Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bachelor

A few years ago, at my friends Lisa and Jane's urging, I returned to watching The Bachelor--a franchise I'd long given up on as cheesy, unironic and dull (the casting of a turgid Italian "prince" just about summed up its sub-Harlequin romance gestalt). Maybe that season really deserved my contempt, but I soon realized the show had descended into a level of trash that made it delightful. Unlike most franchises, its deathly seriousness and its particular take on heteronormativity (say, pharmaceutical reps from suburban Texas, sales reps from rural Florida, account executives from Washington state whose dreams are of 2.4 kids, a labrador-like dog, two SUVs and a sub-mini mansion in some new development just outside San Diego--or a presenting job on a medium size cable network) both thrilled and estranged me in equal measure. Certainly, I realized the many ways in which I did not, would not and could not conform to this variant of the American dream--and found I was not alone in my fascination with this topic--Evan is also baffled and bemused by the show in various measures, I think I've got Ben and Brynn hooked for the same reasons, and I've found several kindred spirits in my celebrity class. Jane puts it far better than I ever could here.

I watched the three hour finale/After the Final Rose block last night (about 2 1/4 hours after fast-forwarding through commercials and previews of coming attractions/recaps of what we saw three minutes earlier). Again, I find myself adrift from what appears to be the privileged reading of the show's fans. Rather than rejoicing in the true romance of Emily and Brad's engagement, I was baffled at how someone with seemingly no personality (that would be Emily) and a back story shot to smithereens by the tabloids could capture America's heart. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but the vapidity on the screen couldn't even be manipulated to the level of sentimentality that usually characterizes such finales. Not for one minute should you assume that I think Brad is a catch--he's a seriously dull, verbally challenged, unimaginative, emotionally crippled and narcissistic 38 year old who only demonstrates RealitySteve's point that it doesn't matter who they cast as Bachelor(ette).The lack of suspense this time--this was the first season that the Bachelor reassured his final pick several times that she'd get a rose and that he loved her (words never before uttered until the proposal)--made me think that the show's editors/producers/writers just gave up on these bozos and decided not to bother gussying up this season.

Despite everybody's knowledge of the franchise's abysmal success rating, its production team usually manages to inject some credibility/romance/affect into its final weeks. Every time, I think that maybe this man/woman is in love with the three or four finalists, that this kind of emotion can be possible in this context, even as I know it's all fake. Such are this show's pleasures. But this time round, they clearly couldn't be bothered. As I retired to bed last night, I thought it over--Chantal was my favorite of the final two but the insulting and borderline cruel set of dates she was given indicated that the producers and possibly Brad were having a little too much fun torturing her. The fantasy overnight date in a bug-riddled tree house in the South African plains, replete with chamber pot rather than a toilet was the kicker and couldn't have broadcast any louder his absolute lack of interest in (his term) "this woman" aside from what was presented as a sordid sexual conquest on the side. Ashley H., America's next Bachelorette, was almost as vapid as Emily (at least in the edit she was given) and was one of the women I kept waiting to be voted off midway through the cycle (to borrow Tyra Banks' term). Poor Shawntel the funeral director was triply cursed--by her name, job and the way she was set up to be voted off on the hometown date after placing Brad on a gurney. Of course, this image made me think that her embalming table had likely had more animated occupants, but I'm sure that was the point--at least for the show's less reverent spectators. Then there was crazy Michelle, clearly there to advance her acting career and likely far less crazy--if as self-absorbed--as she appeared. Of course I'd love to see her get to the end and spoil everybody's fun, but after Vienna ruined Bachelor Jake's nice-guy rep (and his chance at a TV hosting or soap opera gig), there was no way the producers would let that one go ahead.

So, despite finding Ashley less than interesting, I am pleased to see this one end, although the final chapter--the inevitable break-up--is likely coming soon.


Ashley said...

I am a little bit in love with you for the phrase "sub-Harlequin romance gestalt." Academic love, of course.

erica said...

having never watched this show, i of course enjoyed your commentary.

off topic, but did you ever try on mayle's kaiya blouse? there's an ebay listing for it in buttercup (gorgeous), but it's a 4. probably too small for my shoulders.

lots of goodies on ebay lately. of course i'm too busy stocking up on running tops and leggings to buy real clothes!

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