I don’t watch The Bachelor because I find it heartwarming. I don’t watch it for the drama, nor to be inspired to fall rapidly in love – I’ve done that before; it’s unsustainable. I watch The Bachelor for a raw and nuanced take on the capacity of human resilience (bear with me).
I’ve kept up with the franchise since Sean Lowe’s season back in 2013, though my loyal-viewership-debut ironically contradicts with my thesis statement, considering Lowe is among the more successful leads, having met Catherine Guidici, his wife (and mother of his three children) on the show. What reeled me in was that Sean’s season had a happy ending. At 16, it depicted love just as I thought it should be: joyful and easy, topped with an elaborate wedding and a few timely babies.
What’s kept me hooked is that the plotlines have become far more complex, and unfortunately, relatable. For many, love isn’t as linear a path as it was for Sean and Catherine. Take Hannah Brown, for example, who ended up engaged to a man who’d had a secret girlfriend when he left for filming (not to fall in love, as it turns out, but to bring America’s attention to his musical talent). Two years later, they’ve all split and moved on, and the aforementioned secret girlfriend is engaged to Brown’s younger brother. This story in particular is too insane to be relatable, but the tragedy of it all somehow still resonates.
Lowe’s season aside, the franchise doesn’t teach us that we’re statistically likely to find life partners over the course of twelve heavily-manipulated episodes. Rather, it teaches us that when the relationship that founded our stardom inevitably fails, (I’m using the collective tense here…ambitiously) we’ll be okay. In fact, we’ll be more than okay! We’ll keep the followers and the brand affiliations and we’ll find another love, perhaps even one who doubles as a mega-successful country music star.
I’m not here to conduct yet another case study on “successful” Bachelor couples, those that have defied all odds and stayed together. Instead, I’d like to shine light on the ones that embody a different metric of success: resilience. Let’s stop underselling the couples that united, went through devastating public breakups, and are now both happily cuffed to other people. Hannah Brown and Jed Wyatt. Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Becca Kufrin. Nick Viall and Vanessa Grimaldi. Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell. Andi Dorfman (as of just last week!!) and Josh Murray.
Don’t get me wrong: I want to see the process work, and I’m happy when it does; I believe in Matt and Rachel (though still holding my breath on Nayte and Michelle). So I’m not a monster, but an optimistic realist. Like the rest of you, I was sad to hear of Tayshia and Zac’s split, but I think they can both still win! We just have to broaden the definition of success beyond making it work on the first (broadcasted) try.
It’s all a metaphor. As viewers, we see ourselves in Bachelor Nation (we also sometimes see Bachelor Nation in Bachelor Nation). They’re just like us! We’ve dumped, we’ve been dumped, and we shouldn’t lose hope. Love prevails! If Ben Higgins can go through heartbreak on national tv, find love on national tv, break up with said love on national tv, and then get married to a beautiful woman he did not meet on national tv, what does that mean for us untelevised mortals? We, too, are resilient. We’ll make it out of the notorious and metaphorical blue shirt episode. This isn’t the end.
All this is to say that to the dismay of many close friends and loved ones, I’m never giving up on this franchise. The Bachelor has taught me that what seem like major losses can end up being wins, although I’m definitely playing the long game.