The Darkside of the Bachelorette

So I’ve tried watching it. I wanted to join in the office laughs and add some conviviality to the endless tedium that is our working lives. Don’t we all? But there is something disturbing about these shows. Something that makes me switch off after a few minutes and reach for the scotch. Sure its cheesy and contrived, but there’s something darker that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

It was the hate and vitriol that rolled out on social media this week that made me think about it more. Something reminded me of the Piggy character in Lord of the Flies, but I wasn’t sure why.

Clearly these ‘contestants’ are deluded and have personality issues, that’s why the producers select them. Why else would anyone go on national TV with a +95% chance of being publicly humiliated?

The producers select them because they’ll be ‘entertaining’ and they need an audience to sell the adverts/products to fund the station. Well fair enough, that’s our economic system.

But why do we watch it?

Why do we love to watch people be humiliated and then mass hate on them on social media? Well, I have a couple of theories:

A) they remind us of people that have hurt our feelings in real life, and this is our revenge.

B) they are the sacrificial lamb or scapegoat that gives us a common enemy for our hate and we are therefore likely to be nicer to each other.

Fiction writer’s do this all the time. We create evil antagonists that the reader will despise and this builds empathy with the main character. It’s a fundamental element of storytelling. But when producers create a target for our tribal hostility by using real people on ‘reality tv’, it can get a bit dark. Sure these people are different, maybe not too smart, and perhaps not very nice. But have they ever done us wrong personally? Do their foolish actions justify our hate? Is our behaviour towards them any better?

Or more importantly, is it ok because everyone else seems to enjoy it?

This is what reminded me of Piggy, and the kids at school that used to get bullied. Sure they were a bit annoying, but perhaps it’s the mob reaction and our behaviour towards them that is more telling.