This week on The Bachelorette, Desiree treated the men to a group date with rapper Soulja Boy, where they filmed their very own rap music video parodying the show’s earlier seasons’ contestants. This group date, although entertaining to watch, was probably one of the more ridiculous dates ever filmed on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, and this is coming from a girl who already thinks the show is bananas. (The whole time, I not-so-secretly hoped that Desiree would give the rose to Soulja Boy, and that they would ride off into the sunset together in the convertible that ABC gave her for the show.) Meanwhile, on the first one-on-one date, Desiree exhibited stage-five clinger behavior by wearing a wedding dress for the afternoon. As someone who is not a total cynic when it comes to relationships, and for whom marriage may one day be on the horizon (albeit a horizon on a distant planet that hasn’t been discovered yet), I would like to warn men everywhere that if a woman wears a wedding dress on the first date, it may be wise to change one’s phone number. But I digress…
Reality dating shows are never realistic. We accept this as fact from the moment we begin watching, and so when we learn that the Bachelor du jour and his pretty blonde administrative assistant fiancee have called it quits just months after taping, we are not even remotely surprised. We’ve been expecting this the entire time.
I’ve been observing the mockery that shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette make of dating and relationships. They follow the same basic formula: A woman meets 25 attractive men, goes on adventurous dates that are somehow metaphors for the relationship, converses with them about what love means and what their past relationships were like, whittles it down to a few top contenders and chooses her final match while an 80s love song plays in the background. The men in the house create their own drama, ultimately ganging up on the one man who seems to want the other men out of the picture. The conversations are superficial at best, and the word “engagement” becomes synonymous with “dating someone exclusively and not ruling out an eventual marriage.”
Of course, these shows are purely for entertainment… but what if they weren’t? What if shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette actually portrayed a budding relationship more accurately?
The show would go something like this: A woman meets 25 men. Some of them are attractive in a generic sense, some are not as traditionally handsome but interesting enough in a way that she finds especially attractive, and some are just not her type but are worth a shot. On the first night, she eliminates several of the men because, while briefly dating them might be nice, she can tell that the long-term potential isn’t there, and she doesn’t want to waste their time by making them sit through a few more doomed weeks on the show. Her first dates with each of the contestants are extravagant and fun, but as the show wears on, the conversations become more serious, and instead of having endless discussions about “love” and trying to vaguely define it, they discuss their interests, goals (not just family-oriented, but personal goals too), preferred parenting methods… and perhaps, eventually, taboo topics like religion and politics.
Not all of the men fall immediately in love with her, and some will leave the show on their own accord because they don’t see a future. Some are there to take advantage. The woman may weed some of those out, but a few may slip through the cracks.
Not all of the dates are wildly glamorous – some include movie nights and grocery shopping and day-to-day tasks that normal, non-TV couples have to endure. The woman’s friends may meet the contestants at one point and provide their own two cents, because sometimes there are red flags in relationships that we are unable to see. On one date, the woman takes a contestant to an important work event in order to see how he interacts with her co-workers and how he would behave at these functions if they dated long-term.
Occasionally, the woman may argue with the contestants, but this doesn’t cause her to send them packing. Arguments are normal; the way they are dealt with determines whether or not the woman will keep the contestant around.
The woman says “I love you” when she feels ready, not when she is contractually obligated to do so. She sends all but one man home when she knows whom she cares for the most and sees the most potential with. (She doesn’t need to send three men to the fantasy suite before deciding!) The show does not end in an engagement, because they haven’t known each other long enough to commit to something so serious, but the dates do give her an idea of how they would behave in a relationship together.
Of course, none of this would ever last for more than a season because it would hit too close to home! Maybe we like to suspend disbelief for two hours a week, so that we can observe these snapshots of “love” without letting it border too closely to our own relationships. What would your version of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette entail?