It’s been a while since I’ve done any humor writing. For six years, I wrote humorous (I think!) recaps of trash television shows for the now-defunct Previously.TV, but when I started focusing more on short fiction, I put humor writing aside. I missed making fun of the dummies on reality television, but I wasn’t being paid to do so anymore, so… you know. But recently, a weird (and very stupid!) idea for a short humor piece, inspired by the überdumm The Bachelor, came to me and I decided to bring it to fruition, and voila! I give you: I Am Your Bachelor, and I Am Also Running to Be Your Governor, published in Points in Case. Enjoy!
I have been a faithful watcher of The Bachelor (and all of its attendant spinoffs) for over nine years. NINE YEARS! The first season I watched all the way through was Jake Pavelka’s, way back in 2010 (and here’s proof! I covered that season and subsequent seasons on my old reality TV blog, TubeTopix, and later, for money, on Previously.tv). And boy, have these past nine years been a journey. But as we come out of this latest season of The Bachelor and gird our collective loins for the coming onslaught of The Bachelorette, featuring one of the least articulate candidates for marriage to have ever graced our television screens, I find myself wondering if I can keep watching this show.
There have been approximately 500 think-pieces written about why The Bachelor is bad, misogynist, hokey, ageist, white-washed, and just plain awful, and listen, I ONE-THOUSAND PERCENT AGREE with all of those assessments. This franchise is TERRIBLE. The values the show promotes are retrograde and sexist. (This season, for example, the lead, Colton, asked the fathers of the four grown women he was pursuing for “permission” to marry their daughters. Putting aside the fact that he was making the same request to four different men, what outmoded notion of “respect” does he subscribe to in which the desires and autonomy of the women he’s dating come second to the preferences of their fathers?). The storylines the show sells are fake to their core, and the idea of romance that it peddles is, frankly, creepy. (Rose petals scattered on beds, bubbling hot-tubs, slow-dancing on platforms while being ogled by strangers). Let’s be clear: I very deeply dislike and mistrust this show. However, I keep on watching it.
…But should I?
Here is the point where I could write my own lengthy think-piece about why I watch The Bachelor and any number of other “dating” reality shows. Apart from pure, unadulterated Schadenfreude, I think one of the main reasons I continue to watch is because these shows are fascinating anthropological experiments. It’s interesting seeing what people will do on camera when they’ve convinced themselves that “love” is a prize to be won, how people will contort themselves into their idea of what an ideal partner should be, how quickly people (read: women) will subvert their own desires and agency to “win” whatever man they’ve been told they’re supposed to want to marry. It’s not good, any of this, or admirable. But it is interesting, especially for a smug, married lady like me. But now that I no longer have the excuse of watching this “professionally” (since I no longer receive cash-money to recap the show), I find myself questioning more and more whether I should be continuing to support its popularity and, honestly, wasting my own time on what has become a sub-optimal viewing experience.
This coming season of The Bachelorette, in particular, is posing a real challenge for me. For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the latest news out of Bachelor Nation, the newly crowned Bachelorette is one Hannah B., a 23-year-old pageant queen from Alabama who, God bless her, does not talk good. The woman cannot string a sentence together without flailing like a fish thrown onto the shore. She seems wild-eyed and unhinged in a way that could make for good television, but could also signal a lack of ability to carry a show like this.
But my biggest issue with the new Bachelorette is that Hannah B. is twenty-three years old. Serious question: how many twenty-three-year-olds do you know that are actually ready to get married? I’m willing to guess zero, unless you live in a religious community of some sort. And Hannah B., pardon me, does not strike me as a particularly “old soul.” Which is FINE. But, like, why are we watching this chick date a bunch of dudes when we all know that she’s not actually going to marry any of them? The entire premise of the show is that the lead is supposed to pick a life partner from among the contestants. And yes, the show’s track record at creating successful pairings is dismal. But the prospect of an engagement at the end of the season at least adds some sense of stakes to the endeavor, and an engagement, however ill-advised, is far more believable if the people involved are not fresh out of college, or pageant school, or whatever it is Hannah’s been doing for the last five years since she reached voting age. It’s just silly. Even as someone who actively hate-watches this show, I need there to be something I can hang my hat on. In past seasons, I have loathed various leads and contestants, but there was, crucially, a sense of mystery involved about the outcome.
But now, things in this franchise feel even more artificial than ever before (and that’s saying something). For one thing, the women on this past season of The Bachelor were so very young. The woman who ended up “winning” Colton in the end, Cassie, is also twenty-three. She expressed numerous times throughout the course of the show that she was not sure she was ready for a commitment. And, sure enough, in the end, she and Colton ended up just… agreeing to date. Which is sensible. But not that interesting. Also, many of the contestants on this past season were obviously on the show in a bid to launch careers as social media influencers. One of the final three women, Hannah G., actually IS an Instagram influencer. Like, that’s her job. It strains credulity to think she came on this show to “find love.”
