I know, I know… normally, I post about death. And I’ll get back to that soon enough. But have any on you guys WATCHED “The Bachelor”? This shit had GOT to be the most fascinating social analysis since the Stanford Prison Experiment. I’ll get back to talking about death later… but for now…
As a rule, I don’t like reality TV shows.
Actually, let me amend that statement.
As a rule, I know I shouldn’t like reality TV shows… the same way that I know I shouldn’t like eating an entire cheesecake or I shouldn’t like buying yet another pair of black boots to accompany the 3 pairs I already own.
Yeah, the reality TV series “The Bachelor” is about on par with the most vapid, inane and shallow past-times one can imagine. It’s like a lacy, pink thong for your brain. You’d get more fulfillment out of eating an entire meal of cotton-candy… it goes down easy and tastes really sweet, but leaves you feeling a little sick and empty inside.
That said, I couldn’t stop watching this season. Shamefully, I have to admit that I’ve actually watched the last 2 seasons as well. My husband and I don’t own a television, but every Tuesday, when a new episode became available on Hulu, there I was, sitting at my desk with a bowl of pop-corn, ready to fling my snack food at the idiocy being enacted onscreen. I indulgently rolled my eyes at the antics of the cast. I howled derisively at the cheaply-insightful declarations made by the bachelor as he blathered about “finding a real connection” with someone he’s known for less than a week. I turned my nose up at all those flailing, silly women who were so desperate that they resorted to this exploitative pony-show to find love. I judged, I condemned and then I prided myself on the fact that I would never offer myself up on this altar of licentious exhibition… I have too much self-respect.
(That and I’m too old… and already married… and even in my sexy little 20’s I wasn’t nearly hot enough to meet Chris Harrison’s standards)
The whole show is just a farce, pure and simple. It’s a fun farce, but still a farce. The idea that this dumb-ass venture could possibly be considered “reality” is laughable. A single man is surrounded by a swarm of 25 tedious women, each of whom is attempting to “land” him. He stumbles through a series of painfully awkward, scripted “dates”, thereby eliminating the unwanted candidates from week to week. Then, the whole fiasco culminates in a marriage proposal and a ride off into the sunset for our prince and his chosen Cinderella.
First of all, lets remember that these “relationships” are based on what couldn’t be more than a month of actual, face-to-face contact. And each “date” on which these people go is designed by a team of producers who manipulate the ever-living-fuck out of them to make the interactions appear natural and incredibly romantic. It’s more processed than a can of Spam.
At least… until this past season… when suddenly reality TV was slapped up-side the head with a dose of… you’ll never believe it… reality.
This season’s bachelor was a former Venezuelan soccer player by the name of Juan-Pablo… He calls himself a “consultant” these days and as far as I can tell, he has the personality of an uncooked potato. Pretty much all of his scant charm is due to fact that he is undeniably hot and he possesses an Antonio-Banderas-like accent: a dreamily Latino lilt that effectively distracts from the sad truth that the guy has absolutely nothing interesting to say.
F’rinstance, whenever he is called upon by producers to comment on his feelings toward one of his ladies, he usually grins blankly into the camera and answers with one of two or three stock insights into her soul. Either the woman in question is “really sexy,” or “she has something special”. Whether that “something special” is a sparkling wit or a vestigial third nipple, we don’t know since JP never bothers to expound.
Furthermore, his lack of eloquence notwithstanding, the guy really is an addle-headed jerk. On one episode, JP had a rollicking good time prancing around on the lush fields of New Zealand and throwing sheep dung at his giddy harem (who all, inexplicably, seemed to be utterly enamored of this infantile behavior) So either JP’s sense of humor never made it out of the locker room, or out of the paleolithic era… tough call.
Basically, the producers had their work cut out for them. Some truly fantastic editing acrobatics were required in order to maintain the fairy-tale facade that threatened to fold in on itself every time Juan-Pablo let his real self off the leash. Sadly, Prince Charming is a boorish numb-skull, but if they didn’t manage to make him look at least vaguely attractive, they didn’t have a show.
Of course no one is accusing the women of being a crowd of honor students either. While some were sharper than others, all of them displayed a common talent for bad-decision making simply by virtue of the fact that they all elected to be on this show in the first place. Additionally, they seem to have all fallen prey to some fallacy of group thought: they all fell for the hype. Who knows if a single one of them actually manifested any real emotion for this Juan-Pablo beyond base, animal attraction. But they were all frantic to win his attention, most likely because all of their peers wanted it, too. They weren’t in love with him nearly so much as they were in love with the idea of being CHOSEN. And none of them so deeply internalized this longing to be “THE ONE” as much as Clare: a 32-year-old hairstylist from Sacramento.
