I haven't been watching for years and years, but since I was in high school, I've watched a few seasons of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" on ABC. It was Ben Higgins's season where I first experienced what everyone loved in this show, and since then I've always been one to explain myself to friends when they laugh at my interest in it.
I have a few friends who also love to follow along, as does my little sister. And I know what everyone will say when I talk about it… it's stupid, unrealistic, and a waste of time.
But hey, I love reality TV of all kinds ("Catfish," "Teen Mom", "Love After Lock-Up", you name it!) so it makes sense that I'd be a fan of this franchise, too.
This season, with Colton and Cassie, I got to thinking about why there is such a fascination (in almost a gross way, let's be real) with the series and why so many Americans rally around these couples that are thrown together in the epitome of hopeless romance. And then it hit me.
As quite the hopeless romantic myself, watching these shows presents us with several elements of idealistic romance and relationships for our own lives -- the dresses, the tuxedos, the mansion, the tropical vacations, all of the "new"-ness of a relationship. If every day could be like that in our own lives, we might not want it forever, but it'd be pretty luxurious for a while.
On top of the elegance and the over-the-top start to romantic relationships, we see the drama, the tragic endings, the difficulties, and the feelings that give us just enough real-ness for us to relate. We've seen it in our own heartbreaks, goodbyes, struggles, and hopes shot down in search of love in our own lives.
So as we indulge in a weekly two-hour session of roses, rings, fantasy suites, and one-on-one dates, what's really going on for us? We're briefly able to escape our own reality, to fall in love with an idealistic world that isn't going to happen for many of us, and to take a break from the imperfect parts of our lives, relationships or not, where we tend to hone in on the flaws.
The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise is so appealing to Americans because we can ditch our own imperfect realities for a short while and in watching the bizarre romances of people on TV, we can still find ways to relate to their turmoil.
This can be problematic, for sure. But I think it presents another idea -- Americans, despite the constant urge to swipe and match and the growing struggle to connect in real life, are still hopeful about love. And while we are hopeful, sometimes we don't always see the fantasy in our own hearts, lives, and relationships.
Americans love to be able to look away from the last argument they had with their husband over dinner, the angry text they got from their boyfriend, or the difficulties of real-life relationships to see harmony, bliss, romance, and everything TV producers can do to engineer that for the screens in our living rooms. And it keeps us swooning because we get a pinch of realism in this recipe too -- the tearful car rides, rose ceremonies, and dates ending in heartbreak.
But in all this, I hope we can turn off our TV screens, and see a couple of things. That first and foremost, none of it is realistic and we shouldn't base our romantic ideals on this show. But secondly, something so manufactured and unrealistic has allowed a lot of Americans to have some hope in our hearts about love, about connections, and about all that is great about loving someone entirely. Yes, yes, this is cheesy, but it's true in a lot of ways, too.
As we toss the remotes back to our couches, head to bed, and reflect on season after season of The Bachelor/Bachelorette, I hope people can use the hope from a silly TV show to cherish, harbor, and cultivate love in their own lives. I also hope that we can recognize the fantasy in the imperfect moments of our own relationships. The relationships on this show don't have as much depth, struggle, and growth as our own, and with those elements, we see lots of imperfection, lots of not-so-fun moments, and lots of meh. It's not all helicopters and Thailand and limo entrances. But with the hope we can find for love in The Bachelor/Bachelorette, we can find the beauty in the moments we have that wouldn't be fit for a rose ceremony and see that they would be fit for filling our hearts and lives.
Love isn't what's on our TV screens. But as we watch, we can learn a lot about real love, our lives, and the struggle for love that everyone has, all while finding hope in meeting our own final rose.