The talking heads stare back, beleaguered, telling us of the ugliness, how unpresidential it has become. They count down the days in feigned exhaustion. Only 29 days until another president will be elected, and more importantly, when the spin cycle can begin anew and the next batch of ne’er-do-wells can be stoned.The talking heads say everything they can think of and they say it again and again – emails, rapists, locker room talk – except about how their ratings are only as good as the race is bad, that the crummier they make it, the more Viagra they sell. And so that’s what we do. We consume this reality TV, hoping that next season, in just four short years, the chosen one might appear and take care of us forever.
I watch The Bachelor for all of the right reasons. I am painfully amused by people making fools of themselves, confessing to devastating breakups, the loss of an alcoholic parent, awkwardly displaying their sensitivity just to make it as a low-level celebrity. And yet as pathetic as the participants may appear, one can’t help but feel sorry for them, their lack of understanding for the contracts they’ve signed, the blood in their deal with the devil. The Bachelor brand preaches a skewed morality – a GQ/ADHD cocktail of defending superficiality- to which all participants adhere, while they are coaxed to reveal their personal wreckage, be it a former love’s betrayal, a famous brother or deep, bitter anger. Host Chris Harrison has been employed to feign concern – “I know it isn’t easy for you to be out here with your heart on the line…but how did you survive that crushing day?” – to create the victims and monsters.And propagate the reality of this reality that love is sex, empathy is dishonesty and dreams only last until the next commercial.
I’ve had no success in getting my writing published. I am on my ninth novel now. Yes, nine completed novels and nothing. I’ve written six screenplays, two novellas, too many poems and articles, and this, my 757th blog post. And nothing.My publishing success is limited to a momentary sports column, a handful of advertorials for British Columbia Tourism and failed copy for a toilet company. Once, I posted a comment about the paparazzi the day after Princess Diana’s death and got a positive reply. Yes, 19 years later, and I still remember that one comment. My most successful blog – 1,200 hits – was due solely to the image of Bachelorette hopeful Jade Elizabeth posted along with it.
Over these many years, I have accumulated hundreds of rejections from literary agents – all kindly phrased – while friends have listened to my writing ruminations with fading patience. Acquaintances are more interested because they don’t know any better.
It’s not that I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m just trying to figure out what I’m doing with all of my time. It’s a dream of something – recognition, immortality, dinner with the president, a night of naked adulation, an admiring smile. I am well aware of Orwell and Didion’s thoughts and agree that it must be in my nature and that I am my only I, but it doesn’t feel like that very often. Not today anyway. It seems more like I’m being stubborn or, more accurately, a dumb shit.
Needless to say, I have returned and been disappointed in virtually every corner: The Leafs traded Kessel, The Grateful Dead devolved into something called The Dead and Company and The Bachelor concluded with a Nazi-like denigration of homosexuality. And I’m blogging about it again!
Readers of this blog may have noticed an odd confluence of reflections on Raymond Carver as well as various citations from the television show The Bachelor. It is possible, Carver wrote, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things – a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring – with immense startling power. It is possible, he continued, to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader’s spine.
Like Carver wrote about commonplace things with commonplace language, The Bachelor presents commonplace sexual relationship with the same innocuous, albeit redundant, zeal. This is not to imply that the producers of The Bachelor do any of this knowingly – or indeed with any craft – but that the participants, like Carver’s lost and lonely characters, surrender themselves to the process, seemingly unaware of how stupid and damned their lives must be.
They went into the bedroom, away from the cameras, and Kaitlyn moaned deeply many times and then, after a commercial break, stood in the morning light. “I don’t necessarily feel guilty about the act. It’s more just guilt from caring about other relationships that I have. And I’ve never done this before. I’ve never dated so many guys and had to feel this guilt.”
Beyond the expected demands of not being a criminal, politician or married, The Bachelor requires contestants to sign a document which includes the following:
Rule #6: Applicants must never have had a restraining order entered against them… involving moral turpitude or violence, as defined by the Producer in its sole discretion. Rule #8. Each applicant…agrees that the Producer may disclose any information…about the applicant’s private life (including) confidences and secrets with family and friends.
Rule #9: Each applicant agrees to be recorded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…by means of open and hidden cameras, whether or not he or she is aware and that such recordings may be disseminated on all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the Universe in perpetuity. Rule #10. Applicants agree that revelations of personal Information and recordings may be embarrassing, unfavorable, humiliating, and/or derogatory and/or may portray him or her in a false light.
In other words, the producers of The Bachelor are free to cast judgement, steal secrets, and lie about anyone on their show for as long as they wish…which begs the question: Is only an ‘x’ required on the signature line?
The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchiss offers a nightmarishly funny experience in which contestants seem to believe in finding something genuine in the world of reality television. This goes beyond paying lip service to the experience, not just repeating lines that everyone knows by rote: “being here for the right reasons” and “living a fairy tale”.
It requires an acquiescence to an established coda of “taking it to the next level”, meaning that the bachelors must make themselves “vulnerable” and “open to the process” by confessing personal secrets – family deaths and alcoholism being the gold standard. As depressingly amusing as this can be, it has its limitations, as exhibited in last night’s episode in which Andi, the bachelorette, is accused by Eric of acting for the cameras. Andi’s fury knows no bounds. “Every single day this is real to me!” She cannot abide Eric’s assertion simply because he has broken the fifth wall, that of non-reality reality; personal confessions cannot relate to the televised situation at hand,.
Ironically enough, Eric was killed weeks later in an accident, leaving the network and Andi scrambling to gain closure with a segment full of crocodile tears and trite pathos on the real world infringing on the reality of the reality world…or some horror like that.