While it may be entertaining to watch twenty-something scantily clad women with questionable morals and motivations battle it out royale-style in an attempt to win the heart of the thirty-something-year-old single man that ABC has deemed to be desirable to the masses, that is the extent of this show’s value. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of The Bachelor, the show functions something like this:
Desperation+Obsession+Jealousy+Competition= TV Gold (coincidentally it also =’s relationship poison)
Let’s break it down:
1. Find a bunch of women: There will be a handful of successful women that are desperate to make up for the lost time spent advancing their careers, the wholesome Midwestern girl that 90% of the viewers will root for but who will hardly ever make it to the final 3, at least one Southern Bell (almost definitely blonde), a Texan who will regularly wear cowboy boots and denim cut-off shorts, and multiple “California girls” with bleach blonde hair and flawless tans. Then there’s the “Cinderella” character who has sob stories to boot, the quirky girl who seems to be totally out of left field, the single mother (sometimes two!), a couple of models and/or beauty queens, the aspiring singer/actress who everyone will be suspicious of, and 1-2 party girls that never fail to get belligerently hammered before the first rose ceremony.
2. Brainwash them: This is achieved subtly, with romantic montages from previous seasons and wedding-like décor everywhere. Has anyone else noticed that their house is always full of wedding flowers with an alter-like gazebo outside? Ultimately, these girls must be convinced that no matter how fulfilling and complete their lives may seem, they will never truly be complete or happy until they walk down the aisle of a ad-sponsored wedding broadcast live on ABC.
3. Isolate them: Remove the women from their lives and from everything and everyone they know. This leaves them with only ONE thing to focus on (i.e. obsess over): the Bachelor. He may not be that smart/successful/nice/attractive, but what he IS, is the only man on their radar and the sole purpose of their current existence around which their lives revolve for 6+ weeks. For over six weeks he is all they think about. Imagine if there was some sort of cataclysmic event and the only people left on earth were you, a few girls, and one guy. Then remove all other distractions and add alcohol and inexplicable romance to that equation. That is the world in which they live.
3. Make them jealous: This part is easy. Lock a bunch of attractive and/or successful women who all have their eye on the same man up in a small condo together. Only allow the women to escape this prison of estrogen when they are explicitly invited on a date by the Bachelor. The lucky lady’s excitement at having received a date is quickly cancelled out by her fear for her own life when she realizes that all of the other women in the house, who were of course forced to gather and listen as she received her invite, are now giving her death-glares and plotting her demise.
4. Make them compete: Ah, the dreaded group-date. So much pressure to stand out from the other girls on the date with the added difficulty of not pissing off all of your roommates. Thus, the one-on-one date is highly coveted, and the competition is fierce. In fact, competition for any of his attention at all is fierce. These women, who started out for the most part as well-balanced, relatively normal women, have now had their craziest base-female instincts exploited and exposed to their point where they are analyzing how he said “hi.” They will all try to pull the Bachelor aside during cocktail parties to get alone time, and when they fail they will all express their mutual hatred for the girl that succeeded in doing so. The innate desire to win a competition often also cancels out concern over what is being competed for. Bachelor group dates are basically the equivalent of a Wal-Mart mystery bin on Black Friday. No one knows what they’re fighting for; they just know everyone else wants it.
5. Play on their insecurities and exploit their fear of rejection: Never being able to get adequate time with the Bachelor is key to this show’s TV success. By never getting enough attention to feel comfortable with where they stand, these women are perpetually insecure, and hence, increasingly likely to snap and let their crazy shine through. This insecurity is compounded both by being made aware every time the Bachelor makes plans with another woman, and with the added threat imposed by the “rose ceremony”. This event is the dramatic climax of the show where the Bachelor authoritatively hands out rose after rose to the girls, after they are reminded by Chris Hansen that the Bachelor’s future wife is standing among them. Then any girl that did not receive a rose is sent home in shame after being rejected by the man she idolized and obsessed over for weeks on end in front of millions of TV viewers who will then mock the poor girl for being an ugly crier.
6. Keep them hooked: These women all want to get married and the producers know it; they’re dangling a princess-cut diamond engagement ring in front of these women like a carrot in front of a horse. They up the ante by saying things like “the Bachelor’s future wife is standing in this room right now,” or “in just a few short weeks, the Bachelor will be down on his knee proposing to one of you” (as shrieks and giggles of excitement ensue). Further, they make the show so over-the-top romantic that these desperate singletons can practically taste the six-tier butter cream cake at their fairytale wedding. The dates they go on are truly phenomenal; these are no Saturday night at the Olive Garden kind of dates. These dates involve private venues with beautifully catered wine-dinners followed by dancing to music which is played live by the latest singing sensation, or adventurous dates that create a sort of bond between the two practical strangers by forcing them to do something outside of their comfort zone (which almost always involves heights and is always heavily laden with corny metaphors somehow relating the challenge itself to the challenges of being in a relationship–clever, I know). These dates are so epic that they give the girls something to cling to for days or weeks until the Bachelor decides to give them a second glance. The consequence is that these girls are living in a fairytale world where there are no lines, waits, undercooked steaks or forgetful servers. It would be hard not to swoon over a guy who took you to a beautiful dinner on a private island and had Seal serenading you in the background. However, all of this makes for a cold, hard crash into reality because that kind of act is impossible to follow. When all of a sudden they go from enjoying whirlwind getaways in the Swiss Alps to chilling on the couch and ordering in pizza from Dominos, or going to a nice restaurant with *gasp* other patrons in it, it starts to feel reminiscent of a crappy sequel to an amazing movie.
7. The final mind-f*ck: After the bachelor settles on his sweetheart and proposes, the two must go into hiding (separately) and have no contact with each other for several months. I imagine that what these girls experience in the months following the filming of the Bachelor is similar to the experience that people who have fallen victim to cults feel when they are integrated back into society. They forgot what normal was like. They also forgot that there was more than one man–one possible husband–one chance at happiness. They fall back into their old routines and live their lives. Then all of a sudden it’s time for the reunion episode. But that whole relationship thing- that was soo six months ago. After all, they have just gotten comfortable in their lives again- they’re not all that excited to uproot everything all over again for a guy who hasn’t so much as texted them in months.
In conclusion, the Bachelor is hilarious and entertaining, but is not a viable way to cultivate a long-term relationship. However, if what you are after is 15 minutes of fame, or just 3 minutes of publicized footage of you getting handsy in a hot tub, then I totally recommend that you apply.