It is an inescapable fact that loads of people perfunctorily pretend to be interested in the higher arts, serious political issues and the grave conflicts that face their nation and this planet. Then they sit down to enjoy The Bachelorette.
Now I’ll admit that I’m not a connoisseur of the franchise. I did watch the Canadian iteration and it was barely watchable. It was taxpayer-financed, too: “Produced with the participation of Canada” appeared in the closing credits. And I wasn’t at all surprised to find out, researching this column, that The Bachelorette Canada’s Jasmine and her chosen hunk Kevin, broke up last year.
Did they then return money to the taxpayers of Canada, having failed in their mission? No. That’s something that incoming Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez should look into – why are taxpayers financing trashy reality TV in Canada? Civil servants should put it at the top of his agenda.
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It’s all trash, of course. Usually I get my updates of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette from Jimmy Kimmel, who does a short précis of the antics every week. It’s a useful service he performs. This week, mind you, I was driven to pay attention to The Bachelorette (Mondays, ABC, City-TV) because on the day of the famous Helsinki Summit disaster, I noted that issue evaporated online and all eyes turned to the doings of one Becca Kufrin.
The Bachelorette remains a utopia in a dystopian world. I don’t begrudge anyone the pleasure of savouring it – the real one, that is, not the flimsy Canadian-junk version. Honestly, if you only watch The Handmaid’s Tale or Sharp Objects or Westworld, you would start to feel you were infected by the very malaise that these dramas dwell upon.
The Bachelorette is a happy place. It is not in any way a useful guide to the U.S. political situation, an explanation of this anti-truth era or a manual for understanding climate change. The ratings for Monday night’s episode were a season-high in the United States, and the show easily beat competition from NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, whatever that is. Little wonder it had stellar ratings. Monday was the day it seemed President Donald Trump was in the pocket of the President of Russia.
Everybody on The Bachelorette is on a different journey. That’s all they talk about: “The journey.” You’d think it was Homer’s Odyssey unfolding here. But, no. Becca visited the families of the four remaining suitors, giving each the impression that they might have a chance to claim her affections.
It was entirely and fully ridiculous. Becca likes this Blake guy; that Jason guy is a contender but she’s stringing him along; that Garrett guy is dubious and will be dumped; and Colton, the virgin, inevitably got sent home because, well, the virgin thing is just weird. There was a side-show drama about somebody named Tia maintaining a crush on Colton and that was even weirder. Still, not as discombobulating as consideration of the bleak possibility that the U.S. President is a pawn of the smirking Russian President.
The Bachelorette exists in a tiny, pleasant corner of the vast chaotic canvas that is our reality. Becca greeted all her final-four suitors by leaping in the air and straddling their waists. Who does that? Who strings people along and grins at egregiously banal remarks? Becca does.
The reasons for the enduring and sometimes soaring popularity – last Monday being an instance of soaring – of the series are not nuanced and are contradictory. It’s escapism when there is the need for escape. It allows busy adults, who have little time to gossip or speculate about the romantic entanglements of friends and family, the opportunity to indulge that innocent vice by proxy. Everybody should know better but they don’t care.
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And then there’s the Becca narrative. If you’re new to this tangled tale, Kufrin was a contestant on a previous season of The Bachelor. She was in the final three. Next thing, her ex-boyfriend showed up in Peru, where events were unfolding in a kind of magic-realism world, and proposed to her. Becca declined, putting her faith in Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr., like the romantic dope she is. Then Luyendyk chose her as the winner and she accepted his proposal. But, wait, Luyendyk threw her over and chose runner-up Lauren Burnham instead! It was, they say, majestic in its raw melodrama.
Now Becca’s dipsy-doodling around, stringing guys along and loving it. That is a tiny tincture of justice in a mean, mean world. Helsinki be damned, this is heaven for a lot of viewers. It is an inescapable fact.