4 Ways ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ Tells the Story of American Politics
A first-time watcher’s first impressions…
Escapism is a slippery slope. As we have seen in the current souring of the internet age, American media culture makes it incredibly easy to use television, movies, YouTube clips, and blogs as an ideological bomb shelter devoid of anything discomforting, eventually warping perspective to dangerously fantastical levels. That said, if it is relief from your troubles you seek, no matter your viewpoint in this day and age, there’s ABC’s newest edition of The Bachelor, an American ritual so over-the-top we don’t even pretend it is reality anymore, let alone legitimate entertainment.
And yet this season is a bizarrely allegorical one. Like many new voters in 2016, this is my first time ever watching the show. I did not know of awkward hunk Nick Viall nor the glorified make-out carnival he was about to enter into when my friend sat me down to watch the season premiere a month ago. Five weeks later and the circus has stolen my heart for I keep finding parallels to the recent election and its aftermath begging the question, is this actually good TV?
Here are my observations from the season so far that make a good supporting argument that The Bachelor may be the most compelling political commentary in America right now:
1. Nick Viall is America
He’s past his prime. He’s been tossed around in recent seasons. He’s Nick Viall, the small town boy in the big city who’s just looking for the One to make him happy…on a reality show. Nick is a wonderful metaphor for the current United States. Deep in his heart he is genuine and, after two ‘devastating’ heartbreaks on prior Bachelor seasons, he’s definitely not a quitter. He’s a go-getter with so much potential to love and be loved, but he has a weakness: Boobs.
And ghosts. He kind of believes in ghosts.
To his credit, Nick is a classy gent, but week after week I have seen him send home wonderful women with heart, charisma, and actual aptitude because he thinks with his…id. He is too easily swayed by temptation and allure. When one of the girls goes all honey trap (oh, we’ll get to Corinne…) Nick essentially volunteers. Tending to so many potential romances, his attention span is zilch and so his impressions are based on looks and a few sentences. His life is a confused hypocrisy as he makes out with every girl in the house that has a face meanwhile seeking the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with.
Alas, we cannot give up hope. Nick was built on hope. His decisions in two past seasons have let him down in one way or another — it’s easy to see why he is confused and making poor choices (#RIPHailey). We just need to remember that after all the trials and tribulations Nick goes through, after pool parties, Backstreet Boys concerts, boobs, and ghosts, the best match for Nick will be undeniably good for him, even if she’s not apparent right now.
2. Taylor vs. Corinne is Clinton vs. Trump
Just like the 2016 election, Nick has had to filter through a whole horde of potential matches before zeroing in on prime candidates. Midway through the season, two have risen to form the rivalry to beat all rivalries: Haughty, pragmatic mental health specialist Taylor versus ambiguously wealthy, scheming, sexpot Corinne.
From the start, Corinne has created frustrated anxiety for her fellow contestants. Her intentions seem wholly disingenuous and her manipulative nature is poorly masked under physical desire. To the astonishment of every other girl in the house, Corinne and her unapologetic ‘sex-sells’ approach has worked thus far, leaving numerous well-rounded, less fake, and more beautiful women in her wake. But one dared stand up for the other side, and her name is Taylor.
All the women in the house care ‘deeply’ about Nick and some have even tried to warn him about Corinne, but even Raven’s best Lindsay Graham impression has not been able to clear the fake tit-tainted whipped cream from Nick’s eyes.
Gritty, sensible Taylor came out collected and ready to strike. She’s not the sexiest choice, but she’s smart and tenacious. She flaunted her higher emotional intelligence, and the resulting confrontations between her and Corinne bolstered her (and my) confidence in her as the level-headed, obvious choice for Nick.
But she became over confident, if not smug. Taylor has thought logically. She can’t lose — not against meathead Corinne! But this is Nick; the bachelor cares not for logic or reason! Reason was out the door faster than failed past-fling Liz (the Jeb! of the competition). Taylor has been playing the wrong game from Day One.
Corinne knows that pandering to desires is the way to win. She is a master of manipulation, of twisting facts to her benefit, and targeting Nick where he is most vulnerable (his dick), all the while nonchalantly breaking every custom and formality of the show to throw off her opponents (seriously, quit napping, girl).
No one ever thought Corinne would make it this far and yet after a final showdown, the 2-on-1 date between Nick and the two bitter rivals, the die was cast with shocking results. After skewing information about Taylor to Nick, Corinne received a crucial rose in January 30’s episode. A sad day that has left many of us stunned.
While Taylor may have some tricks up her sleeve, it’s best if she calls it quits on her Bachelor career. Has Nick been tricked onto a dangerous path to, “Make Corinne Great Again” (actual quote)?
3. The Other Contestants are Congress
And what of the other ladies? Well, some of them have certainly been Corinne enablers, or at least complicit. As Nick plunges further and further into bizarre challenges and with Taylor out of the way, Corinne is edging closer to her ultimate campaign goal (to fuck Nick).
Some girls are going to try and play the game the same way they’ve played from the start. They think that by allowing Corinne to stay on and hopefully implode, Nick will look to them as better alternatives.
They will be eliminated.
The only ladies who will continue on are those who adapt with a two pronged approach: proving they genuinely care about Nick and exposing Corinne for the unqualified brat that she is.
Some of the girls are certainly going to up the ante and push hard in resistance to the mockery that Corinne is making of the entire Bachelor franchise (though supposedly we’ve seen demagogues like this before…in past seasons). Warren-esque Vanessa will definitely bring the heat now that Taylor is out of the picture, and I expect that she will find allies in unlikely places when Corinne eventually goes too far, despite how far she’s gone already. I just hope Nick makes it to see this day before we lose him forever.
4. Alexis is our Savior
Despite all the chaos and muck (literally) of this season of The Bachelor, we have had one shining light: Alexis, the Nicholas Cage-phobic, aspiring Sea World trainer from Secaucus, NJ who does not know the difference between a dolphin and a shark. I don’t know if she has reached Nirvana or it’s simply the free booze she’s been taking full advantage of, but Alexis seems to know something we don’t, and furthermore, that everything is going to be okay. I don’t exactly know what role she plays in this big analogy I’ve woven for you, perhaps our desire to find joy in chaos, but Alexis is incredibly important to the show.
Is she humor? Is she kindness? Is she the future generation — the silliness and wonder of children, with hearts still uncorrupted or cynical? I’m not sure, but the fact that she gets five minutes to close out every episode shows that her effect on Nick is a clearly positive one.
Nick helped Alexis overcome her fear of the man who stole the Declaration of Independence, and I think Alexis will help Nick see that he deserves better than Corinne, or Taylor, or plenty of the other contestants, all the while sacrificing her spot. She is the self-aware wake-up call, the messenger, the forgotten joy de vivre that will help Nick find his true love and a bright future freeing himself of this recurring televised nightmare.