Why ABC’s “reality show” The Bachelor is so un-real

Dating in America — an analysis of our collective consciousness from a couples counselor

BY DAVID RICKEY — As the 2010 season of The Bachelor nears its March 1 finale, curiosity about what Americans think dating is really about got the best of me. I am a psychotherapist and spiritual teacher, and hardly an avid watcher of Reality TV, so this posed a bit of a challenge.

My personal routine is getting up at about 5 a.m, and meditating. My day is then an exploration. I seek to heal, contemplate texts in preparation for sermons, which are a form of teaching, and generally try to stay aware.

I occasionally deal with diocesan or national politics, which is an exercise in staying clear about where my true center is. And at night, I read and meditate again. I rarely watch TV — and if I do, it’s CNN or the Food Channel.

Then there’s The Bachelor, an ABC prime-time show in its 14th season that is an example of unenlightened soul-mate searching if there ever was one! As the wbachelor1omen (“girls”) themselves declare in the intro, “We are the most dysfunctional family. . .” And yet they are seeking to win the “heart” of the “Bachelor.” This season he’s an airline pilot named Jake. The routine: he goes on a series of dates with his 25 would-be wives, and eliminates one of the bachelorettes each episode.

The problem is that relationships aren’t about the “hunt,” or the “winning.” And so the drama in The Bachelor completely misses the true purpose of finding a partner. Yes, looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right is about finding happiness, about finding someone who truly loves you — and whom you can truly love — but the “reality” show misses the reality of the “You” that is seeking to be loved.

The fact that only 1 out of the last 17 “connections” actually resulted in marriage underscores the fallacy of the show’s premise.

The Universe has designed human relationships to help us evolve consciously.

So the journey to find “the right person” is much more complex than a TV reality series could possibly show. Watching the present series, you’ll see women competing, and a bachelor playing one woman off against another. Here are exchanges between season 14 characters, Michelle and Rozlyn. Oh, yes, and also Jake:

Michelle: “It’ll kill me if I don’t get that first impression rose. Where I am in my life just now, I deserve Jake . . .  filling in the missing spot . . .”

Rozlyn: “Being a model, it’s really easy to rely on your looks for everything. I’m going to lure him in.”

Jake: “Rozlyn is a really sexy girl, but I’m not just looking for sex. I want a real connection.”

But apparently Jake is taken in by her “strategy.” He gives her a rose.

How often, in reality, does anyone “test drive” another person, to select the best? What strikes me most is how shallow the criteria is by which the bachelor apparently makes a connection to a woman. And, by inference, how shallow the contestants are. “I’ll be devastated if I don’t get a rose.”

There is barely enough time to develop any deep awareness of the other let alone express depth yourself in the show’s dating scenarios. Probably that’s why so many of the resulting couples break up fairly soon after the show is over.

The actual reality of being together, not under a spotlight or in front of a camera, fairly quickly reveals the lack of depth or genuine connection. Or it raises the fact that “happiness” isn’t the measuring stick. What Dr. M. Scott Peck delicately described as the willingness to work together on Self in the context of the Other is the heart of relationship.

love_583We all want to be known and loved. But when we set our hopes for that on one (or any) other person, we’re doomed to fail.

As the spiritual teacher Byron Katie shows: The truth isn’t, “I need him/her to love me.”

Rather, it is: “I need to love me” — then finding another to share in that love, to embody it for us in relationship happens.

I think there is profound truth in this quote from the prophet Jeremiah (1:4)


The word of the LORD came to me saying, ”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. . .”

At our deepest place, we are already known and loved. But we have forgotten that, and then go searching for it outside. It’s like Rumi’s description of hunting all over the house for the necklace, all the time we are already wearing it.

I wonder if a reality show could be popular if the “contestants” first meditated to find that deep place of self-love within, and only then went out to see who was worthy or willing — from their own place of self-love — to embody it and reflect it back. Is it significant that “Saint Valentine” comes from the Latin “valens,” meaning worthy?

Perhaps this Valentines Day, instead of sending chocolates or heart-shaped cards, we should take time out to meditate on, and explore the level of true self-love we have. And then celebrate ourselves — with chocolates if you like.

David Rickey is an Episcopal priest, Soul’s Code co-founder and counselor in San Francisco who does a weekly ministry at a residence for the elderly in northern California. Follow David on Twitter.



If this spoke to you, here are five similar articles.

3 Responses to “Why ABC’s “reality show” The Bachelor is so un-real”

  1. Thank you, David, for a man’s thoughts on the show. I don’t even HAVE broadcast or syndicated TV of any sort, so I had to watch the YouTube clip (which was a dialogue by “Jake” about the show rather than a clip of the show itself).

    In watching NY State’s senators talking about Gay Marriage, The Bachelor was a show smartly referenced by State Senator Diane Savino (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCFFxidhcy0 ) — to paraphrase (she is much more eloquent and far more humorous): what point is there for opponents to Gay Marriage rights to say that somehow legalizing and recognizing gay married couples will somehow ruin marriage when the institution of straight marriage is already essentially a sensationalized train wreck commoditized by reality shows? She makes the point that perhaps 30+ year partnerships in the gay community will teach straight folks to reconsider the value of commitment and connections.

    There is a huge difference between winning someone’s heart and competing for it. The audacity of some “reality shows” really astounds me. The fact that some people license this content truly amazes me.

  2. thank you!

    Valentine’s day can be much more…….

  3. disqus_reMRaeFeBI Reply 04. Feb, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I came across your article while searching if others think The Bachelor is as ludicrously shallow as I do, and I really enjoyed reading it. Many of your points are well-stated and I agree with several (I am a Christian, and from my understanding of why we were made, the level of shallowness of that show is unsurpassed!).