By Rianna Shoemaker
It is 8:00pm. I have just arrived home from an 8+ hour day at the law firm where I work, and my housemate is sprawled comfortably across our sofa like a content cat. What’s on the box? The latest episode of The Bachelor where the dude has selected a woman named Elly (Elle? I haven’t kept up) to be his current lady.
‘Oh my god, no way!’ my housemate exclaims when he makes his decision.
‘What, what is it?’ I ask as I parkour my way over the sofa to sit beside her.
‘I had no idea that was going to happen,’ she says, as Elly is presented an overflowing bouquet. ‘I wish my boyfriend would buy me flowers like that.’
‘You know it’s all scripted, right?’ I say. ‘In real life they’re probably not even together.’
‘Yeah, I know, but it’s not about whether it’s real or not. The fantasy of the perfect couple is why people watch the show. Because everyone wants what they think The Bachelor has.’
Hours after our conversation as I lie in bed reading, my housemate’s words continue to haunt me. Why does everyone want the sort of relationship that is depicted on The Bachelor? What is it about that representation that makes people sigh and swoon? And more importantly, what does our infatuation with such television shows say about us as a people and culture?
Admittedly, I am not a big television watcher. Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than indulging in an episode of Jane the Virgin after a big day of work. But having grown up in a house where the soapbox was constantly droning to provide some ‘background noise’, I was adamant that I wanted my bedroom to be screen-free when I moved out of home. In my experience technology is an unforgiving black hole that spits you back out with an abundance of stress because you spent three hours watching cute dog videos instead of studying. But I’m not merely opposed to the 1984-esque existence of technology, it’s also the content itself.
It baffles me that people not only watch but enjoy The Bachelor despite its regular manifestations of sexism, racism and heteronormativity. The Bachelor boasts one of the highest number of lawsuits for a show in screen history (we all remember the Paradise scandal two years ago) and yet is currently on its 21st season with no sign of stopping anytime soon.
Such reverence extends far beyond television. A similar doting exists in relation to the Royal Family of England (NB: hereafter the term ‘Royals’ will refer to the British family). I would like to point out that many countries have monarchies, including the Netherlands, Bhutan, and Monaco, but these all pale in comparison to the fame of the Brits. Idol-worshipping has existed for centuries, first originating with the Ancient Romans and Greeks, but it seems to have reached fever pitch in this decade. The Kingfisher Resort and Spa on Fraser Island even uses the Royal Family as marketing material. An email blast I received read, ‘Live like Royals and if you’re lucky you might even get a glimpse of one’. We have reverted the Royals to their most basic and animalistic state of existence, which is not only demeaning for them but reflective of our lack of care for mental health.
We live in a Right Now society. Food, activities, social media all occurs in the present. There is barely cause for delay, so when we are forced to wait, we find it testing on the patience. I’m not suggesting that we should all become heart surgeons or human rights lawyers and try to Give Back to society as much as we possibly can. As much as I try to always be a good human being, I also recognise the importance of taking time for myself, even if its selfish.
However, studying at university has taught me to look at life with a critical eye rather than a cynical one and ask myself questions like, ‘why do I aspire to be like Emma Watson?’ or ‘why do I spend $30 on Acai bowls every Monday?’ in order to foster improvement.
Currently in Australia youth mental health is at an all-time low. One in seven experience a mental health condition and one in fourteen experience an anxiety disorder. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be born into royalty. The responsibility alone would be insurmountable, not to mention the constant publicity and lack of autonomy over your own life. But in my opinion, we all need to take a step back and re-evaluate exactly how much praise we’re heaping on one family and devote more time on helping each other.