The Bachelor: Why We Still Care

Juan Pablo and girls
Season 18 of The Bachelor features ex-professional soccer player Juan Pablo Galavis searching for love among 27 women.

In an age of relationships born on the Internet, it seems as though the idea of dating has become a thing of the past as more and more relationships are developed behind the security of a computer screen.

However, in the eyes of the producers of ABC’s popular reality program, The Bachelor, there is still hope for in-person attraction and an eventual happily-ever-after. For about 18 seasons, the dating show has captivated audiences nationwide, racking up about 8 million viewers every episode. Featuring swoon-worthy first dates, dramatic catfights between female contestants, and enough implied romance to make Nicholas Sparks look like an amateur, The Bachelor has sparked love not just between the cast members, but between the show and its audience, as well.

The doubts that seem to plague everything in the public eye are still an issue for The Bachelor, even with its efforts to create an image of chivalry and genuinity. The primary issue among many naysayers of the show is the never-ending suspicion that the entire program is made up. Accusations against the show range from producers intentionally riling up contestants in order to heighten different emotions, feeding them lines and scripting pieces of the episodes. Some even go as far to bash the show on its occasional lack of racial diversity, though in recent seasons, that issue has been addressed by casting more women of different racial backgrounds.

The list of flaws in the show is almost endless to some, and it is easy to see why. Though the show sells itself to the public as a ‘search to find true love,’ the whirlwind three-month romances are mostly peppered with disputes between the 25-or-so contestants who are duking it out over one man. Many of these arguments and scenes have even reportedly been edited in order to keep the interest of the viewers. The consistent incorporation of only thin, attractive women among the selection of suitors does not help the show’s cause, either, and only add to the question of whether or not some relationships formed on the show are real or just for ratings.

Juan Pablo and women
A group photo of Juan Pablo Galavis with his original 27 women.

With so much controversy, it is almost a wonder as to how the show is still able to air after twelve years, let alone have its own spin-offs (The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad, as well as international versions of the original). But perhaps people still watch the show because, in some way, it reminds them that face-to-face dating remains a possibility and is not another dying fad in today’s modern age. Pieces of the show may be stitched together and mixed around for viewing pleasure and shock value, but it does have its relatable moments. Viewers are still able to see the awkward first ‘hello’ between the leading man and each of the contenders. They get to experience the anxiety of wondering when someone will be asked on a first date, as well as when the next one will happen (or if there even will be another one). Confessionals reveal both tears and elated smiles, and most of the conversations between couples are sentimental. The breakups are typically emotional and heart wrenching, and some are shocking, unexpected eliminations that blindside the contestant and fans of the show. An exaggeration at times? Yes. Unrealistic? Not at all.

So, exactly what is it about the insanity of the show that hooks the roughly 8 million people in every Monday evening? For one thing, it is an escape. Over a span of two hours, viewers are treated to alternative, fantastic situations focused on a central “dream guy.” The women on the program are actually able to experience these events, though, and it is enticing; many could even be jealous of the dates and feelings that are shared over the course of the show. They are fun, spontaneous, and not entirely out of reach for real-life couples to recreate. When broken down, the dates are pretty normal and attainable; picnics, beach dates, leisurely strolls and dinners followed by slow dancing are all shown, creating a fairytale date for each girl the chosen bachelor asks. The dates give viewers and their significant others something to strive for, and that reinforces the idea of a true love that is both magical and worthwhile.

Even though some of the dates and the international escape aspect of the show can sometimes be a bit over the top (things like bungee jumping are not romantic and exciting for everyone), the show still gives audiences a glimpse of hope; maybe the idea of in-person romance is not dead. No one is sitting behind the screen of a computer on the show–the dates are in person, be it a group date or a coveted one-on-one session. The show and its spin-offs constantly encourage this idea that if a person wishes to find true love, he or she can do that without the help of the Internet world. There is fun and excitement and even passion involved in every relationship that unfolds during the course of the show. That is what gives the show life, beneath all of the drama and glamour; even though it is happening in front of the country, love is still being worked for and found. After the final red rose is handed out to one lucky girl on the show, the possibility of an everlasting love is still there and left up to the audience to find for themselves. Each season provides them with different examples of romance that couples can share, and that ultimate goal of true love is what keeps people coming back for more.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Edited by Jordan.

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  1. Nilson Thomas Carroll

    Your notion of the show sort of reminding people what it’s like to date face to face is interesting. It’s actually kind of a great theme (it’ll probably be in a Pynchon novel at some point, if it’s not already in Gravity’s Rainbow…). Nice read.

    • Thank you so much! I’m a big fan of the show and always find people asking me why I still watch it if it’s the same thing every season…so, I looked into it!

  2. Look at how beautiful these women are. But a good majority of them are overly possessive, childish, and just plain crazy. Don’t judge a book by its cover rings very true!!!!

    • lindsey

      I agree about some of these beautiful women not being so beautiful on the inside. But this highly unnatural environment of competing for a man on national tv could bring out the worst in many people. Hopefully they aren’t this catty in real life.

  3. I watch it, and not ashamed to say….it’s one of my guilty pleasures!

  4. I have to say, I used to watch the show, but I don’t do it much anymore. It doesn’t have to do with the usual qualms. I don’t think the show is entirely scripted (because that would be absurdly difficult on the people making the show), I think that racial diversity is something they’ve been working on and it has never really bothered me, and the fact that everyone is thin isn’t exactly true. There are thin people, there are average people, but not everyone’s a toothpick and certainly several have gained weight over the course of the show (think of all that alcohol!). I think the reason I don’t watch much anymore is that the Bachelor and Bachelorettes are almost always people selected from previous seasons these days. This builds them up into celebrities, and we come in already thinking we know them, as do the suitors coming to fall in love with them. But that’s not how the world works. I appreciated the show better when repeats were only an occasional thing with an exceptional person.

  5. Ryan Steele

    This show is for people who have a sense of humor because the show is just a joke and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

  6. Michelle Webb

    Really enjoyed this! I’ve often wondered why I still sit down and watch it when I see it on TV… I do realise that the show is often a bit tongue-in-cheek tacky and can be quite shallow, but I think there is also an aspect of fascination with the points you have absolutely nailed above. Well done! 🙂

  7. Patricia Crandall

    Nicole is an excellent writer. Printed out this article and look forward to reading it. Nicole has a great way with words.

  8. Really interesting topic and outlook on it. Great article it was well written 🙂

  9. Courtney Acampora

    Great article, Nicole! Although so many people criticize the show, I too, find myself looking forward to each new season of either the Bachelor or Bachelorette. In an age where so many people are searching for potential suitors behind a computer or phone screen, I think we do enjoy watching people date or interact in person. I hope in-person romance is not dead!

  10. Very interesting! I watch the show myself and also wonder why I am drawn to it. Very well written and well thought out!

  11. Interesting take on why people watch the show. I watch it myself. I agree with you that there are some moments where you can relate to the contestants (characters?). I’d never actually thought of that as a reason why I watch. Great article!

  12. Interesting points!

  13. I can’t really tell whether this article states that the show is built upon a fairy-tale, out-of-reach notion of love or a realistic and attainable one.

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