All's Fair: The Power of Romantic Cliche on 'The Bachelorette'
All's Fair: The Power of Romantic Cliche on 'The Bachelorette'
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Call them what you will: cycles, tropes, cliches, platitudes, proverbs, stereotypes, old familiar tunes. Whatever your word for "that same old s**t"... this season of The Bachelorette has held true to form for the series.

Despite the (hollow) promises in promos for any new and exciting drama about girlfriends at home, foot fetishes, and one man's anatomical "failure to launch," looking back on the season, these "twists" have been all but straightened out by the predictable cycles that make up our Bachelor(ette) bread and butter: jealousy, extreme sports, tears, competitive masculine posturing, helicopter rides, and, of course, laughter and (the unrealistic expectation of) love.

Even the words and phrases that come up each season are cyclical. This season on The Bachelorette, when I kept hearing the same words coming out of so many mouths on my TV screen, "here for the right reasons," I wondered what that phrase could actually mean on a reality show where every reason to do anything was suspiciously silly at best, and blatantly self-serving at worst.  The phrase "here for the right reasons" is thrown around each season, but is rarely directly addressed, because doing so would destroy its ambiguous utility. Cliches need to retain a little mystery to work universally.

A few weeks ago, another well-known reality TV adage came to my attention, thanks to the genius editing of Rich of the hilarious blog Fourfour, whose compilation video of people proclaiming "I'm not here to make friends" included Tanner P. from this season of The Bachelorette. Rich's similar supercut from last year's reality shows includes at least one shot from Brad Womack's season of The Bachelor. Any compilations from seasons past (or future) would surely include contestants from The Bachelor(ette) as well, proudly proclaiming "I have enough friends. I didn't come here to make friends. I came here for [insert name of Bachelor]." That's just how it works.

There are more. Lots more. Some words are so ingrained in the genre of reality romance that you'd probably only notice them if they were missing. How many times have we heard a brokenhearted bachelor say, "Everything happens for a reason," or a confused love-seeker vow to "follow her heart" despite what others say? More often than you think, I'll bet. And how about these slogans of the trade?
"We weren't meant to be."
"Not to throw you under the bus, but..."
"I didn't expect to feel this way."
"I have so much love to give."
"There's no one else I'd rather experience this with."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Is there?) Cliches are comforting. Their presence makes The Bachelorette what it is: easy to understand whether you've tuned in all season or just for the finale. Or, like me, if you've actively elected to pay half attention while you lampoon each episode in real time via Twitter. You might miss some words here and there, but really, you know what you're missing. Which means you really aren't missing anything at all.

At this point, the televised-storybook-fairytale premise of The Bachelorette itself is enough of a cultural cliche that any one of us could tune in for less than a minute and correctly guess why so-and-so is repeling down a building with what's-her-face, and what it means that the big headed guy hates "that one with the glasses" because he didn't get a rose. Or whatever. It's really not hard to figure out. And if it is, the producers do a dark good job of explaining and recapping the vitals for us each week.

But the power of cliche on The Bachelorette may go far beyond the now well-known rhetorical old saws that come up each season. Even as she mouths familiar words like "we have such a special connection," or, "I feel like I've known him my whole life," Jillian, this season's Princess Charming, probably doesn't even realize how many much-older romantic adages her televised journey easily exemplifies:

If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they're yours. If they don't, it was never meant to be. (This is the whole crux of the Ed storyline, isn't it?)

All is fair in love and war.
(Whether it's lying, threatening murder, or using subversive tactics to get a girl to take off her shoes, Jake, Wes, David, and Tanner were all warriors in their own quests for love.)

You always hurt the one you love. (By sending them home without a rose...)

Love is blind. (I know you called Jillian that at least once this season!)

Love of money is the root of all evil. (At least when it comes to this season's uber-villain, Wes, and his related "love of publicity.")

Actions speak louder than words. (Jillian may have done well to remember this adage, with Reid, who lacked the words, and Ed, who lacked... the imperative "action.")

Two wrongs don't make a right. (Like trying to find love on TV twice? Or maybe this relates to a dude wearing a tank top with a mankini.)

Marry in haste, repent in leisure. (The whole dang series could be a long-running cautionary illustration of this proverb. Minus Trista, of course.)

Only fools rush in. (And oh, how we love to watch them do it! Though, ironically enough, the "rushing" gets terribly drawn out, usually in a post-finale two-part special.)

I guess that explains why, despite our constant let-downs after what we expect will be sensational twists in this otherwise freeze-dried romantic "drama," we're still here, watching. Ideas become cliches because they work. We like them. They're easy. They really are "tried and true." (There's another one!) And we shouldn't underestimate their power to not only explain, but even guide decisions. Especially when it comes to love, when we are prone to feeling our most confused and helpless.

So the question is: which cliche will Jillian fulfill next week, when she's faced with the decision between adventure, passion, and risk (Kiptyn) or stability, family, and the promise of a ring (Ed)? Will she stand on that Hawaiian vista and think, "It's better to burn out than to fade away," or "Slow and steady wins the race"? Whatever she decides, I'm sure it will work out for her in the end. I mean, everything happens for a reason, you know?

-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
[Source: Fourfour]
Image courtesy of ABC