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Appointment Viewing: The Bachelor USA

Checking in With… is a regular column which features a Spinoff writer watching one or more episodes of a current show and attempting to decode its appeal. This week, Alex Casey dives into the absolute kiss-fest better known as The Bachelor USA. //

Episodes Consumed: Five, slammed through faster than a row of whiskey shots at The Bachelor cocktail party.

What’s it about?
We know the format, it’s a tale as old as time. One man, and 30 women embark on a journey towards true love. This year’s Bachelor is Chris Soules, a 33 year old farmer from a small Iowa town with a population of about 400. How he knows about The Bachelor, I’m not really sure. Chris has an overwhelming sincerity and affability that makes it really hard to hate him, even though every feminist bone in my body is telling me to punch him square in the plasma.

everybody loves chris

everybody loves chris

As for the women themselves, you won’t find a finer breed of reality TV fodder. Watching them roll in, I was frequently reminded of that part in Extras where Andy Millman co-stars on Celebrity Big Brother with a woman made famous through her son’s brutal murder. There’s nothing as bad as that, but the satire comes dangerously close when not one, but TWO women with recently-deceased husbands arrive looking for love. There’s also TWO virgins, who join the widows in the excruciating one-facet-of-life-defines-my-entire-personality corner.

Oh, also look out for Ashley S, maybe the craziest person I’ve ever seen not just on TV, but ever. She has a five minute rant about onions without any of Shrek’s finesse or charm, strays out of shot to pick a pomegranate off a tree, and uses her first moment alone with Chris to talk about aliens. You can’t make it up, she’s truly brilliant.

Who’s it for?
Not for my Mum, apparently. After roping her into the first episode, it all became a bit too much for Casey Senior. I think it might have been somewhere between the women being lined up like prize turkeys to be judged, and a delighted Chris kissing all of them with the gusto of a hungry giraffe. Parts of me have struggled too. My deepest inner turmoil has come from my feminist sensibilities forced to go head to head with the majority of reality TV that I watch. It’s a futile battle, and I’m embarrassed to admit which side is winning (sorry Mum).

brides back in the mudd

brides back in the mudd

I don’t know, I’m trying to find a way to make The Bachelor feminist-friendly. My main argument is that it’s so ridiculous that it resides on a whole new plane of existence, and therefore is above (or below) criticism. Sure, it’s built upon a bullshit fairy tale of finding true love (the registered trademark Cinderella date is a dead giveaway) through one of the most unnatural and embarrassing means possible – but that’s why it’s so good. It’s not real life. God forbid if it was.

What’s working?
The contestants are varied in terms of career, aspirations, background (but, most glaringly, not race) which makes for an interesting watch. Personalities vary wildly from prissy Kardashian types to “cool girl” beer chugging potty mouths. And poor Chris is enamoured with almost each and every of them.

Another crucial part that works so well in The Bachelor universe is the cheeky editing from the masterminds responsible for making the show watchable. From deftly placed butt-black-out squares to well-manipulated and completely fake teasers, the show would be nothing without the spectacularly trashy editing. Episode three has been a highlight so far – co-hosted by Jimmy Kimmel who pins the red rose of ridicule to the show once and for all.

What’s not?

so much kissing

so much kissing, too much

The one thing that’s not working for me is how much of a pushover baby Bachelor Chris is. I’m worried that he’s far too flaky and hasn’t fully understood the brief of The Bachelor at all. Twice now he has been approached by booted contestants begging to be let back into the fold, and he has allowed them both to sidle back into the fiery pit of The Bachelor’s trademark ‘jealous girl evil eyes’. If he keeps going at this rate, the show will never end.

Plus – he’s kissing absolutely everyone, and has started sleeping with some. Yes, it’s awful and gross, but I’m honestly more concerned with the show’s narrative at this stage than I am the problematic social implications. It’s confusing the contestants and, more importantly, it’s confusing the audience as to who he likes more. I don’t know if he likes Caitlin or Britt more, and it’s really bothering me.

Sometimes I shudder when I read this back to myself.

Should I get amongst it?
Yes, but please don’t yell at me if it upsets you. It’s just 30 girls, standing in front of one boy, asking him to love them.

You can watch The Bachelor USA exclusively on TVNZ Ondemand here

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