Why we’re still watching The Bachelor, 34 seasons in
There’s some deft emotional manipulation involved.
As Nick and Vanessa earnestly discussed their post-Bachelor ‘relationship’ on ‘After the Final Rose’, eyes rolled. But not for the reason you may think.
Commentators were outraged by the lack of fairy tale perfection. ‘ ‘The Bachelor’ finale turns into a therapy session as the ‘winners’ seem miserable’, WaPo bleated. ‘ Bachelor Nation Isn’t so Sure About Nick & Vanessa’s ‘Awkward’ After the Final Rose Special’, People assumed. This sentiment was echoed internet-wide.
This is because, instead of the expected schmaltz overload, we got the opposite: frank talk about the difficulties of a long-distance, publicity-heavy new coupling.
In a season that, more than ever, took a meta-look at the franchise (remember how Nick increasingly opted out of rose ceremonies because he was too empathetic/shit scared to reject people?), why are viewers still so wedded to its faux-happily ever after endings? Were Nick’s crocodile tears really that believable?
Here’s my take: its not because they believe in it, but to quote The X-Files, it’s because they want to believe. And the contestants helped them do this. With each repetitive confession booth segment, Raven et al. reinforced that, despite their better judgement and even perhaps their own disbelief, they were in love with Nick.
After all, is it worth sacrificing your job, and in many cases (cough, Corinne) your dignity, for a long-shot at 15-minute fame? Probably not. But for a cute, newly minted, celebrity husband? Perhaps.
This aside, Disney-like ‘true love’ is something all humans seek. Countless Reality Steve spoilers, behind the scenes producer tweets and snarky think-pieces can’t stop us from believing in something so elemental. The Bachelor plays to this biological drive.
And the producers know what they’re doing — it doesn't take an UnReal episode to understand emotional manipulation. They’ve perfected The Bachelor’s melodrama/rawness ratio, leaving just enough of the latter to keep us on the gullible hook, even past the final rose.
Because, what is more tantalising than, against the odds, the possibility of requited love? Shakespeare knew this. Apparently Mike Fleiss does too.