Certain things make me believe we're already living in more of a dystopia than any fiction could ever dream up for us. The Bachelor is one of those things. Oh, how I thought I was done writing about this pop culture side note. Yet, it appears that it's not done with me. I thought I'd escaped its shiny clutches when I stopped watching Andi's season halfway through, and didn't even watch the finale of Chris's season. I was so proud of myself! Yet, news travels fast, and I'm spellbound again by this latest twist: Britt and Kaitlyn have both received the dubious honor of being the next bachelorette (not entirely unprecedented, as there were two simultaneous bachelors circa 2006).
I'm always surprised when people critique The Bachelor. It's too easy, isn't it? What we ought to marvel at is how any of it exists at all; it's so irrelevant, uncool, unsuccessful in its mission, predictable, repetitive, sexist, and so forth. Yet, year after year, it airs. The Bachelor is immortal. Nothing will kill it. People watch it ironically, perhaps, but they watch it nonetheless. They have watching parties. They tweet about it and write of it in serious news outlets.
Why? I have theories. In part, surely there is some cognitive dissonance among us as we marvel at how this show happened at all, let alone continues to happen for 29 seasons. But I also think it gives us a chance to broadly and wildly psychoanalyze (ourselves, others, our entire culture). To admit or hide, compare or contrast our own romantic proclivities, personalities, and desires. We're not like those girls. We're not that guy. We don't want to quit our jobs, live on a farm, and have babies. Unless we secretly do. Or unless we totally don't and somehow feel a lot more clever and wise than those who want the opposite of what we want. It's during our viewings of The Bachelor that our contradictions battle within us. It's far more gory than a guilty pleasure. It's satire, nightmare, and fairy tale.
The internet is riled up about this latest news of dueling bachelorettes. It's misogyny! As if the show isn't already horrifically rife with that. When I first saw the red and gold promotional image, the two pretty girls going head to head, I thought of gladiator battles, of 1984, and of The Hunger Games. I thought about it as real, for a moment, not as a reality show. What if these women fought to the actual death?
In Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses, she writes about an ancient ritual where a young couple was crushed under a ceremoniously constructed house and then eaten in order to celebrate the cycles of life. What if the new Bachelorette season played out like that, a true life and death ritual acknowledging (celebrating?) the state of our current times? Only one of these women, after all, is worthy of being that most coveted of things: a wife!