By Sarah Prial
St. Jane Fellow
I stumbled into The Bachelor franchise last year when I was bored and watched the first episode of The Bachelorette with JoJo Fletcher On-Demand. And then I was in it. There was no escaping it.
Three days after Donald Trump is sworn in as President of the United States, the fourth episode of Season 21 of The Bachelor starring oft-jilted Nick Viall will air. And as America crowds onto couches and breaks open bottles of wine and bags of popcorn, it won’t just be because we’re all a little bit addicted. Now we actually need it.
The absurdity of this idea is not lost on me. I’ve wondered, why do I watch The Bachelor? The majority of the women I know who watch it hold Master’s degrees and Ph.Ds and unabashedly love the show. My teenage cousin is also a huge fan. It’s easy to escape into this world of bikinis and free-flowing booze and both vapid and sincere attempts to find love. Why? Because we need an escape now more than ever. As our healthcare and rights will be stripped away and positions of power are awarded to unqualified men and women, we need somewhere to rest our battered brains. We need to tweet and text about Corinne and her nanny; group texts filled with “DID THAT JUST HAPPEN??” bring levity to our world. The Bachelor may be one of the single most ridiculous shows on television – we all know that. So we can all turn to it for two hours a week for a break from the world around us.
We need breast-bearing, heavy napping, blonde hair extension-wearing, drunken sobbing Corinne. We need a villain to direct our anger at when we feel helpless in our lives. This 24-year-old woman, no, 24-year-old girl, proudly announced on the first episode that she has “a heart of gold but a vajeen of platinum” and insisted that her father would be proud of her for taking her top off to win Nick’s affections. (That’s “vagina” for the adults who are not in on what the kids are calling their genitals these days.)
We need to know what she’s going to do and then berate her and mock her for doing it. We need to be able to scream at something, to let out our frustrations at the world in some way. When her fellow contestants found out that she has an honest-to-God nanny, we cheered on their criticisms and eye rolls, offsetting the helplessness we feel at the real villainy seeping through our society.
We are allowed these shouts and texts and eye rolls because we know that The Bachelor isn’t real life. It’s a franchise which is manipulated by producers, fights are set up, the love is sometimes feigned for post-broadcast Instagram fame, and we can’t really trust that anything we see is genuine. This is something that we need to keep in mind now more than ever. We need to be wary of the media being manipulated one way or the other.
It’s not just The Bachelor that’s manipulated in the backrooms. Every news source we turn to has an angle – from the most far left news networks to the alt-right websites that disseminate hate. Yes, both sides*. We know it’s happening on The Bachelor but we can also use that knowledge to remind us that it’s happening in the real world as well.
The world is changing all around us, and we can call our members of congress, donate to causes, protest, and fight the good fight. But we’re also just people who need an escape. Who need a villain on whom we can thrust our frustrations without harm. After all, these contestants choose to be on the show. And knowing all this, that what we’re seeing isn’t truly real, is something that we can carry with us into the real world.
*This piece itself is skewed left.