Powered by i.TV
September 23, 2014

'The Bachelor' Experiment

by Stephanie Earp, posted Feb 9th 2010 10:00AM

I have a terrible confession to make. I've been watching 'The Bachelor' this season.

I know, I know. Almost every week in this column, I bemoan the fact that there's very little that's good on TV. I beat up on shows like 'Lost' and 'Californication' and then spend my Monday nights watching what is surely one of the most atrocious things on the air. I don't know what excuse I can offer, except to tell you that 'The Bachelor' is a fascinating piece of theatre, and I think it does tell us something about human nature.

I liken it to the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, performed in 1971. That project put college students into two roles: prisoner and guard. The guards were not allowed to physically hurt the prisoners, but were given pretty much free reign to do whatever else they could think of to make the prisoner uncomfortable. The experiment, which was supposed to last two weeks, was cut short after six days, because the students adapted to their roles too well. While the findings of the study are still considered controversial, they are frightening. We like to think only evil people can torture others - the Stanford Prison Experiment seemed to prove anyone could.
I have a terrible confession to make. I've been watching 'The Bachelor' this season.

I know, I know. Almost every week in this column, I bemoan the fact that there's very little that's good on TV. I beat up on shows like 'Lost' and 'Californication' and then spend my Monday nights watching what is surely one of the most atrocious things on the air. I don't know what excuse I can offer, except to tell you that 'The Bachelor' is a fascinating piece of theatre, and I think it does tell us something about human nature.

I liken it to the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, performed in 1971. That project put college students into two roles: prisoner and guard. The guards were not allowed to physically hurt the prisoners, but were given pretty much free reign to do whatever else they could think of to make the prisoner uncomfortable. The experiment, which was supposed to last two weeks, was cut short after six days, because the students adapted to their roles too well. While the findings of the study are still considered controversial, they are frightening. We like to think only evil people can torture others -- the Stanford Prison Experiment seemed to prove anyone could.

We also like to think that no beautiful, liberated woman would debase herself for the attentions of one decent-looking male, but 'The Bachelor' proves that any woman could.

You see, my theory is that people don't want what they want - they want what other people want. If any of the women on this season of 'The Bachelor' met Jake Pavelka in normal circumstances, I believe they might find him attractive, charming and maybe even interesting. But upon discovering he was dating other women, or that he has a tendency to say exactly what you expect to hear and nothing more, many would likely move on to other candidates. 'The Bachelor' - by putting all these women together in the same house, constantly exposed to each others' professions of love and desire for Jake, creates a false sense of competition for the object in question: namely, Jake.

It doesn't work on all of them - this season, Michelle broke the 'rules' by asking Jake to basically promise her she was in for the long haul, and when he refused, she took a runner. In the context of the show, she seemed totally crazy. But in the context of actual life, she's probably the sanest. (Okay, that feels like a stretch when talking about wild-eyed Michelle, but hear me out.) In real life, we would applaud a woman who asked the guy she was seeing to tell her honestly how he felt about her. If he refused to answer, or continued seeing other women, we would advise such a woman to leave him. On 'The Bachelor,' we roll our eyes and laugh at her.

Of course, the contestants on 'The Bachelor' have other desires besides winning the game - they want to be on TV, they are hoping to escape dead-end jobs in telemarketing and sales for a glamourous life in L.A, maybe even score their own season of 'The Bachelorette.' But whatever their ambitions when they arrive, most of them adapt quickly to an atmosphere in which winning the game is the goal.

You'd think at least winning would be pretty clear-cut, but a previous 'Bachelor' couple have me flummoxed. On March 8, Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney are getting married, Trista-and-Ryan style, on ABC. Jason, Bachelor Number 13, initially threw Molly over for Melissa, asking the latter to marry him on the season finale. By the time the 'After The Rose' special was filmed, he had changed his mind, reverting to Molly, who agreed to give him a second chance. To viewers, this all played out in a matter of minutes, as the special aired right after the finale. I have a million questions about this, obviously. Like, what do Molly's parents think of this? Why on earth did she agree to marry this guy? Did Melissa put a curse on Jason? I would have. Would ABC pay for my wedding?

But I think the real question on everyone's mind is obvious: Who won the game? Melissa or Molly?

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

Follow Us

From Our Partners