I have tried to keep up—tried to stay in the loop of all the drama and competition, the back-stabbing, the arguing, the lies, the immaturity, the stupidity, and the general ridiculousness of the process. But on this cold, snowy morning, I’d had enough. I couldn’t take another minute of watching republicans call democrats terrorist-sympathizers while career public-service workers and world leaders shake their heads, and pundits and constitutional experts call them all mad. And yet, I wanted to stay in bed, snuggled in my Ugg, and I wanted to watch TV.
So, I turned to Season 24, Episode 1 of The Bachelor, which happened to be recorded on my DVR. It came as a surprise on our playlist, given that neither my husband nor I recorded it. (I’m not sure he even knows this show exists). I, too, am a relative newcomer to The Bachelor, a reality TV competition where everyone dates and tries to marry the same man. It’s been on since 2002, so I’ve certainly heard of it and am aware that my daughters are into it. But I watched for the first time just last season when our daughter had access to television programming on our big living room TV. She moved out, but the recordings remained. And one dumb day for no reason other than curiosity, I watched one show, then another, and then another—quite a few actually, until I knew the characters’ names and found myself carefully scrutinizing couple chemistry. I had my favorites and those I couldn’t stand.
Yikes! I was trapped in a reality television gapers block as my brain successfully melted away along with all my cares and worries.
There’s no question this is a popular show and that many, my daughters included, consider it a guilty pleasure. But for crying out loud, I think it’s awful. The whole concept is just a setup for heartbreak and unnecessary drama. Watching a Ken doll make-out with 30 different Barbies in one setting soaked me in a bath of humiliation on behalf of each of the characters. I pitied them—these beautiful young people exposing their vulnerabilities for all to see. And for what? Do they truly believe they’re “falling in love?” Seriously? Is this how it’s done now? I mean, I don’t know how any of it can be authentic.
I believe that true love is organic. This shit, on the other hand, is totally synthetic.
But I watched. Later, I talked about it with my husband and I texted about it with my daughter. And, of course, I’m writing about it now. It’s not my intention to simply ridicule The Bachelor, as I can’t deny that the show does appeal to my sense of being entertained. Moreover, I believe it appeals to my curiosity about character and the nature of human interactions. It, however, only takes watching one show to figure out the formula, and nothing in all that manufactured drama is very surprising or revealing. Frankly, while I think the show may do some serious, long-lasting harm to the psyches of its participants, for viewers, it is utterly harmless entertainment.
Or is it?
The Bachelor, and shows like it, is a base-level, formulaic program that works for the network. Season-after-season, it celebrates inauthenticity, promotes anti-intellectualism, and makes reality TV personalities household names. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before that dude who was the virgin bachelor last season is going to run for congress somewhere? After all, in addition to getting the current occupant of the White House, Reality TV was how we got Sean Duffy as our representative in Northern Wisconsin (The Real World Boston). Duffy, little more than a Trump sycophant, stepped down last year when he learned his ninth child had health issues in the womb. And by the way, this happened to coincide with national television appearances where he made a complete ass of himself while defending the president’s racism. Even though I considered Duffy politically useless and NEVER received more than a form letter response filled with tired republican talking points and non-answers to ANY of my specific questions (like “did you actually READ the Mueller Report?), because he walked away from his responsibilities to the people, Wisconsin’s 7th District has been without representation for the past three-plus months. The special general election is not until May 12. Note, the other day Duffy reported on Facebook that his new baby is doing well, and in spite of my political differences with him, I certainly wish good health for him and his family. I applaud him for stepping down to tend to his family and surreptitiously hope he saw the light, understanding he could not appropriately serve either his family or his constituents by continuing to defend even the foulest of declarations by this president.
Meanwhile, our Tweeter in Chief, Donald Trump, lives in his own reality and THINKS he’s as popular as the Bachelor. He runs the White House like it’s Villa de la Vina (The Bachelor mansion) where everyone must approach with flatter and praise. Each day this is confirmed when I watch the news and witness statements from the likes of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley, Jim Jordan, Doug Collins, and Sen. Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, for example, who are just like the ridiculous, say-anything ingénues courting their main man. They attempt to win favor with him and avoid his Twitter insults rather than support or defend the Constitution of the United States, or represent the trampled desires and needs of the majority of the population. Their inexplicable support for this reality TV host-turned-president has a far greater negative impact on the health and welfare of this nation than the overall effect of any season of The Bachelor. Nevertheless, I BLAME reality TV for this dumbed-down state in which we currently live. And I believe the long-term, collective consequence of all this so-called reality PROGRAMMING is now clear: Intellectualism is experiencing a slow and very painful death—right along with our democracy.
Next on the Reality TV lineup: The Senate Impeachment trial. I’m sure it’ll be gangbusters for the networks, but it will be far from harmless for the American public. Buckle up.