting is one of "survival of the fittest" rather than of romance. Who knew that Darwin’s theory of evolution could predict the winners of group date roses and the losers who get sent home at rose ceremonies?
But I suppose what concerns me the most about the show is that the people on it aren’t shown as humans, but as characters. This is innate in reality TV in general, but the romantic premise of "The Bachelor" and the resultant vulnerability of the people on it only amplifies the characterization of the contestants. America is only shown a sliver of these humans’ true selves, a tiny glimpse of how they are in the context of a drunk Darwinian love story. And then their words and actions are cut, edited, and put back together by the show’s producers in a way that tells a given narrative. Each season has to have at least one villain, “nice guy/girl”, and total crazy. In Ben’s season of "The Bachelor," for example, Olivia was the primary villain, the total crazies were Mandy and Lace, and the “nice girl” was Lauren, the eventual winner of the season.
Yet life doesn’t stop for these real people during and after the season, and their reality TV portrayal ultimately affects their lives in a big way. For example, Olivia faced no end of hate on social media throughout Ben’s season and even afterward because people were led to believe that the way she was shown on his season is the way she is in real life. And since she was shown as an attention-hogging, inconsiderate wackadoodle, many comments on social media about her reflected that character. Olivia took a hiatus from social media for several weeks and had her sister post for her instead because it was “a really dark place” for her. The nature of the show and the producers’ minds is certainly to blame for this. But from inaccurate and hurtful critiques, these people who go on the show learn that social media (and media in general) often victimize humans for the sake of a story, a very valuable lesson that they might not otherwise have learned.
So there’s undeniable ethical qualms with the show. But why does America watch it? Why do these reality TV characters capture our hearts?
I think that it’s because America loves love, a good story, and a happy ending. And when we’re told that it’s real people starring in these fairy tales, we fall prey to the story and naturally select the addictive program. What makes "The Bachelor" franchise even more successful is that the characters who capture our hearts the most (and least) are often recurring characters in the franchise and appear on one or more other Bachelor shows.
For example, the current Bachelor, Nick, was rejected on both Andi’s season of the Bachelorette and Kaitlyn’s season of "The Bachelorette," right after he had had beef with many of the guys on the show and was ready to propose. Then, he appeared on "Bachelor in Paradise" just over a year after Kaitlyn’s season of "The Bachelorette" had ended only to choose not to propose to Jen (the girl whom he dated on "Bachelor in Paradise") at the final rose ceremony. The victim of three broken hearts, it’s no wonder the producers chose him to finally star in his season of "The Bachelor;" (some of) America had fallen in love with him time and time again.
I must admit, I’m hopelessly in love with "The Bachelor" franchise. It wasn’t love at first sight, though. I was skeptical, so I watched the show and its characters, and then, as time passed, I gradually began to fall in love with the excitement of the “reality” portrayed. Despite my ethical concerns with "The Bachelor," I love it as a show, and I have become invested in the characters in the franchise.So on Monday, Jan 2, my reality will consist of watching “reality”. I hear it’s gonna be the “most dramatic season yet.”