I couldn’t stand Clare. More accurately, I couldn’t stand the Clare that was presented to me by the producers with all of their editing and tweaking. Whether by nature or design, she spent the whole season appearing desperate, puerile and terribly insecure. Every sentence that came out of her mouth ended with the upturned inflection of a question… making it sound like she constantly sought approval and affirmation. Furthermore, during one of her many soliloquies between action scenes, she expressed her fear of “spending the rest of her life alone, watching reruns of ‘The Golden Girls’ on cable”… implying a mind-set that I just can’t get behind. That mind-set being that without marriage, a woman’s life is unrewarding and empty.
Anyway, for fear of being alone with the golden girls for the rest of her life, Clare clearly set her cap for Juan-Pablo with a fierce, naked determination that, essentially, led to perhaps the first truly REAL season ever to be seen on a reality television show.
The first dose of reality was injected into the show at episode 5. After spending a day with Juan-Pablo and some of the other women on a “group date” Clare decided that she was going to up her game. She wanted to seal this deal… badly. So, when all of the other women were asleep, Clare slinked off to JP’s hotel room and asked him to join her for a 4 a.m. swim in the ocean. Of course, JP agreed to this late night tryst and the two of them scampered off into the foamy, dark waves to do only God knows what…
Actually, we all know what… Despite that fact that the whole issue was skirted with vague language and sterilized implication, you’d have to be a complete idiot to not understand that Juan-Pablo and Clare totally fucked like monkeys once they were out of the cameras’ view.
Once this romantic event drew to a close, some synthetic violins squealed dramatically as though they’d been shoved through the nozzle on a can of cheese-whiz and Clare pranced back to her bed in dizzy, post-coital triumph. Cut to commercial.
When the episode returned, it was the following evening and Juan Pablo was in the tortured position of having to kick a couple of his ladies to the curb. During a moment of manufactured contemplation, we saw Juan Pablo, alone, seated on a bench in the garden of the “Bachelor house”. In a voice-over interview, Juan Pablo explained that he was conflicted about his conduct with Clare the night before. (Of course, that’s what he SAID, it’s entirely likely that he had no regrets at all but was coached by the producers to act like he actually had a conscience)
Inside the house, Clare was unaware of Juan Pablo’s “turmoil” and, gloatingly, raised a toast to “making love” in front of all of her competitors. Then she took a good, long swig of champagne while the implications of her salute sank in. The not-Clare girls all eyed each other nervously, wondering if they heard/understood correctly as Juan Pablo appeared and asked Clare to take a little walk with him. Clare catapulted forward and that’s when, if you’ll pardon the expression, shit got real.
Clearly, Clare was expecting some kind of special sentiment from Juan Pablo. Perhaps he’ll tell her how much the whole… um… event meant to him. Perhaps he’ll tell her that he’s decided he’s in love with her and is only going to pretend to explore his options with these other women for the sake of the show. MAYBE HE’LL PROPOSE!
Well, instead of a ring… or talk about a “real connection”, Clare actually got an extensive lecture from Juan Pablo about how their behavior in the ocean “wasn’t a good idea”. Their interlude “wasn’t fair” to the other women. And mostly, he didn’t want his young daughter (a 4-year-old named Camilla) seeing him acting inappropriately on television. (It appears that it wasn’t until hours after he banged a near stranger that he realized his exploits were going to be on national television. The 24-hour film crew during the previous days failed to make that fact clear to him.) He then told Clare that the only reason he went along with her plan was because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings or kill her happy mood when she propositioned him.
Predictably, Clare started to cry… a lot, and Juan Pablo squirmed like a freshly salted slug. JP told her to stop crying as she sobbed that she never meant to disrespect his daughter. JP tried to tell her that it’s okay, what’s done is done and he thinks they should just be more respectable in the future. Despite these “efforts”. Clare was inconsolable and although she was not ejected from the running for JP’s hand in marriage, she spent the rest of the evening in dejected misery, head hung low, shuffling through the requisite rose ceremony with all the enthusiasm of a 1st century Christian on her way to the lions.
Later, during her interview, Clare expressed utter and complete astonishment that Juan Pablo felt and said what he did.
“I was completely BLINDSIDED!” she wailed. “Nothing that he said or did in ANY WAY indicated that he wasn’t COMPLETELY on board with the whole thing!”
Ladies and Gentlemen… I give you… reality television… like… for real.
It got worse from there. JP kept Clare around until the end of the whole copper-toned debacle. She bounced back from the slut-shaming incident and spent the following 6 episodes babbling to the camera about “love” and “bravery” and “believing in our relationship”, despite JP’s lothario behavior, vulgar comments and glaring refusal to actually SAY anything even remotely sincere or substantial. On the occasions when Clare came to JP with doubts about his intentions toward her, he edged around the subject like he was expertly dribbling a soccer ball around an inept defense. He spoke in half-promises and ambiguous affections while Clare, wide-eyed and teary, took his straw and spun it into gold. He was never really into her, but he thought she was hot and he liked boning her so he did a half-hearted job of persuading her to remain on-board with the whole production… reluctantly joining her in fantasizing about their “future”…and her desperate need to be loved filled in whatever gaps he left.
