Featured Essays

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love in Reality Television – Celebrating Adultery and False Romances

Romance is dead in reality television.

    After twenty collective seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, one must wonder if any actual romance existed in the first place.  There is definitely lust among the contestants, as evident by the multitude of make out sessions per episode, but can meaningful relationships blossom beyond the initial physical attraction?  The track record seems doubtful.  This series has produced just one happily married couple so far.  Perhaps two couples, if we take into account of the notorious bait and switch scandal.  Nonetheless, there have been at least eighteen failed relationships, which is an astonishingly high number for a franchise that promises to discover true love.

    The truth about romance in reality television is that it rarely occurs.  In normal life, most couples take months and years before finally connecting with one another.  In reality television, this dating process is reduced to a matter of weeks, with the threat of a prospective engagement at the end of the journey.  Time issues aside, many reality television couples suffer from the delusions of amour, due to the manufactured circumstances in their artificial setting.  Sure, it is easy to fall in love during a romantic candlelit dinner at a gorgeous exotic locale, but will the feelings remain the same in a less glamorous environment?  The biggest drawback to The Bachelor franchise is that it does not prepare couples for a practical relationship outside of the show’s bubble, without the camera crew and without the luxury dates.

    In the recent years, The Bachelor has given up on its original premise of celebrating romance.  The winning couple is merely an afterthought, compared to the key emphasis on betrayals and breakups.  Nowadays, the juicy ABC promos will gladly inform the viewers about the latest scandal.  These events often involve a controversial contestant who is “not here for the right reasons”.  So far, the alleged offenders include an aspiring country singer who already has a girlfriend, an aspiring model who initiated sexual relations with a show producer, and an aspiring screenwriter who is still madly in love with his ex.  ‘Aspiring’ is the operative keyword here, although the pursuit of fame is hardly a novelty in the reality television genre.   

    Whatever the ulterior motive may be, the show thrives on exposing these phonies and ridiculing them for the sake of our entertainment.  There is a scandalous element about a contestant that contradicts the show’s identity, and clashes with the concept of discovering true love.  Yet, in the process of highlighting adultery and false pretences, The Bachelor has tainted the atmosphere for a genuine romance.  No longer do viewers believe that a successful relationship can be achieved.  Unfortunately, the show sacrificed its ideal reality for the prospects of surreal television entertainment instead.

         Jason Mesnick, the twelfth Bachelor, is notorious for changing his mind after proposing engagement to one of his suitors.  The media subsequently vilified him as the man who broke his fiancée’s heart for another woman.  In particular, the level of backlash against him was astounding, considering the show’s premise encourages the Bachelor to be romantically involved with multiple candidates.  It seems within reason that Jason might later recognize that his feelings are stronger for the runner-up, but this defence did not sit well with the fickle public.  Like Tiger Woods and Jesse James, viewers enjoy rooting against an unfaithful man.  This incident highlighted the sensational thrill from alleged ‘unfaithfulness’.

    In the fifth Bachelorette season, the franchise further explored the theme of adultery via an aspiring country singer named Wes.  Labelled as a bad boy from the very start, the other contestants soon voiced their concerns about his ulterior motives.  The guy with the guitar was not contending for the Bachelorette’s affections, but instead he was on the show to promote his music career.  The hostility escalated when multiple participants accused him of having a girlfriend back in Texas.  To make matters worse, the editing team also spliced together clever footage of Wes ‘confessing’ to his adultery during his exit interview.   

        With the cheesy tagline “On the Wings of Love” attached to the fourteenth season of The Bachelor, expectations sank to an all-time low for the unlikely couple of Jake and Vienna.  Not even the most wide eyed optimists anticipated them to stay together for long once the cameras left their proximity.  Predictably, the couple ended their relationship after his stint on Dancing with the Stars.  In a surreal reality television moment, they decided to publicly broadcast their breakup for the whole world to see.  As the former lovers squabble back and forth, with Vienna bursting into emotional tears near the end, The Bachelor series could not be any further from its original premise. 

    The above scandals all illustrate the ongoing detachment from actual romance.  It seems that The Bachelor franchise is preoccupied with manufacturing artificial drama and creating the latest villain.  Surprisingly, this has been an effective strategy in generating television ratings.  Viewership reached an all-time high during Jason’s breakup special with his fiancée, which proves that society has a morbid interest in watching the dissimilation of love.

    We no longer tune in to The Bachelor to watch a genuine relationship blossom between two people.  Instead, it is the alleged adultery, the possible nasty fallouts, and the other ridiculous scandals that captivate our modern society.  The romantic ideal has been destroyed, but with the low standards of reality television, did it really exist in the first place?

Scandals in The Bachelor Franchise

•    Brad Womack
A mild scandal in comparison, the eleventh Bachelor shocked audiences by rejecting both finalists in the end.  Leaving both women in shock and tears, his decision may have been the catalyst for the gradual shift in the show’s premise.

•    Jason Mesnick
The twelfth Bachelor was a likable and relatable single dad until he dumped his fiancée for the runner-up.  Initially vilified by the media, the scrutinized couple proved the naysayers wrong by getting married in a televised event.  Spurned lover Melissa Rycroft has since been married to another man, and also obtained a lucrative career in entertainment news.

•    Ed  Swiderski
The chosen finalist for the fifth Bachelorette is heavily rumoured to have another girlfriend on the side.  His decision to leave and later re-enter the show only raises more suspicion.  Ed and Jillian are no longer together.

•    Wes Hayden
As the sleazy bad boy of his season, this country singer was accused by the other contestants for having an ulterior motive of fame.  A heated exchange in the show revealed that he may also have a girlfriend during the filming of the show.

•    Rozlyn Papa
In the fourteenth season of The Bachelor, this aspiring model and single mother allegedly had sexual relations with a show producer.  She denied the charges afterwards, but her credibility is heavily put into question.

•    Vienna Giradi
The controversial finalist for the fourteenth Bachelor was involved in many conflicts with the other contestants.  Her breakup session with Jake was publicly broadcast for the world to see, as heated accusations are exchanged by both parties. 

•    Justin Rego
Yet another fame seeking contestant in the mix, the sixth Bachelorette immediately kicked the entertainment wrestler out of the show, upon the discovery that he already has a girlfriend.

•    Frank Neuschaefer
Considered a viable contender for the sixth Bachelorette’s heart, this aspiring screenwriter revealed that he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend during the final stages of the show, leaving a devastated Ali in tears.

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