Klarsonisms: a romance edition

During my almost 2 month hiatus from this blog (mostly because I haven’t thought of anything worth shouting into the internet void), I’ve made some pretty positive changes in my life. I’ve started running again. I had a really good talk with my PI, and I feel a lot more confident in my research. I’m taking difficult classes and I’m TAing again, but I feel as if I’m finally enjoying grad school despite my busier schedule. However, none of these changes are what I want to discuss today. Instead, I want to talk about the Bachelor.

That’s right, friends. It’s 2018, I’m feelin’ great-teen, and I’ve started watching the Bachelor. Every Tuesday, my friends and I convene with a bottle (or 2) of wine and watch Arie finesse his way into the hearts of his suitors (Suitoresses?  Is there a female term? Is suitor gender neutral?). Since I haven’t posted in a while, I figured that Valentine’s Day (the day I started writing this) is a perfect excuse for me to blog about this new addition to my weekly schedule.

At face value, the Bachelor is pretty entertaining. Who wouldn’t want to watch a bunch of beautiful women flirt with a mediocre yet charming gentleman? I’m on the edge of my seat when that date card is delivered to the ever-hungrier female contestants. Watching Arie struggle with his teaspoon-sized emotional capacity while trying not to fall in love with 10 women simultaneously is riveting.

Until it isn’t.

The thing about reality TV is that we often forget that these are real people who are actually existing. For them, the Bachelor isn’t a prime-time drama or a 90 minute episode. For the contestants, and even more so for the bachelor himself, this is their life. And the more you think about it, the grosser it is.

I have the pleasure of sharing these watch parties with a friend who has done a lot of background research on this show (see Netflix’s UnREAL for more), and she gives us some juicy details unknown to the average viewer. As an academic, I’m always striving to discover more about my interests, so this  experience has been a delve into a new and exciting anthropological study, and I’ve learned a lot. For example:

  1. The people on the show (suitors and suitee) are “relieved” of their phones during their entire time as a contestant. They can’t access the internet, listen to music (except on flights between destinations), use social media, read the news, or anything intellectually stimulating, at all. Aside from finding time to exercise, all the contestants can really do is drink alcohol and talk about their feelings. From personal experience, getting drunk and emotional with girls who are also getting drunk and emotional can be a great way to make new friends. However, I don’t think this applies when all of these girls are trying to marry the exact same guy. This is why the show seems to have so much more drama than real life – there is literally nothing else to do.
  2. Most of the food you see on the dates is just for looks. It turns out that the contestants are usually fed while getting ready, and aren’t allowed to eat the food during the big rose-reveal dinner dates. I mean, I get it. Who wants to watch a beautiful woman chow down on a filet mignon, when they could watch her tell Arie that she’s falling in love with him, only for him to get up and take a 5 minute panic break? It makes sense. It also makes sense that all the food just goes to waste afterwards. Great. You’re killin’ it, ABC.
  3. The girls don’t know who the Bachelor is until they are already a contestant on the show (I actually think this is common knowledge, but I was still *~shook~*). You heard me:  these women voluntarily sign up to vie for a man’s heart, except they don’t even know who that man is. Personally, I don’t care for surprises. I like routines, I like solidifying my plans at least 12 hours in advance, and I don’t think I would ever go on a date with a stranger unless I could stalk them on at least 2 social media platforms beforehand. Not only is the Bachelor a potentially 12-week long blind date, it is a 12-week long blind date COMPETITION. Count me the heck out.

Currently, there are 4 women left on the show: Lauren B., who’s “just so beautiful”, but not much else; Becca K., the first lovely lady to get a one-on-one; Tia, a southern belle who “just wants what’s best for [Arie]”; and Kendall (my favorite), who collects taxidermy, and describes the most romantic gift she has ever received as “an alligator hand holding a heart in a jar”. Ah, yes, a woman after my own heart (although hopefully she wouldn’t put that in a jar as well).

When there were more contestants, it was easier to dehumanize them. Krystal was always around to stir up drama, and had potentially the most annoying voice anyone has ever heard. Bekah M, whose age was kept secret until Arie finally had the courage to ask and discovered that she was 22! A whopping 14 years his junior! (Note:  this was the woman reported missing when she decided to go off the grid and hang out on her friends’ weed farm for a week). And let’s not forget about Marikh, who finally shed light on the most recent plague in modern society:  glam shaming.

But last week, when Bekah M. was kicked off the show after a two-on-one with Tia, the episode ended with footage of her sobbing in the van on the way to the airport. Like, ugly-cry, bawling-her-eyes-out-waterfalls. And I was struck – I couldn’t stop picturing myself on the night of my most recent break-up. I was devastated then, and here I was, watching this girl experience the exact same thing for my own entertainment. It made me feel sick.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m going to keep watching the Bachelor. I must finish what I started. And when the Bachelorette comes out, I’m gonna watch the heck out of that, too. After all, what kind of researcher would I be if I didn’t study the corollary to this endeavor (swapped gender roles)? But I still can’t shake how I felt when I watched Bekah get her heart broken. I just hope she knows that she can do way better than Arie “pillow-lips” Luyendyk.

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