Love And Ridicule In The Time Of Reality Television

The Bachelorette Makes Us Root For Heartbreak.

Watching The Bachelorette has cleared up a couple things for me: there may be no good people left in this world, and epicaricacy is America’s national pastime. I’m sure plenty are sounding out epicaricacy at this very moment as they try to connect the dots between this cumbersome word and a show where women date a litany of men in their search for love.

Epicaricacy, according to multiple dictionaries, is rejoicing at or deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others. The misfortunes in The Bachelorette are plentiful, and it’s exactly what countless viewers of the show watch and hope for. These misfortunes could extend as sadistically as one wants, but to me the pleasure does not come from physical harm or bad luck, but the visceral torture contestants and bachelorettes cast upon themselves.

Saying these ideas out loud sounds cruel, but there’s nothing more cruel than watching two women wade through an endless sea of slack-jawed entrepreneurs and sales representatives who are vying for roses and survival to show they have what it takes to be a husband. This show means enduring trips around the world with a stranger they barely know. This means winning embarrassing challenges and saying all the right words, easing through conversations about trauma and a need for approval amidst spectacular landscapes and five-star meals that remain idling at the contestant’s fingertips. This means bringing someone they’ve had a collective five hours with back to their family only to proclaim that they can not live without their love and marriage. Much like the dinners that are prepared and cooked and staged and left to remain completely untouched, the men and women of The Bachelorette and The Bachelor flaunt their desperate quest for love with millions of callous fans anxiously waiting to watch, mock, judge, as if they have any emotional investment in the shells of human beings that remain on the TV screen.

Cruelty abounds in The Bachelorette, and this is true not only for the contestants but for viewers and producers and everyone who aims to tinker with the minds of those involved. For the sake of saving myself from differentiating between types of seasons, I’ll focus on The Bachelorette as opposed to The Bachelor because seeing clusters of men revert to the most pseudo-masculine and Neanderthalic tendencies of attraction and territory is a joy every single week. Seriously, the men on this show would drool over a steak propped up in a sequin dress and would smooth talk their way into screen time and free vacations.

Surely fans of the show may disagree with some of these thoughts, and they may with every right deny there’s any trace of epicaricacy amongst their viewership.

Viewers will deny there’s any cruelty because they are just watching messy love lives unfold, but I’m certain those who attended witch burnings in Salem would say they were just watching witches get what they deserved, or the Romans who arrived at the coliseum to see maulings or duels to the death and claimed it as just something to pass the time.

There’s nothing wrong with watching the show, and there’s definitely no men and women dolling themselves up for any reason other than to find their significant other. Completely false. The Instagram ad deals and gallivanting they do for the rest of their lives was foretold before they agreed to join the show.

I’ll admit I am one of those fans cheering for the mess and tears and terrible choices. A cynic. Someone who just wants to watch hearts become crushed pulpy messes and near strangers bicker about each other’s flaws they’ve not even been able to unearth. It’s a thirst for the worst of the worst, the embarrassing and corny and impressive amounts of stupidity the depths of the human brain can find. All of this is exactly what the show intends for viewers to hope for.

I can’t get enough of the rose ceremonies. I want them injected into my veins. The anxious looks as men are slowly picked off one by one in a mock execution, a death by a thousand roses, is great entertainment. Seeing their faces melt with anguish, confusion, and fear is incredible to see. I envision them either imagining what their lives could be like if they make it far enough to become semi-famous, noticeable to those who have wasted too much time watching their antics on cable television, or actually becoming worried that a woman they’ve fallen for after conversation may not return the same emotion. Even thinking about the range of emotions some of these genetically-modified and factory-produced men and women have is completely unhinged. It’s heartless to watch the twists and turns of another human’s love life and wish for chaos. But then again, they did have to know this would be the case when they agreed to be on the show. Without a mess what kind of show would The Bachelorette become?

I am an even bigger fan of the choreographed scenes and dates, cinematic shots of a man questioning loyalty as he leans against a fence, the horizon slowly crashing behind him, or the lone bachelorette lost in a maze of her own thoughts as she walks a crowded street, a desperate look in her pupil vying to know which way to turn next.

Does waiting for these moments make me a bad person? Or is it even worse when I rejoice in the poor judgements of character that ultimately leave the bachelorette crying and sprinting away as if the cameras aren’t necessary once the heartbreak begins?

The truth of the show is that there is cruelty, but that’s because the fairytale romances perpetuated by troubled beliefs and false hopes are served up on a platter by the producers. They are those conniving puppet masters behind the curtain coercing every little thing down to the very word. Viewers tune in because they understand the concepts the bachelorettes are searching for don’t exist. We are in on the joke and the women hoping to meet her future husband are not. As cynical as it may seem, everyone can’t wait to watch their misguided ideals come crashing down, where relationships are not built in front of the camera.

So perhaps viewers of this show are not all bad people as I initially concluded. The viewers are nothing more than spectators, a consumer who is addictively absorbing the shallow emotions of men and women on a journey to find love and form stable, completely genuine and non-fabricated relationships for the rest of their lives. We are simply eating what has been served to us, and just like the cavemen producers of the show perceive us to be, we slam our bawled fists onto the counter and demand more. More bad decisions, more tongue fencing that won’t solve anything, more dates, pondering, tears, and roses on top of roses.

I will not deny epicaricacy is America’s pastime. This part is beyond true. Part of this connection to The Bachelorette and the brother and little cousin show’s (The Bachelor and Bachelor In Paradise, which is what occurs if Lord Of The Flies met influx with tanning beds and alcohol) produced by ABC is that we find solace in watching others live out their dreams or try to find love, only to have their entire worlds fall apart. We are nothing if not voyeurs of doomed love, but those who are watched by voyeurs don’t understand they are being watched. Contestants and these bachelorettes openly subjected themselves to this torment. They may be the most troubled, far beyond the reach of our own troubled tendencies and shortcomings. After all, they are the ones subjecting themselves to this degradation and torture, with full knowledge that those at home sitting on their couches will cheer when the sad moments arrive. 

There is only one certainty on The Bachelorette: the cycle must be continued. More must present themselves as fodder to the machines of obsessed fans and casual viewers who patiently await love to be built and broken and shakingly mended back together. The misfortune of those fine-groomed men and women adorned in beautiful dresses is ours, the producers know that and they do their absolute worst to deliver that. They coax and push and guide like evil masterminds silently pushing all of our saddened agendas onto the air-headed contestants and pushing the women of the bachelorette to the brink of emotional disaster. 

It’s amazing. It’s cruel. It’s love in the time of reality television, and the viewers are those who are vying for chaos from their couches, seeking sobs and mistakes the likes of which we only ever hear about. 


Image Sources:

Bachelor Nation on ABC/YouTube

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