I watch The Bachelor, and this is a source of shame for me because my wife, Rosella, shames me for watching it.
Our Manhattan apartment is small, so she is stuck sitting next to me on the couch, either reading a book or occupying herself on her laptop, while I indulge in The Bachelor on Monday nights. She looks up at the TV every so often, making remarks like “Oh my God, this is ridiculous”; “I can’t believe you watch this”; “This is garbage”; and “You aren’t going to watch this again next season, are you?”
This dynamic is so ingrained that when this season rolled around, she didn’t even have to say anything aloud to embarrass me. In the first few minutes of a recent episode that finds Arie, this season’s bachelor, and his date, Kendall, stuffing taxidermy rats and then pretending the rodents are on a date at the Eiffel Tower, Rosella just stared at me, shaking her head in disbelief.
My obsession with The Bachelor (I am a fan of The Bachelorette, too) truly confounds her, and she is desperate to understand the appeal. She regularly asks me, “Why do you watch this?”
I have never given Rosella a thoughtful reply to her question. I deflect the query with my standard joke answer: “If it wasn’t for The Bachelor, I wouldn’t know how to love,” which is always met with an eye roll from my wife, who knows there is more to it than that because she knows me better than I know myself.
Seeking answers, I reach out to Amy Kaufman, a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times and author of Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure. It’s a smart book that reveals all the secrets about how the show is produced and explores why so many savvy women who consider themselves feminists are addicted to The Bachelor. I confess my addiction to the show, and she isn’t surprised to hear that The Bachelor is a draw for someone totally disinterested in hetero marriage for herself. “I think the show depicts romance in a way that would be appealing to anyone,” Kaufman says. “Who wouldn’t want to go on extravagant dates and be showered with love and affection?”
Like me, and so many other fans, Kaufman has issues with The Bachelor. “I don't like that they tend to depict one type of woman on the show — generally someone who is very thin, tan, white and straight,” she says. “By tuning in, I feel like I’m tacitly reaffirming that this is the only kind of woman who men can find attractive and who deserves love. I really wish the franchise would diversify.”
That said, she is also a total sucker for the love story. “By the end of the season, I’m always rooting for the main couple,” she says, “and I start envisioning what it will be like when I myself am proposed to someday. It just makes me feel warm inside. Gross, I know.”
I’m right there with Kaufman. As cheesy and problematic as this fairy-tale portrayal of relationships can be, I watch The Bachelor hoping two people will fall in love and get engaged, though I have never fantasized about anyone proposing to me — I always saw myself doing the asking.
Since we’re both fans, I ask Kaufman how I can defend my obsession with The Bachelor to my disapproving wife. “I think maybe the bigger question is: Why does it bother you that she thinks the show is trash? What makes you feel bad about loving it? It seems like you may feel that liking it means you’re somehow flawed,” Kaufman says. “I get that — I’ve obviously come under the same line of questioning while writing an entire book about the show. But I’m trying to let it go. And it’s truly baffling to me that viewers of The Bachelor get so much scrutiny when there are plenty of other troubling shows on TV.”