Love in the Time of TV: Watching The Bachelorette

On either Mondays or Tuesdays at about 8 pm, a group of highly intelligent and motivated ladies (and a few interested and pretending-to-be-interested (you know who you are) men) gather to watch a horrible, wonderful show called The Bachelorette. 

The woman is a reject from the parent show, The Bachelor, who is “just looking for someone to love”. She’s usually beautiful, shapely, and videos/photographs well, but all that’s relevant to her is that she can “find someone who can just love me”. The men who sign up to woo her “think she’s the most interesting, beautiful girl I’ve ever dated”. As men are rejected, sent home, or send themselves home due to their own idiocy, “it’s the hardest thing I, like, ever have to do”, cries the woman, who “believe that I deserve so much more love, you know?”. There is bad poetry, show-offery, copious amounts of tears. There are also exotic locales (the South of France, St. Lucia), adventure sports, fights, making up, making out, and storming-offs. 

The lady in question goes on individual dates with specific men, where she “takes a leap/plunge of faith”/”gets out of my comfort zone”/”shares these intimate moments and my real self”. And she goes on group dates with up to 11 men — “oh my god this Mr. Universe competition is gonna be so much fun” —  competing simultaneously for her affections, obviously and occasionally clumsily. 

Eventually one of two men will propose to her, saying “in these nine weeks, I feel like I’ve gotten to know so much about you, you’re just the only woman I would ever see myself with”. She, weeping, will respond to one of them negatively — “I’m so, so sorry, and I just wish you the best of luck in finding the woman of your dreams”. Weeping even more uncontrollably, she will respond to the other with an acceptance. “I just love you so, so much, I just feel like we fit, even in the middle of all these cameras and other guys, I’m just so in love with you,” she will blither. 

Three weeks later, 99% of these happy unions will dissolve. 

This show is remarkable in a very specific way: it is a fantastic mix of the traditional and the modern. It’s modern in the sense that the woman dates prolifically and even gets the chance to sleep with a couple of them. It’s traditional in the sense, though, that the girl is quite definitely, consciously, craftily, courted, over a ludicrously brief period of time. 

You could claim it’s one of the most American things to happen to American television in a while. You could mock it (done that), analyze it (definitely done that), obsess over it (…nope), love it (yup), hate it (double yup).

But eventually, it’s the watching company that makes it fun. 

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