I received an email from my friend Dan from some foreign Qantas lounge while he was en route to the mysterious Orient. Dan was mortified that only hours after departing our shores and desperate for news of his homeland, he cranked up his laptop and pointed it to New Zealand News websites only to be inundated with breaking news about some woman from a reality TV show who had fallen out of love, or fallen in love and it was someone else who fell out, or something. Whatever had happened, Dan was outraged that when he wanted updates on the dairy prices, the crime statistics and the latest earthquake in Christchurch (a pleasant 4.7), what dominated the website was the outcome of the Bachelor TV reality show.
I thought Dan was just grumpy from air travel stress and just needed a gin and an eye mask, but when I turned on the 6:00pm TV News I understood what he meant. I don’t mind it being on the News, but this is the story that you expect as a bit of light relief at the end of a News bulletin, right alongside “and now, a horse with a two metre foreskin….” Instead, this Bachelor story led the News and the newsreader seemed so genuinely solemn about it. What is it about that Peter guy who often reads the News? He weirdly seems to brighten up with a grin to read particularly gruesome piece of News involving death and destruction. It’s almost as if emoji symbols are part of the cue card system and that someone in the background keeps amusing himself by putting up a happy face instead of a frowny face.
I have seen this Bachelor Show, but only in bite-size bits, as I channel surf looking for either a decent movie, Sherlock Holmes or David Mitchell, Lee Mack and Rob Brydon on Would I lie to you. The little I have seen always brings out the responses like “oh you have got to be joking’; ‘this cannot be for real’; ‘who would humiliate themselves like that?’ ‘What a bunch of airhead skanks’; ‘Who would ever date that silly cow after seeing this?’ or simply ‘What a plonker.’
Not all of these comments were directed at just one episode. I see less than five seconds of each show at a time as I channel surf and the comments are therefore spread out over many shows. So it is a well balanced and consistent reaction based on a valid representation of the entire series.
I know every generation since Socrates has despaired for the next generation and still here we are. Socrates wrote “The children now love luxury. They have contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” 2400 years later, here we are again. Replace ‘chatter’ with ‘twitter’ and I couldn’t have put it better myself, Socrates, old son.
But, and it is a capital BUT, now we have reality TV shows that old Socrates didn’t have to consider. Ok maybe a bit of cooking or house reno reality is tolerable, but when it comes to the intimacy of dating from the ‘getting to know’ a complete stranger to expressing feelings of deep love and commitment? Well doing all that on TV, and in open competition with a harem of other airheads, that is really something else again. That is just cringy. But, what do I care? When I was a lad, we conducted all our embarrassing dating disasters in privacy, with generally no more than one witness whose version of events could always be disputed (nahhh it was me who dumped her, mate).
So let these children worry about it being re-played in HD at inappropriate times in years to come by their children’s friends. I just smiled knowingly and thought of this is as the just the folly of youth. Until I opened the local paper today when I, as usual, scanned the cartoon on the Editorial page. Today’s cartoon featured Donald Trump, not the best cartoon I have seen but, as fate would have it, the slightly exaggerated sweep of his hair directed my eye to a letter-to-the-editor beside it. It was written by a Betty Ferguson of South Dunedin. Her caption in her letter to the editor read “That’s no way to treat a lovely lady“. This was Betty’s response to the outcome of the Bachelor. I just chuckled in mirth as dear old Betty went into bat for the badly-treated ‘Fleur’. She claimed that Fleur Verhoeven, the blue eyed blonde, was ‘inspirational’ while ‘that dark haired (do you really mean dark-skinned Betty old dear?) Naz Khanjani should have been asked to depart from the contest for her behaviour.” And on and on until finally claiming that she was proud of Fleur and wished her every success in the future. I googled and found a photo of Betty Ferguson in the local paper; she is a sweet, little white-haired 92 year old who makes Anzac posies.
As I discovered, the Bachelor drama was all about victory having been snatched from Fleur after the prize-giving. The carefully crafted insinuation by the Bachelor producers’ PR team was that the ‘ex’ (that dark-haired woman!) had humped the groom right after the engagement party. This minor indiscretion caused the groom to question his commitment and call off the wedding. That was a smart move by the Bachelor’s producers and PR team. They get all that drama and publicity for the next season’s show without the cost of filming and airing it.
But oh Betty, you sweet, caring (but possibly slightly bigoted?) little old lady; all swept up in a reality TV show that you thought was actually real. “Badly-treated” was actually “badly-acted”. So it’s not just the young generation who have totally lost the plot. Betty, you have brightened up what was starting to look like a dull day.
And so, Socrates my old cobber, what pearls of philosophy do you have about this Bachelor reality TV show?