My aunt Lulu is visiting this week (we’re all ecstatic!) and of course on Monday night we drank wine and watched The Bachelor. She was totally into it, but kept saying, “Who are these poor women? Why would they put themselves through this?” And I remembered this fascinating New York Times article by Andrea Seigel about the psychology behind the reality TV shows, including the Bachelor…
Just as “Survivor” isn’t really about enduring life on a deserted beach, “The Bachelor” isn’t really about dating or marriage… it’s really about science — which you might even think of as the opposite of romance, especially if you aren’t a scientist. In fact, if “Survivor” is about being unable to escape who you really are when you’re dropped into uncomfortable conditions, then I would say that “The Bachelor” is about forgetting who you really are when everybody around you gets lost in the same overpowering fiction. The show is this generation’s Stanford Prison Experiment…
I’ve always believed that if you’re truly in love with someone, you shouldn’t be able to answer the question “What do you love about him?” with any kind of real satisfaction. The things you’re able to articulate should leave you at least a little hollow. Contestants on “The Bachelor” will usually have to answer this question for his family, and there will be the usual adjectives like “kind” and “generous” and “funny.” It’s not that I think anyone is intentionally lying, but that they’re describing traits that belong to the set of circumstances more than the person. “The Bachelor” is kind because he has no reason not to be; if he becomes disillusioned with you, he can just send you home. He’s generous because he has a production team purchasing intense, expensive experiences for your dates. He’s funny because you’ve both been flown to a charming village in Switzerland and a funny little cow wandered up behind your picnic. If you want to insist that the show is about falling in love, then it’s more accurate to say it’s about falling in love with being on vacation.
I became especially fascinated with the 13th season of the show, when Jason Mesnick first proposed to Melissa in the finale, then decided that he was really in love with the runner-up, Molly, by the time of the update special. What happened with Melissa during those six weeks of engagement? “The conversations, which were so great on the show, were completely different,” Jason tried to explain. What I think he was really saying was, So we went to a movie in a normal theater. With other people around us. With bad popcorn. Walking out of the theater, she said, “That’s my new favorite movie!” I thought to myself, Really? That movie? And in that moment, I realized that was going to be our whole lives.
Read the full article here, if you’d like. And the women stay up for the rose ceremonies all night, plied with alcohol and hardly any food. They aren’t allowed to watch TV or read books; their only escape from the house is to go on a date with the bachelor, right? Talk about losing perspective! Do you watch the show?