February 10, 2013

TV For Thought: Cheating Love with The Bachelor

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In March 2002, an unsuspecting American public was forced a few steps back with the advent of The Bachelor, ABC’s revamp of the archaic dating game show. In this new iteration, a slew of women go on 1-on-1, 2-on-1 and group dates with one eligible bachelor. As these women compete continuously to gain more time and attention in this bizarre polygamous relationship, viewers week after week stake a claim into one of the various burgeoning relationships.

At the end of the competition, one lucky girl will have earned an engagement as “the world” looks upon. Although I have my own reservations against the series and its portrayal of both sexes, the most interesting aspect of it is how quickly the contestants and the bachelor in question buy into this fantasy dating bubble.

Now, everyone falls in love at their own pace and in their own contexts. No one story is the same as another. Growing up, we’re presented with many versions of the same fairy tale where a damsel in distress just happens to one day find the man of her dreams. The woman is always shown to be rescued from some danger of ending up alone. We see it with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc.

Once we actually start to “date” in middle school, we start to see that it is not all that formulaic. And upon proceeding into adulthood, things become even more complicated as you search for someone to share your life with while trying to figure out who you are. Heartache and joy riddle this path that you are programmed to follow. Regardless, you seek this companionship time and again until you are finally successful.

With all of these frustrating experiences of trial and error, hordes of women flock to this dating show hoping that by avoiding the conventional dating scene, they will be successful in love once and for all–never mind that a few others had the same idea as them. In fact, by narrowing the field to this one guy, they are bound to get rejected. And who is to say that if they make it to the end, the relationship that has formed is sufficient for a lasting engagement to an ultimate marriage ceremony? To date, no bachelor has made it all the way to the alter. Only The Bachelorette has led to the wanted end result.

So if the ultimate goal is a monogamous marriage, why engage in a polygamous courtship in the first place? Well, judging by this latest season of The Bachelor (which is the first one I have ever seen just out of curiosity about what has allowed the institution to carry on for over a decade now), the individual contestants believe that they are in simultaneous monogamous relationships and are simply jealous of the other women who are attempting to engage their man when clearly they are not meant to be. They are simply imposing their real-life values of monogamy on this sur-reality that they signed up for, and are no longer comfortable with, as the weeks pass.

The bachelor himself continues to remind us that he is simply looking for the woman he is meant to be with while falling for multiple women along the way. It is utterly convenient that he gets several women vying for his affection without having to work hard to find them on his own. This ultimately gets to the crux as to why people join this dating show and why others watch so religiously. This way of finding love must be easier.

We are always searching for ways to be more efficient and make aspects of our lives less work. Love has continued to elude us in this venture, but that is because of its organic nature. It cannot be forced, which is what the show is inherently trying to do, though Chris Harrison likes to tell us otherwise. It is reality TV, after all. Which is another reason people buy into the charade. Everyone is constantly reminded about the “reality” before them. This reminder eventually settles into the minds of the contestants and viewers. It is the same way that we fall for the characters in Boy Meets World or How I Met Your Mother.

With the added notion of reality taking place, more are willing to buy into the fact that maybe after all is said and done, this fantasy dating world can translate into a world with a loving relationship when the cameras turn off. Alas, that “love” is usually lost in translation and the contestants are, presumably, left feeling like idiots who failed to cheat the system.

Original Author: Natalia Fallas