I haven’t really watched The Bachelor or The Bachelorette since the days of Bachelor Bob Guiney back in 2003. On a night of nothing to do and nothing on TV I got caught up again in this season where brunette bombshell Desiree Hartsock stars as ABC’s newest Bachelorette. I quickly began to question why it had been more than ten years since I was even remotely interested in a show that as a twelve year old I simply couldn’t miss. Maybe it’s because every season is the same- twenty five beautiful men or women vying for the attention of one eligible member of the opposite sex. Maybe it’s because I grew up and realized that dating isn’t as easy as it seems on screen. Or maybe it’s because I got too analytical to appreciate the show for what it is: an exaggerated example of the struggle we all go through to find a mate.
While all are probably true, the third is a big reason many Bachelorette adversaries decide against watching the show. “How ridiculous is this?” we say to ourselves. “Like anyone could really find love on a TV show!” “Of course they ‘fall in love.’ They go on unrealistic dates around the world and all look like supermodels!” “I’ll bet they’re in it for the fame.” “I’ll bet they’re in it for the money.” If you’ve made any of those statements as a reason why you aren’t a fan of the show, you’re not alone. A lot of people discredit the show’s goal to find one lucky Bachelor or Bachelorette love just because it is reality television. I started rationalizing with myself, even at thirteen years old, that the happy endings I saw on the show were most likely short-lived, probably fake and therefore not worth watching or appreciating. But at 22, curled up on the couch for a Bachelorette marathon, I reveled in the drama of it all over again, as if I was the one asking the men, “Will you accept this rose?” Gasping as it was revealed that James claimed if he lost Desiree he would still be in a good position to become the next Bachelor and crying when Zak was sent home despite his preemptive proposal, I started to remember why my adolescent self was so wrapped up in the show’s spectacular cocktail parties, rose ceremonies and fantasy dates. The idea of finding a soul mate is something I want. I see parts of me in these normal people turned celebrities as they go on their journey to find one, and based off The Bachelorette’s 7.7 million viewers I’m not alone.
On this season of The Bachelorette, Des, as affectionately referred to by the men on the show, gained her position as the Bachelorette by getting her heart broken. On The Bachelor, she fell head over heels for season 18’s Sean Lowe. She came in fourth, and her emotional send-off went viral as America questioned why Sean would pass up such an honest, good hearted and beautiful woman. The clip of Des crying and pleading for Sean to reconsider hits home when her voice cracks as she says, “You’re making a huge mistake.” Seeing that, I saw myself getting told by my first boyfriend that he didn’t love me. People all across the country looked at Des in that moment and thought, “I’ve been there, girl.” So when it was revealed that Des would get a second chance to find a man on the show, fans flocked to the TV for more than just a reality show. They joined together in support of her, themselves and every person who’s ever been told, “You’re perfect in every way, but…”
There is a reason the show is as immensely popular as it is. It taps into the innate human desire we all have to find someone to share our lives with. It holds some of the essence of the storybook romances we read as a child, only this time these people are real. Because the process is so unconventional, I see how Bachelorette opponents can forget that these people are really just doing what we all do, only on an elevated level and in front of the eyes of America. They’re just looking for love.
There is something intriguing about seeing people who before filming were everyday singles go on an extraordinary mission to find a partner. Admittedly, the circumstances of the show are a bit ridiculous and because it is reality TV it’s easy to turn your nose up, doubt the legitimacy and ignore that though the show’s cast is unbelievably fit & attractive- they’re still people. People who are taking a fairly large risk by putting their lives on hold to date on national television. Dating is hard enough, let alone having millions of viewers you don’t know judge your decisions and question your sincerity. I give props to those brave enough to try it. Of course there are contestants who are in it with bad intentions, but for the most part I don’t think people try out to be on the show without at least some bit of hope that they will find “the one.” After all, the first ever Bachelorette, Trista Rehn is still married with kids to season one’s winner Ryan Sutter. Who’s to say it isn’t real? It seems a little out there, but when you boil it down it’s no crazier than online dating, blind dates, speed dating and all of the other seemingly insane tactics we use to connect with others. Watching from this perspective, with the same compassion we have for our girlfriends as they dish on their latest dating details, the show certainly becomes a lot more interesting.