She convinced herself of his devotion to her and didn’t see the douche-bag for what he really was until he unceremoniously dumped her on the last episode with a tepid, rambling speech about how much he “liked” her.
I think it’s safe to say that Clare was the only person in America who didn’t see it coming.
My first impulse was to loathe Clare. I mean, come ON! What woman throws herself at some vacuous pretty-boy, stupidly believing that if he’s willing to have sex with her, it MUST be true love? Seriously, what did she think was going to happen? Who even DOES that?
Well… actually… to be honest, I did… a few times. And anyone who says they didn’t too is a big, fat Juan-Pablo.
At 32 years old, I have to say that Clare is pretty solidly behind the curve as far as knowing the relationship score. BUT, I think every woman can identify with her pain and embarrassment. We’ve all done it. God knows I’ve been strung-out over a guy who was more than willing to “prance through my midnight garden”, but had no intention of actually investing in the plot of land by daylight. And I’ve done a marvelous job of convincing myself that a man was really interested in me when his passion was lukewarm at best. At least I never had to face the cold, harsh truth in front of an entire, viewing public. I was embarrassed enough all by myself with no one but a box of kleenex and a cheesecake to witness my disappointment.
Clare got the shaft… for real.
I feel bad for her. It was a rough ride. On the bright side though, “The Golden Girls” really is some quality entertainment.
So, what’s my point? So, what do the teenage girls of America have to learn from Clare and Juan-Pablo? All kinds of important life lessons! Just think about it!
Lesson #1) For starters, just because everyone else is interested in a guy does not mean he’s worthy of the interest. It just means he has enough going for him to get some initial attention, so don’t fall for the hype. Popularity, money, attractiveness, ability… none of these traits are synonymous with character.
Lesson #2) Anyone can behave like a sweet, decent human being for a month or two while the cameras are rolling and someone else is feeding them their lines. Undoubtedly, JP was on his best behavior with an audience of millions watching his every move. He also had a team of producers coaching along his every word and gesture. Even so, it didn’t take long for his uncouth and deeply inconsiderate nature to surface… Similarly, you can expect months, or even years to go by before you really come to understand the true essence of someone’s personality. I once dated a guy for 6 months before he turned into a raging ass-hole… then I waited around for two and a half more years waiting for that wonderful romantic man with whom I fell in love to come back… he never did.
Lesson #3) Never underestimate your own capacity for self-delusion. Clare might be a bit dim- as was demonstrated by her stubborn refusal to cut and run when Juan Pablo totally disgraced her after the whole sex-in-the-ocean deal. But I’m convinced that there was at least some part of her that knew Juan Pablo was bad news. At various points you could see Clare working it out. She confronted Juan Pablo about her misgivings on more than one occasion and in response, he dished out some watery, apathetic excuse for reconciliation that should not have sufficed at all. But Clare, obviously, was so invested in the “relationship” that she convinced herself that everything was okay, hell… it was golden… it was love!
Only it wasn’t.
I can’t be too hard on Clare. I like to think of myself as being a pretty savvy, street-smart kind of girl, but the fact is, a couple of years ago I was involved with a guy who was no good- hell, I was ENGAGED to him. It wasn’t until after I found out about his other finace that I was able to admit to myself that I knew… I knew there was something dodgy going on. But I was so in love with being in love- I was so in love with being engaged- that I refused to look at the situation critically and admit the signs were all there, I just didn’t want to see them.
Lesson #4) Sex is not a commitment. In the immortal words of George Michael, “Sex is natural. Sex is fun.” But sex is also extremely… versatile. It can mean any number of things… including nothing at all. And, hey… it’s cool if you want to have meaningless sex. We’ve all done it. It’s great if you want to have incredibly meaningful sex. There’s no better kind, in my opinion. But disasters ensue when one is mistaken for the other. JP and Clare had sex. It meant something to her, it didn’t mean jack to him. At the end of the day, he chose to be with someone else… it happens… a lot. Do your best to understand what kind of sex you’re having before you have it, because finding out afterwords can be… miserably surprising… and more than a little embarrassing when it happens in front of millions of viewers
I don’t have a daughter of my own. If I did have a daughter, I’m not sure that I would let her watch shows like “The Bachelor”. But there’s no denying that kids are going to be exposed to people making terrible choices, no matter how vigilant a parent you are. Sooner or later, kids are going to see drivel like modern reality television, we might as well face it. Perhaps the best thing that can be done with this eventuality is to watch it with them a few times. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to flip on season 18 of “The Bachelor” and sit down with your high-schooler so the two of you can logically pick apart these people’s behavior in the hopes it might save her from making the same mistakes in her own life. That’s my opinion at least, you can take it or leave it. I just hope you never flip on your TV to see your daughter sitting there with a vacant smile on her face and a rose clutched in her hand saying, “It’s true love! I just KNOW it!”