Monday, May 24, 2010

Fear and Dread Upon Meeting the new Bachelorette

Let me start with my founding principle: media in our current age should be transparent. Founded on honesty, integrity and good values.

OK, I know that mainstream TV is still struggling along in the old way: manipulating the audience, contriving events, making it false and making you believe it.

But it shouldn't. We have higher value to aspire to. And the new reality shows, which came of age about the time the new transparency was going into effect, should know better.

Case in point: the new Bachelorette (starts tonight on ABC).

Let us remember, looking back on what we know with the virtue of hindsight. During the season of the last Bachelor, I, like most Bachelor fanatics, was all wrapped up in the proceedings of what was going on, and like a true gullible fan, I was believing it.

Here's what happened, in case you forgot. All along the way, there was a "battle" between one girl, Ali, and Vienna. Vienna became the woman that the Bachelor, Jake, is now married to. Ali became the new Bachelorette.

Now, a cynical person could say, Hm... at what point exactly did Jake Pavelka realize that he was in love with Vienna and wanted to marry her? I would argue that he knew pretty early on.

But, of course, if you just say, "I love this girl and all the rest of these women can just go home," that doesn't make for much of a season.

And, even though it's a reality show, we know that even on reality shows, people are fighting for camera time. Especially those who are going to be starring in their own show next season. So one also wonders, at what point did the Bachelor producers (who traditionally pick the next Bachelorette from the existing lineup) say: "Oooh, how about Ali?"

I would also argue pretty early on.

Because the way the events were portrayed, nearly two shows into the season, Ali decides she doesn't like Vienna. In nearly every show, she's picking some fight or another with her, pouting and generally being a bitch, saying under her breath at rose ceremonies, "I can't believe he picked her again!" as if Vienna had some heinous boil on her face or something.

All of that, by the by, really made Ali look ungracious (at best) and scheming, manipulative and mean (at worst). THEN, at the end of the season on the "Women Tell All" show, Ali states that she has no hard feelings against Vienna, and she's happy for them. And she's so glad to be starting as the next Bachelorette. Hm.

Oh, but there's more.

Things go along, as they do, on the Bachelor. Jake's picking women, dumping women. Continually he picks Ali. Continually he picks Vienna (amidst howls of protest from women who never ever explain what it is about her they didn't like exactly).

We get down to the final four or five (I think, it was around there). Ali suddenly, in a HUGELY dramatic (taking up a good 20 minutes of our hour of Bachelor time), Ali has a meltdown. She's sobbing, she's pacing, she's telling Jake the bad news: her job has given her an ultimatum. She has to leave The Bachelor and go back to work! But she really wants to stay with Jake. She just doesn't know what to DO!

After much sobbing and kissing and gnashing of teeeth, he finally says: "I can't promise you that I'd be picking you at this point." And she finally says: "I have to go back to work anyway." So she leaves.

Mind you, I'm QUITE skeptical of this device since they used it in the previous season with the contestant Ed, who ended up coming back and marrying Jillian.

In any case, Ali leaves, after a final collapse in the hotel hallway to cry to the camera a bit more. She then returns a few episodes later to tell Jake that she made a mistake and she wants to come back. More drama.

He, to his credit, says, "No, we don't really need you back. We are doing just fine without you." (paraphrasing) Anguished sob into the phone.

Now all of this, in the moment, felt very manipulative and extraneous. And note to Bachelor producers: this "my job is calling me back" malarkey has been PLAYED OUT. Don't even try it again this season.

So, for me, as a loyal Bachelor viewer (even though I know I'm being manipulated), unlike all of the other Bachelorette candidates, whom I liked and really did want to see as the Bachelorette, I really hate the idea of Ali as the new Bachelorette.

She is fake. She is manipulative. She is not genuine. Maybe the others weren't either, but they didn't make such an obvious show of their deception.

Yes, of course, I'm going to be watching. But it'll be with a jaundiced eye this season.

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