Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thoughts on The Bachelor/Bachelorette...

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?


  1. Tabitha, I really like your assessment on the damage that not just sex, but actual emotions, can have on a marriage when it's not your partner you're sharing things with. I feel pretty strongly about making a concerted effort to avoid personal relationships with someone from the opposite sex because I think it's inappropriate. But I think in today's society, we are often willing to blur the lines (ie, we're just FRIENDS, how is it wrong?/ my friendship with my ex is more important than my friendship with my spouse) and this can cause trouble.
    I think I only watched the very first season of this show, and I don't even think I watched all the episodes. I could never get over how demoralizing it was for 25 women to be vying over one man. Call me old fashioned but I always felt the man should pursue the woman. I don't chase men, they chase me ;)

    1. I agree completely, Erika! :)

    2. Is this like Billy Crystal asserting that men and women can never be "just friends" in "When Harry Met Sally"? ;-)

      To a large extent I agree, for much the same reason I believe exes shouldn't remain friends after a breakup. But I also don't believe it's *completely* impossible or inappropriate to have a good friendship with someone of the opposite sex (who is straight, btw). I don't really have a "best friend" outside my marriage, but when I think about all my friends, male and female, the one whom I would consider the closest (aside from my husband) just so happens to be a guy. I think the key here is that our friendship and our interactions are completely transparent to both his wife and my husband. And I think that's healthier and more appropriate than, say, having a female BFF with whom I share stuff that I wouldn't share with my husband. Or worse yet, with whom I gossip about my own husband behind his back.

  2. I've never watched either show, because the idea of throwing away your dignity for a guy (or girl) is not something that sat well with me... reminds me a lot of certain friends we know, eh! Also, I couldn't get past how superficial some of these people were.

    I think your point about your heart being drawn two ways also applies to bona fide exes from your past, not just "flings". Those previous relationships were real and something you invested your time and your heart in, maybe even hoping it would lead to marriage, but didn't work out for whatever reason. But so long as some part of you holds on to the failed relationship, it can infect your current one. It's the main reason I am not a big believer in "remaining friends" after a breakup-- I think only in the rarest of circumstances can it work. Too often, one wants to get back together, and that just spells trouble for all.

    And while I agree that yes, these are real people showcasing their lives for the sake of our entertainment, they also willingly volunteered (and I use the term loosely, as I'm sure they're compensated quite a bit) to be in the public eye, and honestly, that reduces any sympathy I may have for them/their situations.

    1. Yeah, I've read a bunch of articles saying that a good chunk of the contestants on shows like this are not so much looking for a lifelong mate as they are publicity so they can kickstart their acting/broadcasting/whatever career. But I think at least a small percentage of them really are (however delusionally) looking for love, and while it's beyond me to understand how they thought doing it on national television was a good idea, I still feel for them when it ends in their own heartbreak.

    2. Which then leads one to wonder how much of that heartbreak is just really good acting itself ;-)

  3. I just read this entire post to Dad while he was resting. I kept saying, "You go, girl!" I have not watched those particular reality shows (other than catching a minute or two of an ending or something), but I have often wondered about some of the other reality shows that we have seen. Such as,when we'd watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition,I'd wonder if sometimes the people were given more house than they could handle both cleaning-wise and financially (extra a/c bills etc.). And I wonder how the people on Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition do once the show is over. Are they able to continue doing well once they are out of the limelight? Great post, Tabitha!

    1. Yeah, I wonder about that kinda thing too. I think that with the rise of social media, recent seasons' contestants on Biggest Loser/Extreme Makeover WLE have a really huge support network. And I'm pretty sure that Chris Powell (EMWLE host/trainer) makes a point of staying in touch with his clients and continuing to help them after the show is over. I actually think EMWLE is probably MORE effective long-term than Biggest Loser, because he takes a full year to help one person make a transformation, rather than 12 or so weeks.

  4. Amen amen amen amen amen.

    That's all.


  5. I really love this post. I’ve only watched 1 or 2 seasons of The Bachelor but I just can’t stomach the drama, nor the “dating experiment.” It just rubs me the wrong way. It’s such a disgusting way to view relationships and falling in love and while I know a lot of it is scripted… I just can’t handle it.

    I will say that I do watch a lot of reality TV but mainly ones with a focus, like The Amazing Race and The Biggest Loser and The Voice, etc. I guess, in a way, The Bachelor has a focus (snagging a husband!) but whatever. The Biggest Loser, also, has a better marriage rate than The Bachelor. So there’s something to be said about that! Ha.

    Great post, though. I could feel your heart through these words!


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