“The Bachelorette”: Putting Reality into Reality TV (Or Why I Am Still Watching)

"My biggest fear was that these men would reject me. "--Ashley Hebert, ABC's The Bachelorette

One of the shows I’m hooked on is The Bachelor/Bachelorette series on ABC. The Bachelor has been going on strong for fifteen seasons, and its spinoff The Bachelorette is currently airing Season Seven. Although the show prides itself on helping people meet their future mates, only two couples are currently married (one is engaged). Insanity, right?

If you have not seen the show, it is pretty predictable. The contestants are, for the most part, white. According to the creator of the show, Shawn Ryan, people of color have no interest in being part of the show. (But we did participate in Flavor of Love and Rock of Love, right? Huh.) Another predictable part of the show is that the bachelor/bachelorette, although striking and successful, always talks about having everything except love and that they are finally ready to meet that special someone. Also, the show starts out with 25 contestants, and every week the bachelor/bachelorette has to choose who gets to go home. Sometimes the contestant does something stupid and is sent home (like camp), or they fail at one of the outlandish group dates that are more about skills than getting to know someone, or the bachelor/bachelorette just has to choose someone to go home at the end of the night and that someone just might be you. Adiós, y deja la puerta abierta, as La Sonora Ponceña would say in “Nosotros.

Yes, the show is predictable. Yes, the show gives me no hope for these couples. Yes, the clichéd-riddled dialogue leaves me unimpressed. But that is why I LOVE this show: I find their misguided search for love entertaining. But more than the dialogue and the predictability (and the hilarity, because I could certainly make a living with my color commentary running on the bottom of the screen) the reason I keep on coming back is that, to me, the show is not real. Despite the rhetoric of true love and authenticity (there’s always the one character who has his or her intentions called into question), the show does not even pretend to actually reflect what real life dating is like. First off, we don’t go dating 25 people at once. Not anyone I know. Second, who goes on date after outlandish date after lavish date? Not me and Radioguy, that’s for sure. Considering that the show is an alternate reality, I’m not surprised that so few couples make it. Do you think after you’ve wined and dined in Hong Kong, you think you want to hang out with someone at HOME? And eat POPCORN? C’mon now. That’s setting the bar pretty high early on.

See what I mean?

Although the show is not in any way, shape, or form true to reality, last Monday the lines were blurred a little bit. Ish got real. And this troubled me.

Season Seven’s bachelorette is Ashley Hebert, a contestant from the last season of The Bachelor who made it to the final three. All throughout the season her brain kept on telling her that there was something not right with Brad. (There was: he loved SOMEONE ELSE. Ahem.) Ashley carries all season long this insecurity that the men might not want to be with her, or that they are disappointed that this season’s bachelorette ended up being her instead of, say, Emily. Although it was getting a little old, last Monday things got a little too real for me.

Firstly, Ashley’s insecurities could be the same as any other woman’s insecurities. I don’t trust that the contestants I see on the show are actually like that in real life–I’m just here for the drama–but watching Ashley fret the last few weeks over the one male contestant who didn’t care about her has been agonizing and revealing. I remember talking to one of my tweeps on Twitter about how we’ve all had a friend like that, the girl who fell a little too hard for someone who just doesn’t give a crap about her. And it’s sad. And it hurts to see her cry. And you just want to tell her stop. But instead you listen (or tune in). And wait.

Last Monday Ashley finally had closure by meeting the man she’d been thinking about for the past few weeks and confronting him about whether they could have a future or not. Viewers onTwitter groaned audbily because, frankly, we’d all had enough of the “Bentleybentleybentley” talk. The man went on national tv and talked about how he really wasn’t into Ashley (but wouldn’t mind her for a one-night stand). Viewers knew he was mean and dishonest, but we were caught behind the fourth wall, months into the future; we couldn’t alert Ashley that this man she was pining after was a waste of time. Later on in the episode, in the spirit of being totally honest, she confessed the encounter to the male contestants: http://www.hulu.com/embed/xRM2UqHbka9qSkqn2SE1kw/526/717/i681

She went ahead and told them, basically, that for a while they were second best to Bentley and that she had spoken to him to get closure because she still had feelings for him. Watching her go on and on about how good she felt about letting Bentley go was like watching a train wreck. The men crumbled one by one as they heard her tell her story and hear how this other man had such a hold on her. It was painful to watch because what we saw on their faces was real emotion. Was Ashley expecting the men to just be like, “ok, I feel ya”? Nope. No one wants to be second fiddle.

On the other hand, Ashley honestly didn’t think things through. She didn’t. That, to me, rung true. Honestly, haven’t we all been there? I didn’t buy the act that the guys put on after she cried and walked away. But I do buy that she truly believed she did the right thing in telling them. It wasn’t right. But we don’t do the right thing, at all times. We all screw up sometimes. And Ashley screwing up is what saved what was looking like a mediocre season of The Bachelorette for me. I will continue to watch. I also hope there’s more cursing from Ashley.

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