Does lasting love exist? Absolutely. But not on reality TV.
Don’t get us wrong—we’re hopeless romantics here at HC. But the success rate for shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette—25 contestants vying for the attention of one man or woman and receiving a rose to carry them into the next round—is not too hot. We’re talking only four lasting couples out of 23 finale match-ups on the two shows combined. Call us crazy, but for all that talk about finding true love, it seems like more and more of the couples are finding themselves in the break-up tabloids.
“What we have is a Trojan horse, the packaging on the outside, is a mere canopy of counterfeit feelings. It's all show with little, if any, substance,” says Dr. Ivan Young, who was one of the relationship experts The Associated Press contacted after Jake Pavelka (The Bachelor, season 14) and Vienna Girardi’s nasty break-up. “It’s the American fantasy that everyone wants to be in love.”
Emily Maynard, our most recent Bachelorette and single mom from Charlotte, North Carolina (anyone else find it hard to read that without hearing her accent?) is no stranger to this fantasy. She was engaged to Brad Womack during his second season of The Bachelor, only to have her hopes of true love transformed into a public, heartbreaking split. And while she and her new fiancé Jef make a heart-warming pair, the question remains: why did she return to the very show that put her in tears?
“Shows like this have very little to do with someone finding real and authentic love,” Dr. Young says. “They’re a stepping stone for a hidden agenda. Most participants are far more interested in breaking a brand name into Hollywood by being a reality star.”
Unfortunately, this season of The Bachelorette has taught us that Emily is no actress (see ‘Romeo and Juliet’ group date or any time the producers try to feed her informational lines about the surrounding culture and customs). Not to mention the fact that there’s little room for ulterior motives because of the pressure of this season’s very public finale—the out-of-place cheers of a live studio audience in the background intermingled with Jef and Emily’s intimate proposal. And then, seeing Jef, Emily, and Ricki practically skip off the set together made us realize just how much Jef is going to have to stick to his guns—because America is watching to make sure he doesn’t break two hearts at once.
But if we extract cynicism from the picture and assume that Emily, Jef, and the rest of the guys were there “for the right reasons,” where has ABC Fam gone wrong in creating the perfect love story?
1. Taking the “reality” out of reality TV.
Fiji, Bermuda, Curacao – what do these places all have in common? Paradise. And at one point or another, some Bachelorette has taken her gaggle of men to these exotic locations to fall in love—and quite frankly, you’d have to be an unfeeling, soulless rock not to get a serious case of goo-goo eyes after being whisked away to your very own private island. But the problem is that these places don’t help you to determine who will be the best partner in marriage. According to Dr. Young, they create a manufactured, romanticized environment that takes away from finding real love—or real anything—on the show. “Any time the environment supersedes the people in it, there’s very little chance of reality taking root,” he says.
So what happens once the show is over and all the glitz and glam is taken away? Nineteen failures out of 23 attempts at love—that’s what happens.
Emily got it right during her one-on-one date with Ryan—baking cookies at home for daughter Ricki and her friends—and then again during the group date where she had the guys play with the small kids and speak with her best girlfriends. The problem with the show in general is that there are hardly ever any "real-life" situations—deciding who will do which chores tonight, spending time with a child, etc. Given the time constraints, it seems that real dates like this, which test the guys’ “grace under pressure” would be much more effective in determining husband material than putting them in perfect situations where everyone is bound to display his or her best on-camera behavior.