I admit it shamefully: I am an avid fan of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Every time a new season starts, I tell myself that this will be the one year I finally escape its clutches. But then I’m searching for something to watch while doing homework, or I stumble across a reference to the current season on the interwebz, and I succumb and watch it. I get through the first episode, and I’m like, “Get a hold of yourself, Hannah! Don’t watch the second one. Just don’t.” But I always do. Once I’m there, I’m through. I have to stick it out through the rest of the season.
What can I say in my defense? I am a sucker for cute, romantic dates, emotional plotlines, and girl drama. I have to say, though, it’s the only reality show I’ve ever watched and enjoyed – I was never an American Idol fan or Survivor fanatic. But the Bachelor’s got me hooked, and probably will for many years to come.
As I was doing my usual deep-thinking in the shower this morning, I was pondering the most recent episode and what I liked and disliked about it. And I began to wonder. Do shows like The Bachelor harm the women of America? If they do, how much, and why? If not, why not?
I think The Bachelor teaches both good and bad things. Being the list-maker I am, I set out to make a pros and cons list about The Bachelor. Let me know what you think – do you agree with my conclusions?
Good Things (From A Catholic Perspective)
1. The women portrayed on The Bachelor (or men on The Bachelorette) are real, American women. They have histories, pasts, things from their pasts that influence their present selves. They have home lives that they miss, broken hearts from relationships or hardships, real likes and dislikes. Yes, they’re all pretty gorgeous, but they are real.
2. The men searching for their woman are real men. Sure, their last experience of heartbreak was on national television, but they have real pasts and struggles that others do too.
3. Both the men and women on the show emphasize the importance of finding a partner with good qualities like communication, openness, trust, and the desire for a family. In all the seasons I’ve watched, I’ve never heard any say “I just want a really hot wife/husband.” I’m not saying it’s not in their minds, but they seem to realize the importance of finding someone with good characters and virtues.
4. Anyone who watches the show wants the good girls to succeed. Indignant message boards are full of discussion of how the Bachelor of the season needs to see how fake a girl is being around him, and wants her voted off the show. Never have I seen a comment that wants a girl who is obviously being mean/spiteful/lying to end up with the Bachelor. It’s a natural human quality to want the good ones to win!
1. From a Catholic perspective, the obvious lack of any talk about religion is certainly a negative in my book. I’m sure due to the television aspect, contestants aren’t allowed to be aired discussing their religious beliefs. But it is a very important aspect of any romantic relationship – so many things between a couple can be incompatible if they are from different religions. I’m not saying every couple has to be of the same religion – my parents are not, and they turned out fine – but a serious discussion of religion is vital to any relationship moving toward marriage.
2. The women and men on the show invest their emotions too early into each other, moving towards love much quicker than most relationships. Especially considering the fact that the man is having multiple “serious” relationships at the same time! If I were ever on the show, I wouldn’t be able to really open up to a guy about my feelings more than like unless I was sure of his regard for me. This aspect of the show gives women the idea that they must quickly decide their feelings for a man, and tell him immediately what they are. In reality, patience and discernment are the best tools to discover if you and a man are a match. It takes time to get to know someone – let alone tell them “I love you” and mean it.
3. There is an underlying pressure to appear perfect in every way on the show. Sometimes this transforms into a weird sort of guilt that happens to those who get voted off. They always say, if only I had done something different, then he’d certainly have given me a rose and kept me around, and eventually he’d have realized that we’re perfect for each other. It gives this crazy notion that actions are what make two people compatible, when it’s really something much more indefinable. Every girl is crushed when she goes home, wishing she had done something different. But they don’t take into consideration his perspective – if he didn’t feel that, but they kept going, how long would their relationship really last?
4. The thing I think the most harmful to women is the unrealistic world these people seem to fall in love in. Every week is full of uber-romantic dates, whether that is going to a private concert, hiking up a private mountain, or scuba-diving in your own ocean (that might be a stretch but you know what I mean). It’s all totally unsustainable! “Finding love” in a situation like this could just be adrenaline and the emotions involved from doing new strange things together and not real love. Obviously the contestants on the show are wealthy in some regard, but it’s impossible to keep up a date regime like this when you’re in a real-life relationship. There’s no downtime here, no just sitting and watching a movie together, or going to the grocery store, or seeing how someone interacts for long periods of time with their family, which are all important things if you’re looking for a real, loving relationship.
So there are my thoughts. What do you think? I’m pretty sure I need more time to examine these issues, so excuse me while I go watch the most recent episode…
P.S. If you’re curious, my favorite is Kacie B. J