The Bachelorette: Holding A Mirror to Our Perceptions of Love

By Haley Littleton

I always said I’d never succumb to the pressure. I’d never do that. I thought I was stronger. I thought I could say no. This was never supposed to be me…

But I have to be honest, I can’t keep the secret in any longer.

I watch The Bachelorette. I actually enjoy it. Every Monday night, I traverse to a pastor’s house with his wife and several other older friends to eat cookie cake, settle into the couch, watch The Bachelorette, pause The Bachelorette, rewind the Bachelorette, and discuss what we see on the show.

I know, I know, how could I as a Christian enjoy a cesspool of sin commonly known as The Bachelorette? I must be living in some fairy tale land of unrealistic love that doesn’t exist. I must blindly watch it and imbibing everything the world says about love/dating. This will certainly not help me have a current healthy relationship!

But let’s slow down for a minute. Is the show The Bachelorette really the spawn of Satan or is it simply an easy ideological Christian target because it’s a highly charged reality show with over the top assertions on love/dating?

In my psychological and cultural analysis of the show, sprinkled with many impassioned conversations amongst friends, I’ve seen several things that the show shines a light on to our culture that we must understand.

1. Even though we all look for it, no one seems to know what love really is

Watch the show sometime and listen to them contestants talk about love. It is one of the most vague and mysterious things. But it’s not just them with this shaky view of love, it is our entire modern world. Many confuse infatuation (attraction, obsession, butterflies) with enduring sacrificial submitting love and, sadly, miss the real thing. The Bachelorette illuminates that we are wired for love but until we really understand the true nature of love The Bachelorette franchise will only continue its seasons. I have found that watching the show proves interesting in sparking conversations about love and can illuminate many of the lies and fairy tale fallacies that we have unknowingly had built up in our minds since childhood. We’ve come to believe that love is a overwhelming fireworks show rather than a quiet comforting warm fire.

2. We want to connect with people

Watching the show in many ways has brought personal connection with my girl friends but the show reflects something interesting in the human soul: it desperately longs for connection. We root for Emily as she tries to discover who she might be able to share her and her daughters life with. We cheer on our favorite contestant as they confess to the cameras their overwhelming desires just to “get to know her.”  All of the men continuously discuss their reasons for coming on the show as an attempt to find someone to spend their lives with. And if we’re honest, isn’t this what we all want? Someone to know us, love us, and pour the little bits of our soul over. While that search for connection is off base without a Jesus-centered foundation, the desire evidenced on the show points further towards community and the Gospel as the answer for overwhelming cries to be “known” and loved in spite of it.

3. We want to see people find happiness

We do cheer for people to find love and happiness. That is, of course, unless you’re sado-masochistic and find enjoyment in others’ pain. That’s a whole other issue you might need to work out. There’s this sense of being swept up into the magic of another person’s story. We find ourselves relating and cheering for the characters journey to find love, alongside our own. We are storytellers by nature and story-sharers. The Bachelorette creates a story that draws you in (due to brilliant producers) and while that can definitely be unhealthy, it once again attests to the power of stories in humanity.

Some cautions, of course, should be taken in watching the show. It is very easy to get swept up into the subtly and excitements of the show that we forget to examine our hearts. We forget to remind ourselves what is true and what is not. Remember, as you watch The Bachelorette or ANY modern TV show or Chick Flick, what real love defined by Jesus is. Guard yourselves against the fluffy lies of love from the world that taint our perception of the real thing. Remind yourselves of what right action in relationships before God is while relating to characters that are not so far off from ourselves.

Overall, I do respect Emily Maynard much more than previous Bachelors or Bachelorettes. Some of the previous moral critiques of the show, so far, cannot find a firm ground with her. She does not stay at the house with the men, opting to be at home with her daughter and it is rumored that she does not stay overnight with any of the men. Emily is also not afraid to grill the men, asking vulnerably difficult questions about motive and roles. She works hard to protect her daughter and brings the guys into her normal day to day life that they soon could be entering into.

And so yes, I do watch the Bachelorette. I don’t attempt to justify the fact, and perhaps there is more evil than good to be found on the show. But as TV reflects a mirror image to our culture, maybe just maybe, we could use this mirror to reveal our hidden mistaken perceptions about love that we might never admit but exist nonetheless. It is time to have some of our cherished perceptions shattered.

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