Here’s my confession: I haven’t consistently watched “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” since my freshman year of college . . . until this year. I usually hate reality TV, and only started watching Jillian and her roller coaster love life when some of my girlfriends were talking about it . . . so I recorded the show and got sucked in. After watching most of this season, I can see how millions of women (and a few men, I know you’re out there) watch every season and love it.
However, I can also see how this show–and with it, our skewed, modern views of love–is harmful to lasting relationships. I wonder how many women, after watching two hours of “The Bachelorette” every Monday, either wish that they had had 30 handsome bachelors to choose from when they got married, or wonder when their chance to play the field will come.
A few generations ago, lasting marriages were the norm. Men were providers and protectors, steadfastly loving their wives and families. Women were mostly homemakers, respecting their husbands and investing in their communities and children. It doesn’t take a very astute person to notice that our views of love and marriage have changed drastically in the last few decades. Nowadays, marriage is an easily broken institution for private pleasure rather than public structure, and no one seems to mind as it becomes more rare and easily breaks down.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable to most viewers that this season’s bachelorette, Jillian, insists on a proposal at the end of the show, or that she is wringing uncharacteristic confessions of love out of men who know they’re competing for her heart on national TV. While we watch the show and hope that she finds love, deep down, few of us expect a “Bachelorette” marriage to last, despite her best intentions.
No one woman has 30 men vying for her hand in real life, nor multiple extravagant dates with multiple handsome guys. The premise of the show is false, not to mention the ways in which Jillian forces the guys into non-male-style talks about emotions and love. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think that every guy is a caveman, incapable of love or intelligent conversation, but I also know that most men are cautious, and would need more than one date and a few hangouts to know if love is real. It seems to me that modern women want a man to lead and protect, yet are so afraid of losing their rights and individuality that they take back control as soon as he does so, and want him to have heart-to-hearts as readily as another girl would. Men and women both have lost respect for each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and reality shows like “The Bachelorette” are simply a large screen for society’s foibles to shine upon.
We may pay the price for enjoying shows like this. We may look at our husbands and wish that they were more polished or better-spoken, instead of appreciating them for the love and devotion that they give to us. If single, we may see the decided lack of 30 available men around us, and wonder why we don’t have such a plethora of options. What’s wrong with our lives, careers and looks? Why are we still alone?
It seems ridiculous to let an obviously fabricated reality TV show influence our lives. But it does. Slowly it chips away at our psyche until we are unsure of anything but our discontent; and our parents and grandparents way of approaching love–in so many ways it was God’s way–feels distant and even more unrealistic than the network TV version.
I admit that I’ve enjoyed “The Bachelorette” this season, perhaps against my better judgment. But I am disturbed by the trend of dramatizing every aspect of life. More and more we seem to not appreciate relationships because of fidelity, respect, love, faith and family, but instead focus on outward appearance and a falsely created closeness that will disintegrate over time.
We, as Christians, are responsible for monitoring what we watch on TV and how it affects us. We are responsible for showing the world the kinds of marriages that ABC will never understand. While Jillian and all 30 of her guys may want true love, the only satisfying way to find it is grounded in faith.