ABC’s hit reality television show—The Bachelorette—is currently in its 10th season. Coupled with the original hit show, The Bachelor—which has 18 seasons of its own—this series has been on television for 28 seasons. The premise of The Bachelorette is that 25 men compete for the affections of one woman. Each week, the one woman whittles the field of men down until, eventually, there is a marriage proposal at the end of the show. Every week millions of viewers tune in (demographics show that the viewership is mostly women) to watch as a woman’s fairytale dreams become a reality.
A couple of years ago, I watched an episode of this series. It was awful. There’s a reason why these people are single. While the premise of the television show is about helping two people find real love, you wouldn’t know it from the show. The bachelor or bachelorette frequently make-out or even hook up with multiple participants in the show—only to then break up with them on television. Because one person is essentially dating multiple people at the same time, the show lends itself to situations of jealousy, backstabbing and drama among contestants. In addition to being promiscuous with their bodies, the participants are emotionally unchaste—with one person leading many people to believe that he/she is in love with multiple people. Everything about the show speaks of romance in search of love, but none of the show’s contestants know the first thing about love.
But the couples on the show are not my biggest concern. My biggest concern is for the millions that tune in every week to watch the show. The romantic destinations and setups, the chance to watch two people grow in love with one another and the ability to root for favorites make the show must watch every week. For the hopeless romantic, reality shows like The Bachelorette can really suck you in. Television shows like The Bachelorette are successful ratings grabbers because people love a good love story.
But what makes the show dangerous is just that—we can get sucked into watching something that isn’t a love story.
Consider this: Of the show’s 28 seasons on television, only four couples are still together. The average relationship lasts only one month after the show airs on television. For all the talk about finding true love, the show has a terrible track record for matchmaking. Every season is filmed over the course of about 6 weeks. This means that contestants who get engaged at the end of a show have only known each other for a month and a half. During the month and half that the couple knows each other, their relationship is filled with drama, jealousy, promiscuity and confusion. This is not a recipe for love.
When we tune in to watch all of this unfold, we can delude ourselves into thinking that what we are watching is love. The trap is set and we get caught up in it. The problem is that the only thing that we can learn from watching failed relationships is how to have a failed relationship. If we regularly expose ourselves to a fake love story, we begin to expect similar unrealistic expectations in our own lives.
Love is about a mutual self-gift and willing the good of the other. When we get trapped into believing that shows like The Bachelorette are about love, we twist our own understanding of love into something that love is not. When it comes to the Bachelorette and other shows like it, sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is just tune out.
Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development Coordinator for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute and holds an MA in Pastoral Theology with concentrations in Catechesis and Evangelization from the Augustine Institute. He also holds a BA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children. You can connect with him through Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/