The Bachelorette: Too Much Talk of Fact vs. Fiction At the Cost of Fantasy
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
If there's one thing that stood out during last night's Bachelorette, it's the very apparent lesson that the producers learned since last season's Mesnick debacle: contestants as villains are all well and good, but when the Bachelor(ette) looks like the bad guy (or girl)? That, my friend, makes for a good story. And great TV.

All one need do last night was survey Twitter during the 2-hour episode to see the evidence that Jillian is slowly starting to surpass Wes as the season's Big Bad. It was one thing when she was hearing vague rumors about a contestant having a girlfriend. We called her "naive," maybe even "clueless," sure. But who could really blame her then for keeping him around without any hard proof?

That was then. Now, after our beloved, all-American hunk Jake, forsaken in last week's episode, triumphantly returned to tell Jillian that Wes "definitely" has an at-home honey, only to watch her turn around and give Wes a rose anyway, it's pitchfork-raising time in Bachelorette-ville. 
"Jillian is STUPID!" seems to be the most common rally cry. "She deserves Wes now!" is just as prominent.

Forget "happily ever after." It seems some viewers' only hope now is for the fairy-tale to turn on its head once again. For an "unhappy" ending to teach the clueless, well-intentioned but sorely misguided protagonist a well-needed lesson about love.

In other words, they're hoping she'll out-Mesnick Mesnick.

Which, conveniently enough, is exactly what the producers are hoping for as well. How else are they supposed to keep those ratings up?

Every season, though it seems to be happening with more frequency than ever before, reports and rumors surface about the editing and flat-out fictitiousness of The Bachelor series. Which makes sense, because every season the producers have the weighty responsibility of making their rather formulaic program more interesting than the season before. And you can't just put 30 rather attractive and mostly well-intentioned people in a room and guarantee that sort of turnover. Storylines need to be planned. Drama needs to be incited. Characters need to be molded.

And, of course, because we don't live in vacuums, we viewers know this. We more than know it--we relish it, this rare opportunity we get each week to watch real people put in such unrealistic situations. It affords us that perfect medium of dramatic distant. As neither true actors nor true representations of themselves, we can both relate to these people and write them off without breaking a sweat. The producers do all the work for us. taking these real, 3-dimensional humans, with all their complex motivations and feelings, and flattening each one, through the amazing power of editing, into a single-serving label (the freak, the stud, the perfect one, the kid, the villain). All the easier for us to tear apart.

We know this. The people on the show know this. Even Wes, who's had to suffer the worst of this character-flattening this season, knows it.

"I could have gone on there and been like Billy Graham, and they could have made me look however they wanted to make me look," he told a radio station in Texas earlier this week. "I think people need to remember that it is a TV show, and there has to be ratings."

Even his mom knows it. "[She] understands that it is entertainment," he said.

And we all know it, too, though we suspend that knowledge every week for the sake of the show, and our own enjoyment. Because buying into it... that's the fun.

Do I really think Wes is an evil human being? Of course not. But will that stop me from Photoshopping his face onto Voldemort's body to get some laughs? Sorry, no. I am the first to admit that I not only engage in the Bachelorette bashing, but as a blogger, I encourage it and feed it. That's where the interest is. If you're watching The Bachelorette and not embracing the drama, then what are you doing? Telling others not to believe what they see, because it's all fake anyway, so who really cares? I've tried that before, and it's not nearly as entertaining or engaging for anyone. You're telling them what they already know, and rather ruining the fun while you're at it.

So the problem with this season's Bachelorette isn't the fact that there is storyline-making and editing going on here. Nothing new.

The problem isn't even that more and more viewers are turning against our protagonist, Jillian. While it's a little sad, it still makes for a good story, and her character is certainly still salvagable.

The problem (or rather, MY problem) is that, this time around, there seems to be SO MUCH production, and so much anger centered on that level of production, that even those of us who would rather pretend that everything on this show is 100% real, no longer can. Somewhere along the line, the show became more about its own scripted-ness than about romance.

Off screen, it was enough that most of the gossip we heard was regarding the fakeness of the show: about Jake being an actor, about potential contestants being approached with money to appear, and about Ed leaving for false "work reasons" and then "surprisingly" returning, all scripted out.

But on screen, it was a similar story: so much emphasis on contestants seeking fame. So many clearly set-up scenarios and confrontations. So many (last night especially) stilted patches of dramatic dialogue. An entire hour of the program dedicated to smoking out a liar who wanted to exploit the whole charade for publicity, cutting short the hometown dates of those contestants still immersed in the fairytale. The fantasy became too self-aware, painfully intertwined with the ugly falsity of reality TV.

So, as much as I'd like to raise this imaginary pitchfork and rabble rouse with the best of you about Wes's dark motives and Jillian's doe-eyed foolishness... thanks to the show, I cannot ignore the fact that neither of these people on screen, or these traits, are real (or fake) enough to merit it. Which makes my imaginary pitchfork a little too heavy to lift at the moment.

-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer

Image courtesy of ABC