I'm not a romantic. Really. I don't need grand gestures or outrageous gifts -- at least not in real life. I'm not a big fan of fairy tales, and I was never really into the whole Disney princess scene. In preschool, when other little girls played house, I'd stick the baby doll with the boys, grab my suitcase, and tell them I'd be back after work. True story.
However, when it comes to T.V., I'm a sucker for all things love. And mainly, I mean the ABC reality television dynasty made up of The Bachelor and spinoff/counterpart, The Bachelorette. Monday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. I fraternize with the lowest of the romantic low and let me explain why.
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Sure, it's easy to see why the show makes some people want to throw up in their mouths. First, it's two hours long, which even I will admit is a nice chunk of time and quite a commitment. Even worse, the show features all the trashy drama of reality television with the added bonus of being unfailingly overly-dramatic in any and all romantic senses.
"I know my wife is in this room," will declare the latest hot-yet-somehow-single guy as he raises a glass to toast a roomful of beautiful, but probably slightly crazy girls who he's known for all of three weeks.
Then he'll take them each on an over the top date, including sky diving or rock climbing or just sitting on a private yacht in Fiji, where they undoubtedly fall in love. Who wouldn't fall in love under such circumstances? It's silly and illogical and it almost never lasts.
But damnit, they're in love and they ain't afraid to show it.
And that, right there, is the draw.
Love is a complicated thing, and this girl usually plays it safe. I've been off the market for years. I'm a serial long-term relationship-er. Being out and about on the dating scene sounds alright ... but actually putting myself in such an unpredictable situation? Uh, no thanks. My control freak brain would probably overheat and explode.
So every week I sit and watch dozens of brave -- like, brave in a crazy way -- men and women put it all on the line in the name of love. I'll happily concede it's usually a shallow, misguided form of love, but even in the worst situations we fans can usually find a small glimmer of vulnerability that proves ... even the most villainous characters want some version of happily ever after. And even if that "happily ever after" means moderate fame and imminent divorce.
The show cuts out all the boring, awkward parts of dating and leaves only the extreme highs and, of course, the heartbreaking lows. In less than 100 minutes, viewers can potentially see a person go on a first date, be passionately swept of his/her feet, fall in head-over-heels in love and finally, be left in the most fragile mental state. It's a romance-addict's holy grail. A quick and easy high.
And in recent seasons, those darn producers got even smarter. Instead of trying to make us root for a new stranger every season (not that it ever took much convincing) they've taken to recycling the losers in love for the next go-around.
As a result, viewers have the added bonus of cheering for the underdog, the brave soul who came up empty just months before. It's inspiring in a way to see peoples so adamant, so sure that their one true love is out there. Despite being broken up with on national T.V., usually with little to no explanation as to why.
Haters will say, "You know that's fake?" And to that I say, "So what?" These are real people and even if producers engineer the in-house drama, it doesn't take away from the heart and soul of the show: the proposal.
Bad episodes, eye-rollingly ridiculous cat fights, and corny monologues aside viewers take solace in knowing their many hours of watching will (almost) always be rewarded at the end by getting to see the a big, dramatic proposal. It will always happen against a picturesque backdrop, involve a giant rock of a ring and most times one party will arrive by helicopter. In the absence of a proposal we'll get a theatrical breakup, which will fuel our heated debates until the next season begins.
It's the happy ending of fairy tales that reality could never ensure. Watching these shows is a no-risk bet on the side of romance in a world where the odds tend to favor heartbreak.
So go on and hate. But I'll keep fighting - vicariously - on the side of love.
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