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Love in a Bachelor world

After twenty-six seasons, ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are still going strong.  While the ratings have continuously inched downwards, it’s still the alphabet network’s highest-rated unscripted show.

But why?

The scenario never changes.  One man (or woman) gets a smorgasbord of hand-picked women (or men) to date.  Each week, the menu is whittled down until there’s only a couple left standing.  A marriage proposal is made.  Then a couple months later, they break up and move on to other Bachelor franchise shows.

There has been a same-sex proposal during one of said spin-offs, Bachelor in Paradise.  But even that potential union ended within months.

It’s truly the weirdest competition show on television.  The players give up their jobs and families to compete for weeks and the grand prize is … another person.  Which most end up returning anyway.

The current season is just beginning.  And yet, The Bachelorette, Michelle Young, has already cancelled rose ceremonies and “unceremoniously” sent the men-who-done-her-wrong packing.

Apparently, this is how producers are keeping viewers watching.  Not with steamy and bikini-clad hot tub make-out sessions.  That’s totally 2015

No, this year, we’re watching a proud black woman stand up for herself and kick anyone to the curb if they disrespect her.  Of course, that’s only after the weird group dates – perfect for getting to know someone on a deep and soulful level – along with the usual behind-the-scenes fights between contestants – creating drama that (deep announcer voice) “no one saw coming.”

What the heck is the allure of this show?

There’s a real imbalance of power that has generations of feminists weeping into their burned bras.  Sure, producers claim that any of the romantic candidates can leave any time.  Yet few have.  Why?  Because many of the contestants are only there for fame or to promote their businesses – not for love.

But that’s okay.  The entire relationship is formed in an artificial bubble with wardrobe designers, make-up artists, flattering lighting, and perfectly-toned bodies.  How could this love survive in the real world of bad hair days, familial interference, financial worries, and the occasional flatulence?

Plus, every season, one of the contestants has a controversial backstory that isn’t discovered until a few weeks into the season.  We’ve seen offensive photos and social media posts and even a few criminal charges that should have easily come to light during a basic background check.  And yet, producers claim to be “shocked” that they slipped through the cracks.  Every. Single. Season.

Then there’s the obvious lack of diversity.  (Note: It took twenty-five seasons to cast the first black bachelor.)

The Bachelor(ette) treats love like a formulaic game that can be timed out around commercial breaks and ratings sweeps.  Sure, there have been a handful of marriages and even some babies.  However, many of those have now ended in divorce too.

Perhaps viewers still believe in the magic of true love.  But if twenty-six seasons of TV has taught us anything, it’s that we probably won’t find it in front of ABC’s cameras.