Let’s face it: This season of The Bachelor has been a trainwreck so deliciously gigantic that out of sheer secondhand embarrassment, we just can’t stop staring.
There have been divisive, West Side Story-esque cliques in the mansion, heaps of pageant world drama (again), and such petty producer manipulations that, despite Pilot Pete’s questionable decisions, make us actually sort of feel bad for the guy. And let’s not forget about #Champagnegate, the all-out war over a bottle of mistakenly-popped champagne that shook the mansion to its core (which, let’s be honest, only passes for real conflict on The Bachelor).
The Bachelor’s Facebook page alone is rife with outcries from former fans who swear they’ll never watch the hit reality TV series again. They complain that this season’s drama rivals a bad high school sitcom, despite the fact that all of Peter’s ladies are over 21. They fervently (and repeatedly) express that The Bachelor should cast older women with diverse body types and rightfully claim that year after year, The Bachelor’s cast is a homogeneous, whitewashed representation of American women, which reinforces unhealthy, Eurocentric beauty standards. And of course, avid viewers have plenty to say about Peter’s slim chances of finding love, especially after production chose Victoria F.’s ex-boyfriend as the featured performer on her one-on-one date with the sole intention of stirring up drama. Production isn’t even “here for the right reasons!”
But as one of America’s largest TV franchises, The Bachelor isn’t hurting for viewers. This year’s Bachelor premiere scored an eye-popping 6.03 million viewers (20 percent more viewers than last season’s premiere) and effortlessly swept the coveted 18-49 age demographic, despite the fact that many longtime fans pledged to stop watching after Colton Underwood’s ridiculously catty season last year.
But why can’t we unglue our eyes from the spectacular travesty that is The Bachelor? Why do the show’s ratings continue to skyrocket, even amid our persistent (but completely valid) gripes that the TV series is vapid and anti-feminist, so this will be the last time we tune in?
The answer is simple: We just want to distract ourselves from our own chaos by watching something so obscenely messy that it makes our lives feel perfectly normal. And The Bachelor always seems to fit the bill flawlessly.
The Bachelor’s primetime slot on ABC — 8 p.m. on Monday nights — only adds to our thirst for some drama that doesn’t involve our friends, our coworkers, or our exes. After a far-too-long day at the office immediately following a lazy weekend, we want nothing more than to unwind from our hectic day with a full bottle of wine, a gaggle of girlfriends, and some mind-numbing TV. So by the time the clock strikes 8, we’re too exhausted to delve into an intellectually-stimulating crime drama that we can barely follow. We just want loads of otherworldly Bach Nation drama to make our lives feel mundane again.
Watching twenty-something women cry, scream, bicker, and curse in the name of love (and of course, coveted Sugar Bear Hair Instagram partnerships) makes our occasional tears over situationships and playboy exes feel valid, sane, and proportional in comparison to The Bachelor’s onscreen drama. As each season begins, we thank our lucky stars that there’s no one (over)producing our lives, typecasting us as the “crier,” the “kissing bandit,” or the “villain” simply because we have normal human emotions. But as the Bachelor drama ramps up mid-season, we find it increasingly difficult to sympathize with each year’s batch of women because the conflicts seem so sensationalized that we no longer see the contestants’ humanity. By then, we’re so hooked on the stereotypes, the sudden betrayals, and the messes the producers create that we’re dying to know if the season ends in a “happily ever after” or a painful heartbreak.
And when tabloids and blogs leak revelations about underlying drama in the house or prematurely tease the end of the season, we’re even more entranced by the realization that all of this dramatic absurdity really happened as we don sweatpants every Monday night and watch The Bachelor in low-key, decidedly undramatic style. The fact that the Bachelor mansion seems so far removed from anything we’ve ever experienced compels us to continue watching the show, even as a once-promising season slowly transforms into a loveless trainwreck before our very eyes.
So even though Hannah Ann somehow got it right when she referred to this season’s constant drama as a “finasco,” we’ll watch Pilot Pete’s Bachelor trainwreck like clockwork until the last bottle of champagne has been popped, the last tear has been shed, and the last rose has been accepted. After all, in the midst of our own drama, we just want to numb our minds and know that our chaos isn’t really that messy. As long as The Bachelor promises “the most dramatic season ever,” we’ll tune in to save our sanity by watching other women slowly lose theirs — because once the producers reel us in, we just can’t look away from such delightfully messy reality TV.