Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Crossing the Line

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the turmoil, tantrums and general exploitation of human emotions that run ramped in reality TV as much as (well, more than) the next person, but even I have my limit. I thoroughly enjoyed when weirdo Billy from Survivor misinterpreted hottie Candace’s words of consolation for “love at first sight” and publicly proclaimed their love as his prize for playing the game; this was one of the best moments of reality TV ever, and its genius was due in large part to the fabulous effect of using others’ misfortunes for entertainment purposes. But tonight, The Bachelor – one of my longstanding favorite shows – crossed a line between what is morally acceptable to exploit for the sake of good TV and what is just plain cruel.

If you missed it, I’ll fill you in quickly. In tonight's finale, Jason – our bachelor who we trust and love implicitly – must choose between Melissa and Molly, who – for the sake of keeping this relatively brief – are both beautiful and sweet and whatnot. After two hours of unnecessary screentime, Jason rejects Molly, cries (as if he’s the one in anguish), and then tells Melissa he loves her and proposes to her. The excitement is not over yet though; as the third hour of the seemingly endless finale is ushered in, thankless host Chris Harrison promises us that this final segment will bring the “most shocking ending in Bachelor history,” so our attention is piqued and we are rapt and excited little viewers.

Guess what happens. Jason tells Chris that – unbeknownst to Melissa – he has had problems with the engagement and is still in love with Molly! Melissa is brought out thinking that the two are merely going to talk about their relationship when – surprise! – Jason publicly dumps her and she is given about seven minutes to vent before being shooed off to allow enough screentime for Jason and Molly’s tearful reunion. Disgusting. The whole thing went beyond being unnecessarily painful to downright inhumane and vicious.

I understand that the entire premise of shows like The Bachelor derives from milking human emotions – mainly pain – for the sake of attracting viewers, but this finale went beyond the limit of what is morally tolerable. The agony that Melissa had to endure went so far past what she bargained for (in which the worse case scenario is going to the final two only to not be picked) that if I were her, I would sue ABC for undue stress and emotional trauma. The fact is that if anyone on the production team cared a bean about the wellbeing of its contestants, they would have spared Melissa the devastation of what happened tonight by having Jason break up with her offscreen (which would still have been just as “shocking”). Deciding to televise the scandal shows that producers for shows like this one have become completely disconnected from what is morally acceptable in favor of treating people like objects who they can freely exploit to achieve the most emotional output for profit.

I’d never thought the day would come when I would throw up my hands and say “enough,” but that day has come. I cannot sit by and watch – thereby validating and tolerating – this sort of abuse. I’m giving up watching future seasons of The Bachelor in hopes that people like me will cause producers to reevaluate their treatment of others and perhaps regain a piece of their long lost morality.


  1. I cannot comment on any of your last four posts. I make this point only as a form of reassurance that I am still a happy reader of the Film Noix, despite being so culturally unwise.

  2. yes, I agree whole-heartedly. But at least Melissa will probably be the next bachelorette!

    also have you seen True Beauty. That's show's worse, and it's not even entertaining.

  3. no, Jillian will be the next Bachelorette. and no, I have yet to discover the genius that is True Beatuy but the promos for it look bananas so maybe i'll check it out.