Crossing the Reality Line and Why I Don't Think You Can Watch 'The Bachelor' Now, Even to Make Fun of It

3 years ago

Oh, man. Here we go again. Were the producers at ABC's The Bachelor jealous of the social media attention Duck Dynasty received, or was Juan Pablo going rogue when he called gay people "more perverse in a sense?"

You can read about his comments, made at an ABC press event, here. An audio of the interview is also available. 

Image: ABC Medianet

I'm cynical, deeply cynical about this news. I think this "exclusive" is a social media stunt orchestrated in the same way every move on shows like this are orchestrated, in the same way The Bachelor producer Elan Gale faked his viral Elan v. Diane Twitter hoax last year.

Juan Pablo's handlers know him inside and out. Imagine what the confidentiality agreements for reality shows look like. If thinking gay families were perverts were his views and the network didn't want press about them, he would be forbidden to comment on LGBT issues and press at their event wouldn't be allowed to ask.  My money is on Juan Pablo's comments being at worst a complete set-up and at best something that was recklessly allowed to happen for gain. 

The Duck Dynasty kerfuffle exploited the religious right's racism and views on homosexuality. ABC's contractual star Juan Pablo is exploiting a really painful historical and cultural divide in Latino communities, communities that are working just as hard as others to mend the damage of oppression against LGBTQ people. If this is a stunt, it's reprehensible to falsely stir up this debate. If it was an unguarded utterance by one person, it's still horrible that it was allowed to happen, even if ABC eventually distanced themselves from it.

ABC still has a lot to answer for, but so do viewers. Why is a crap television star-of-the-moment even in a position to derail our attention? To use their vernacular, by now we know that reality television producers and the networks and sponsors who support them are the standard bearer in being unreal in the pursuit of "not here to make friends." They are willing to throw all of us "under the bus." They know at the end of the day, it's all about ratings or you don't get the rose.

In this case, it doesn't matter. Whether a stunt or a gaffe by one person who doesn't deserve a microphone, in this instance a rose by any other name is hate. 

Fans who truly follow this show because they believe it celebrates love and romance in an inspiring way? You'll have to decide if you can accept hurtful views like Juan's in your home along with with all of that pre-packaged swoonable love from a shirtless lovah and his dozens of almost-fiancees.

The bigger question is what will the other fans do? What about those who watch the show to make fun of it, to laugh at the obvious games, pretentious posing and microwaved romance? It's hard to tell what portion of reality show viewers are hate-watching, cringe-watching, or watching in order to join in the ironic Tweeting fun that surrounds impossibly stupid shows like The Bachelor, but the social buzz for The Bachelor is big. 

Here's the problem. Ironic viewing is still a traffic hit. That might be a fine exchange in general, with a hate-watcher not caring if a detergent brand gets a commercial view in exchange for some lowbrow fun. We all agree to play the fake game. But when these shows cross the line into hate territory in their machinations for buzz, I don't think in good conscience you can play along any longer as an ironic viewer. It just got real. 

The thorn-to-petal ratio just killed that rose. 

That's where I'm at with these shows and their pot-stirring. There's a line. Hang out north of that line, and I'm fine with each of us picking our own hashtag-able wasteland for an hour or two a week. But cross it, and the bottom falls out of the fun. The Bachelor just crossed the line.

What about you? Are you still willing to celebrate Juanary? 

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