I’m pretty sure genocides have happened because bored coworkers have nothing to do on a free weekday evening. How else to explain how I recently came to view, understand, appreciate, and become obsessed by The Bachelor?
Let me clarify up front that I’ve only seen the first two episodes of this season, and those under very particular circumstances. Much of it was fast-forwarded, and all of it was derided and joked about with my esteemed coworkers, one of whom was particularly insistent that we enjoy this experience together. We all had to pick potential winners off the first episode, and roundly mock everything that came out of everybody’s mouth (something I am very good at).
The Bachelor is somehow nothing like I thought it would be and exactly like I thought it would be. I knew the Bachelor and the women would all be stupid, but I wasn’t prepared for how unapologetically stupid they would be. For instance, I expected a Miss America-type background for the competing ladies. Something like, “Karen is a Marine Biologist who works with underprivileged kids and plays the cello.” Instead it’s like, “Daisy is a Sports Fishing Enthusiast.” I’m not making that up, “Sports Fishing Enthusiast” was come contestant’s byline, where a job should have been. Secondly, they all seem to know they are competing for each other, yet are consistently surprised by any competition. Last week, some woman sobbed, “I can’t believe he kissed that other girl! I feel like he’s my boyfriend.” What kind of show is that, doll? He’s been given a buffet, but shouldn’t sample? Plus, are you aware of how many hours of television need to be filled here? He picks you day one, what does ABC put on Monday nights?
This brings me to the Bachelor himself, who is a professional-grade lunkhead. He feels so privileged to be the Bachelor on The Bachelor, and affects the appropriate “aw shucks” demeanor when ladies throw themselves at him, but he also has trouble with long sentences. Like speaking them. He trails off towards the end and it’s like watching an old car sputter and die. “And that’s why I’m really excited because… I think.. I. Will. Find. A. Wife.”
Funnily enough, though all the women are supposed to come with an interesting angle, or memorable hook to entice the Bachelor and (presumably) keep the audience interested, Chris is under no pressure to develop or demonstrate a personality. He smiles genially at everything and occasionally takes a deep breath, like he’s pretending to think. The ladies have gotten drunk, gotten angry, cried, been sexually inappropriate, and he just grins like an idiot.
The host is another Chris, and he seems to know exactly how good he has it. He walks into a room, says, “Ladies. It is time for the Bachelor to make his choice.” Then he goes and smokes cigarettes for an hour or whatever. He has the perfect amount of investment in the proceedings. He alludes vaguely to the fact that stuff is happening, but tips no hand regarding who he himself prefers. In fact, I hear he’s being joined by Jimmy Kimmel this season which makes sense. Regardless of the obvious cross-promotion between a prime time and a late night show on the same channel, Kimmel’s always struck me as a pretty solid emcee. I don’t find him particularly funny in his own right, but he segues between jokes, guests, and commercials like an old school broadcaster.
In many ways, I think The Bachelor is old school as well. It’s a tarted-up Dating Game, with the suggestion that the relationship will last beyond the time the cameras stop rolling (but will it?) crossed with beauty contests and Queen For a Day. Sexist, antiquated, and mindless it may be, The Bachelor is an old dog with a new trick, unless something comes along to shake things up.
Dream: Be a contestant on The Bachelor.
Goal: Achievable. I don’t want to be the Bachelor himself, and I don’t want to be one of the dudes up for grabs on The Bachelorette. I want a limo to pull up on that first night, when the Bachelor meets all the hot ladies, and then I come strutting out in my finest cargo shorts.
Plan: Bro down.
It would generate an enormous amount of publicity if it was announced that a lone male contestant would be competing alongside the ladies to be chosen by the Bachelor. Does this mean the Bachelor is gay, or bisexual? Not necessarily, but it would attract the attention and speculation of both communities.
I would present myself the way I hope I come across in really life. Friendly, and gay, but not flamboyantly so. But I would add cool touches like a skateboard and the catchphrase, “Bro down throwdown!” Then I’d tackle the Bachelor and we’d wrestle playfully and people would be like, “What the fuck is going on?”
I would represent two special interests simultaneously. I’d be playing for the gay guys with crushes on straight men who believe they can “change him”, and I’d represent the bromance contingent that seems to dominate so many movies of late. The overgrown manchild who picks “bros before hos” and would much rather hang out with dudes than get a steady lady.
On me and the Bachelor’s “alone time”, we would shoot the breeze and drink beer and talk shit about the other ladies. During my time with the ladies, I would completely ingratiate myself. Not to generalize wildly about your typical Bachelor contestant, but these gals seem like the type for whom a gay male friend is a status symbol or cute accessory. I met a really pretty blonde woman at a party once and when she found out I knew the host of the party through my boyfriend, she screeched, “You’re gay?! We should totally go shopping together!” Within seconds of meeting me, she said this. I’m not suggesting the women competing on The Bachelor aren’t smart enough to realize that gay guys are as diverse within that group as they are outside of it, but actually that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.
I would become a viewer favourite, and so far I’m convinced that viewer favourites are given roses and kept around thanks to strong suggestions to the Bachelor from the show’s producers. My coworker said, for instance, that a crazy woman will make it very, very far because she’s interesting, and that the Bachelor will never kick off a visible minority in the first few weeks lest he, and by extension the show, be accused of racism (although a whiter show you’ll never come across). Sure enough, in the two episodes I watched, he put through a crazy drunk, and a boring African American woman, in spite of not knowing much about either.
As to my intentions, I just want to be on television instead of watching it because fun. And for the record, I don’t think even the most charming charmer can turn a straight guy gay, but that stupid people or narcissists (the Bachelor fits snugly in categories A and B) might be convinced to make out with you for a bit. I would have to work very hard to convince poor Dr. Jon to give me a pass to openly flirt with another man on national television, but I feel like, if I explain the premise of my participation in the same way I’ve just explained it to you, he will see that, by objecting, he is standing in the way of my Dreams and also letting down the Bachelor’s loyal viewers.
There are troubling issues at play with a show like The Bachelor that I can’t even begin to contemplate. Why do we watch women (and men) degrade themselves in this way? Is sexuality such a commodity that it can be bought or manufactured for the right price? Do farmers really look like that? I know I’m doing a disservice to my feminist ideals and my brain by watching every week, but my coworker’s making spaghetti tonight for us to eat while we watch it! I don’t know how much our society values love and marriage anymore, but I will go to war and fight and die for my right to eat spaghetti and laugh with my friends. To put it another way, from week to week, I will always accept this rose.