What this past season made me realize is that earnestness among the contestants is a key component for a successful Bachelor season. They can be idiots, and delusional, and mean, and vapid, but as long as they’re mostly earnest, I’ll watch, because the show feeds into my anthropological curiosity. But if the contestants are just a bunch of pretty people trying to up their followers, I’m out. And I fear that this coming season of The Bachelorette is going to be more of the same.
Are any of you watching this show? Do you agree that it’s gone downhill or has it always been boring and I’m just now cottoning on to it?
It occurred to me the other day that I have not updated my blog in MONTHS. I realized that I should probably remedy the situation, but I quailed at the idea of writing some long book review or deep-thoughts post on, like, LIFE, man. So, I decided instead to do a little bullet-point post of stuff that’s been happening with me lately. (This is not unprecedented; when I first started this blog in 2012, I used to write short little posts about inconsequential nonsense all the time. Here is one on a hilariously named brand of South African crackers. And here is one on — no kidding — all of the chores and errands I had to do one day). Anyway! Here are a few things that have been going on in my life:
- I’ve decided to get off my duff and attend a fiction workshop this summer. I’ll be attending the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop in Ohio in June. This means I’ll be spending a week sleeping in a dorm room on an extra-long twin bed, away from my kids and Al, a prospect which is both exhilarating and anxiety-producing. Hopefully I’ll come away from the week feeling inspired and having generated a whole lotta new fiction. More updates to come!
- Since reading Back Sense, I’ve tried to stay physically active, but have struggled to find a workout that doesn’t jack up my back while giving me endorphins. (Pilates on the Reformer is great for the core, but it can be kind of tedious). Finally, in December I found Barre3, which combines elements of yoga, Pilates, aerobics, and ballet barre and is hard but fun. I much prefer it to other barre-based workouts I’ve tried in the past (looking at you, The Barre Method). And, bonus, the studio here in Old Town offers childcare! I have been going three times a week and I’m feeling strong. Plus, it gives me an excuse to wear cute grip socks.
- In podcasting news, Whine & Roses is kaput, since Previously.TV decided to drop their coverage of all Bachelor-related shows (*single tear*). But since Whine & Roses met its untimely end, I’ve been a guest on both Extra Hot Great (discussing the Netflix dramedy Everything Sucks, among other TV things) and The Blotter Presents (discussing the classic, 2004 true crime documentary The Staircase), so check me out!
- I’ve started keeping track of my reading. I read a lot (30-90 minutes a day, sometimes more, never less) and I wanted a record of what I’ve read so that I can look back and remember, if not, say, specific plot points or characters, the general idea of each book. Here’s a photo of my reading log, which shows that I’ve read 16 books since January 7, which comes out to roughly one book a week. At this rate, I’ll finish more than 50 books this year, and without this log, I won’t stand a chance at remembering all of them, let alone writing about them. (NB: I used to write a lot more fiction book reviews on my blog but I felt as if I was shouting into the void. But even if I never write another review again, at least I’ll have my own record of what I read).
- After reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work and Catherine Price’s How To Break Up With Your Phone, I’ve been working hard to change my relationship both with my phone and the internet in general. In practice, this has meant deleting all social media apps from my phone (painful at first, liberating later) and spending way less time looking at social media sites on my computer. I’ve found that stepping away from Twitter and Facebook has lessened my interest in them; in other words, as long as I stay away, I find it easy to maintain my distance. But it’s SO easy to slip back and let them waste my time. I’m trying to find a balance between NEVER going on social media sites and spending hours mindlessly scrolling. Meanwhile, I was such an Instagram fiend and find it so addictive that I have deleted it off my phone and must re-download and sign in every time I want to use it. It may sound like a needlessly baroque way of controlling my social media usage, but it works.
- I learned to crochet! Not much to say about it except that I’m proud to add another yarncraft to my arsenal. When the grid goes down, I’ll have no idea how to grow food or find clean water, but I’ll be warm as hell. Maybe I’ll knit (or even crochet, now!) myself a post-apocalyptic lean-to.
That’s it. You’re all caught up with my life. Byeeee!
I’m not a sports-on-TV person. This fact, I’m sure, pains my father deeply, since he is the type of person who will watch almost any sport on TV, including wrestling and volleyball, as long as his beloved alma mater Penn State is involved. My mom, having been married to my dad for close to 46 years, has become a sports-on-TV fan through a combination of osmosis and Stockholm Syndrome. But despite my parents’ best efforts to inculcate me into the proud tradition of watching sports from one’s couch, I’ve remained anti-sports-on-TV.
There are a couple of exceptions to my no-sports-on-TV rule, of course. I always enjoy watching big-time marathons, especially the last couple of miles, because those athletes are super-humans and watching them run is a thing of beauty. Also, whenever the Olympics roll around, I, like all humans, will watch whatever random sport happens to be on TV and briefly become an expert in all of the technicalities of said random sport. Two weeks later, I will have forgotten all of it, as if the entire thing were but a fever dream.
