Confession: I watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Well, let me clarify. I've only seen the most recent season of each. But I'm pretty embarrassed to admit how much I got sucked into them.
The longer I watch these shows, though, the more I really, REALLY hate them. You can be sucked into something and not necessarily like it, right? It's like watching a car crash; you can't look away, even though you know it's a horrible thing that's happening.
Now, I totally understand this show from a worldly standpoint. Help one lonely soul find the person of his dreams by putting him in a room with 25 beautiful, eligible women? And as a bonus, we get to see some really awkward and funny interactions between all these women fighting for the same guy. That's (apparently) quality television.
But from a Christian perspective? This show is so sad, and SO contrary to the way God wants us to behave in relationships. Obviously, the main issue is that one person should not be dating two (or 25) people at the same time. He certainly shouldn't be making out with ten girls in one day. And as the weeks go on and the pool of potential mates is narrowed down, emotions get a lot more serious. It's not fair to the ones who are trying to win over one guy's heart, but it's also not natural for one guy to have his heart pulled in several directions at once.
I've had a hard time understanding how the most recent bachelor and bachelorette (Sean and Emily, respectively) came to decide that this was a good idea, considering they are both apparently devout Christians. Were their families, their Christian friends, and their churches really supportive of them going on this show to "find love?" I mean, I respect that both Sean and Emily were clear about their decisions not to have sex with any of the contestants they were dating (and I don't even want to think about what went on in past seasons to the contrary). But sex is not the only thing that should be saved for marriage! Your heart needs to be protected from exactly what this show is promoting: becoming attached to multiple people in a romantic and emotional way.
I have first-hand experience (thankfully a very small fraction compared to the people on this show) with feeling my emotions drawing me toward two people at the same time. And it is NOT a good feeling! My situation lasted less than two months, and it made a serious impact on my marriage. I imagine Sean hanging out with his new fiancée (spoiler alert if you haven't watched the finale) Catherine, and she says something that reminds him of a moment he experienced with one of the other women from the season. An intimate kiss or an inside joke. There's no way he isn't going to have those things come up (unless the entire show is an act, and, okay, I know probably most of it is, but still). He'll miss that other woman a little, wonder what she's up to. Maybe during his first real fight with Catherine he'll think back on those other women and wonder if he should have picked one of them instead. And what about Catherine? How is she okay with knowing that Sean felt himself falling "so hard" for "so many women"? Is it really worth all that confusion and angst just to be the one he picked in the end?
Gah. It just makes me sad, and kind of angry, and even more embarrassed that I became so wrapped up in this show. When I watched the first episode of Emily's season of The Bachelorette, I honestly was just bored and had heard it was going to be really great because she was a genuine, single, Christian mom looking for a great guy to love her and her daughter. And I thought, "I'll watch one episode and probably be done with it after that." Obviously, this show knows how to draw in its audience.
Even aside from the Christian perspective on this show, it seems deeply flawed anyway. The point is to find someone to spend the rest of your life with, and although many of the seasons have resulted in a proposal, only one couple from The Bachelor (two if Sean and Catherine do get married) and two from The Bachelorette have resulted in actual marriages. (At least according to Wikipedia, since I obviously don't keep up with the latest news on 25 seasons' worth of Bachelor/ette lives.) I kind of wish I could watch the first season of The Bachelorette, which apparently resulted in a marriage of 10+ years and two kids, to see how the season progressed and whether the couple did anything different to protect themselves against all the emotional catastrophe that this show creates.
My point is, clearly it's more about the entertainment than on actually helping people to find genuine, lifelong love. And I guess probably most people who watch the show would be willing to admit they know this is true. SO WHY ARE WE ENCOURAGING IT?! This is why I don't watch a lot of reality TV; it seems like most of these shows result in a lot of messed up lives and scandal and heartbreak. We must be forgetting that, although we're watching TV for our own entertainment, these are real people.
My one exception, the one reality show I am not at all ashamed to admit that I love, is The Biggest Loser. Sure, I know a lot of it is probably scripted and over-dramatized. But you can't script the weight loss. People are (for the most part, it seems) changed for the better when they are on that show. They learn healthy habits and improve their self-confidence by working through emotional issues. And I'm pretty sure there have been more genuine romantic relationships developed between contestants on The Biggest Loser than on the shows whose supposed purpose is to help people find love. What does that say about how true relationships are really formed? Is it all about being the prettiest girl with the best hair and makeup and the cutest laugh? Because I don't think the Biggest Loser contestants, with the exception of makeover week, are EVER wearing anything fancier than a T-shirt and shorts. And they're dripping with sweat like ten hours a day. And they probably smell really gross. And yet, people are finding connections there that are real.
I didn't mean for this post to be so long. I guess it's been on my mind since before last season's Bachelorette even ended, and after watching the Bachelor finale last night on Hulu, I just had to finally write something about it.
What's your take on these types of shows?