“The Bachelor”, a reality show first airing in 2002, and still experiencing just as much success as it did 20 seasons ago. The concept is simple, find an attractive, successful young man or woman looking for love and place them in a mansion full of 24 equally attractive (success optional) contenders of the opposite sex. From lawyers and teachers to the unemployed and chicken enthusiasts people of all kinds come out for one person, hoping to catch their eye and fall in love. The shows 3 month run starts each episode with dates ranging from romantic one-on-ones to group pool parties and ends with the Rose Ceremony, usually consisting of sobbing tears, vicious fights or drunken contestants embarrassing themselves on national television.
Recently I read an article by Jessica Goldstein, titled “The Bachelor”, where she discusses America’s infatuation behind the reality hit. She emphasizes the main reason for watching unruly reality television lies in the fact that viewers actually enjoy the disorganized structure of it all. The idea of rituals, such as the Rose Ceremony, draws people in each week, according to Goldstein. She also touches on the idea that American’s, as progressive as we have come, still enjoy the idea of 1950’s courtship style relationships. They are attracted to the idea that love can still be accomplished through those means. She also explains how viewers watch simply to see that justice is served and good still exists. The over dramatic and contentious get sent home in the middle of the isolated desert or on a cliff in Ireland, while the kind kindergarten teacher receives a rose during a candlelit dinner.
I agree with Goldsteins final proposal, in which she relates “The Bachelor” to other hit reality shows such as “The Real World”, and “Survivor”. Keeping with her original idea that the rituals on the show where someone goes home for failure to achieve the weekly goal is what draws in viewers, she also contemplates the idea that Americans love watching real life happen in an isolated vacuum. I too believe that people love to see what their lives could have been without the factors of the outside world getting in their way. Love is not simple or easy, it comes with hate, divorce, distance, exes, and feelings. All of those things get in the way, but on “The Bachelor” none of those things are influences, until they leave the mansion and return to their everyday lives in which most of those established relationships fall apart shortly after the final rose is given. The same can be said about survival, and friendship. In “Survival” you know that no one is going to die when they are boating through raging waters, or scaling rocky cliffs. Their safety is secured and there is really no consequence for not being able to “survive”. In the real world if thrown into these survival situations the risk of death would be prevalent throughout. In “The Real World” seven strangers come together in one house where they live, drink and fight hoping to avoid elimination each week. In reality these people would be working or able to leave when tensions get high, avoiding fights and arguments. In the show though, daily beach and bar trips ending in someone sharing a bed with the wrong person evolves into a full blown war. People love to watch these fights that could only really grow in an environment where there is no way out, and that’s really not possible.
All of these reasons bring in viewers and have proven that these ritual based reality shows work. By keeping with their unstructured structure it keeps America tuned in week by week.