Elizabeth Wurtzel’s 'The Bachelor' Recap: Armchair Anthropologists
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
By Elizabeth Wurtzel
It’s time for another episode of The Bachelor, America’s pre-eminent reality show for romantic group dates, high-profile rejections, crying pharmaceutical saleswomen, and rendering the phrase “true love” utterly meaningless through ceaseless repetition. This season, we have asked Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and Bitch, to confront our favorite national circus nightmare. Join Elizabeth each Tuesday for all of her opinions on the squabbling and hot-tubbing that’s fit to air on ABC.
The Bachelor has been enormously popular for eighteen seasons, and I am sure it will be for at least eighteen more. This is not because it is the stupidest thing ever – or not only. It is not even because, as with all reality TV, we would gladly stretch our necks like rubberbands to get a better look at the wreck–or not only. It is not even because deep down we are all romantic saps, who long to see a proposal on bended knee with a Neil Lane diamond ring in the season finale–or not only.
It is more that we are all armchair anthropologists, and human nature flourishes wildly in this hothouse: This is extreme dating, and it tells us a lot about all courtship.
Dating is supposed to be fun, but mostly it isn't at all. People get married because serial monogamy–never mind promiscuity–is a pain in the ass. One boring person is better than many boring people; even one interesting person is better than many interesting people. Focus is better than dispersion–but then, I prefer Rothko to Pollock. Most people consider life with one person–dull and painful as that may be–a vast improvement over looking for love in all the wrong places. The Bachelor is a lifetime of dating compressed into a television season, and while viewers may get a kick out of the drama and melodrama along the way, mostly we are in it for the comfort of seeing it work out. Because we want life to work out.
As it happens, Juan Pablo has made good choices by worldly standards. He comes across as a vain jock, but he appreciates worthwhile women. We are down to the final six, and the women who remain are the smartest and most serious of the bunch, such as it is. Given a group who are mostly 25 and completely agreed to this, a science teacher and a pediatric nurse and an assistant district attorney are serious people. Juan Pablo has been smart.
Except, of course, for Clare. Clare is an idiot, and she is an awful idiot. No one likes Clare. She is a hairstylist, and I'm sure everyone would rather put their own hot rollers in than let her professional hands touch them. Clare is a dumb blonde. Actually, Clare is not really a blonde, but she is really dumb.
And yet, I am so glad that Clare endures. She was Juan Pablo's first one-on-one date, in fake snow. She showed up with a fake pregnancy. Clare is Juan Pablo's moronic weakness: he is simply so hot for her that her teeth turn him on. (I guess “teeth” is yet another polite way of saying breasts?) Hot is a primal problem that defies logic and cannot be argued away. It afflicts both men and women, but men are more pathetic about it, because they think with their nether regions under the best of circumstances–and this is the worst. When a man is hot for a woman, he might well know she is worthless, but he does not know it where it counts. Juan Pablo cannot stop necking with Clare. She is the only one he has had a second date with, the better to make out with her more. He ended up in the ocean with her at 4 a.m in Vietnam, and told her it was wrong the next day, which made her cry. He cannot keep away from this girl. Hot hot hot.
There is no way Juan Pablo ends up with Clare. No way. But he is going to embarrass himself with her quite a bit more before this is over. Probably for as long as he lives, Juan Pablo will fall for another Clare and another. He will cheat on his wife with her. He will meet women in airport lounges and at business parties on yachts, and get weak over their pearly whites. All of them will be like Clare, who is not his wife at all.
That is because the process works. We watch The Bachelor to watch it work. Juan Pablo will choose wisely in the end. Oh yes he will. He is an immigrant, which makes him sensible. Along the way, there will be glitches, there will be Clare. Throughout life, there will be glitches. In "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare assured us, "The course of true love never did run smooth." Of course not.
Image via ABC.