For the most part, though, I don’t care about sports, like, at all. I don’t follow football, baseball, or hockey. I have no team affiliations. I am vaguely aware of when Stanford’s football team is doing well, but I’m never going to sit down and actually watch a game. I can’t name a single player for the Washington Nationals. I don’t understand how football works. I’m just not into it, any of it. (Lucky for me, I married a man who also couldn’t give a crap about sports, and we remain blissful in our shared ignorance.)
Until recently, I really didn’t get why anyone would ever care about watching sports. While I understood, theoretically, that other people gleaned enjoyment from watching, say, baseball on TV, I didn’t really get it. To me, watching an entire baseball game in all of its ponderous glory is the fun equivalent of watching five hours of CSPAN: that is to say, PRETTY GOSHDARN BORING. And the idea of keeping track of stats, joining fantasy leagues, reading articles, listening to sports radio? Frankly, it baffled me. “Who cares?” I’d think to myself. “There are no stakes here. These are grown men playing a game. None of this matters. Why would anyone waste time caring about these outcomes?” (I know, I’m fun).
But then, the other day, I had this epiphany: reality TV is my sports.
I was on a walk, listening to a podcast, when it hit me. The podcast I was listening to is hosted by a blogger (Reality Steve) who writes about (and spoils) all of the shows in the Bachelor franchise. His podcast mostly consists of interviews with past cast members of Bachelor-related shows, including people from many seasons ago. As I walked, I was listening to an interview with a woman, AshLee Frazier, who had been a contestant on Sean Lowe’s season of The Bachelor way back in 2011. (I blogged that season, by the way, in case you need a refresher.) As Reality Steve and AshLee discussed all of the drama that went down that season, including Tierra’s infamous (fake) fall down the stairs, I had this moment of lucidity in which I thought, “My God. This is how I’m choosing to spend my precious scraps of free time? By listening to two people I don’t know rehash something that happened on a reality show SIX YEARS AGO?! Shouldn’t I be listening to a TED talk or something?”
And this, it occurs to me, is how other people feel about sports. Diehard sports fans, like us reality TV fans, share a willingness to bury themselves in the minutiae of a particular brand of social entertainment, despite the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, none of it matters. In both cases, reality TV and sports, there are no real stakes: it’s entertainment. And yet, we get so involved as consumers, it feels like it matters. (Although one can certainly argue that both sports and reality TV hold up a mirror to our society and expose our collective strengths and weaknesses. But it’s mostly just for fun).
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much sports and reality TV have in common. Both involve participating in a shared social experience by observing. Ethical quandaries arise in both arenas (with sports, see: drugs, violence, rape culture; with reality TV, see: same). Tempers run hot. Memes are generated. People trade predictions, run the numbers, argue. You have your people that you root for and your villains that you hate. Sometimes you root for people that you know are never going to win. It’s always more fun to watch in a group. Alcohol and snacks add to the viewing experience. And I could go on!
After I had this (much belated) epiphany, I felt a newfound synchronicity with the sports fans of the world. Sports watchers and reality TV watchers should unite in our shared desire to waste our own time with televised frivolity. Because it’s not actually a waste of time: it’s fun, and sometimes, that’s all that matters. The TED talks can wait.
Some quick updates on what I’ve been up to recently:
First, one of my editors at Previously.TV, the inimitable Sarah D. Bunting, has spun off from Extra Hot Great a new, true-crime-TV-focused podcast called The Blotter Presents. A few weeks ago, I was honored to be TBP’s first guest, wherein we discussed OJ: Made in America, ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary June 17, 1994, and the current reboot of true crime classic Cold Case Files. You can listen here, or on iTunes, or wherever else you care to download podcasts. Tell your friends!
Speaking of true crime podcasts, there sure are a lot of them these days, aren’t there? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, please allow me to direct you toward my latest true crime podcast round-up over at The Blotter. You can read my recommendations here!
In other news, we just sleep-trained Ewan and suddenly, sleep is a thing I can have again, so expect to see more writing coming your way soon(ish)!
This week, I was on the super-fun Extra Hot Great podcast as a guest for the fourth time! We talked OJ Simpson: Made in America and Happy Endings, among many other TV shows. Give it a listen!
As many of you know, I’m a contributor to the fantastic TV humor and criticism website, Previously.TV, which is home to the Extra Hot Great podcast. I was honored to be this week’s guest on the podcast, in which we discussed important topics such as The Bachelorette finale, the nineties-ness of Felicity, Season 1, what’s good on TV right now (my pick was PBS’s gross and fascinating Sex in the Wild), and much more!
It was so fun being on the podcast, and once I got over the revulsion of listening to the sound of my own voice, I was even able to listen to it and enjoy it!
If you’d like to check it out, it’s available for streaming and/or download here.