The Appeal of Dating Reality Shows

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been forced to watch an episode of the Bachelor/Bachelorette by a significant other and ended up more invested in the results than that person? It happens to the best of us, myself included. #teamCassie&Colton

Now, while I would not have started it without that little push by my girlfriend and her roommate, this quarantine has me trying all sorts of new shows. Netflix has done a good job creating some bingeable shows in a category I would call “Trash TV”: The Circle, Love is Blind, and Too Hot to Handle. Not saying that there is nothing good about these shows but…

Matthew Harry GIF by NETFLIX

We started Too Hot to Handle Wednesday night and had it finished by midday Thursday. The entire time, I kept saying how dumb it was, but I could not look away. It was so obviously edited to make everything as dramatic as possible, yet I was still invested. Same goes with every other show in the category.

Why do people love them so much? In a 2018 interview, Amy Kauffman (who covered the show for the LA Times and penned Bachelor Nation: Inside our Favorite Guilty Pleasure) explains, “I think why we’re so obsessed with the show has something to do with our desire to have fantasy and romance in our life.” I asked my friend Emily about why she loves the show, “It’s not the most thought provoking or intellectual show, but sometimes we just need to see and believe that these romantic happy endings are possible.” Pretty simple right? The Bachelor is all over the top romantic dates and getaways while in real life, dating apps are the most common way to meet people. Going bungee jumping in Vietnam just hits a bit different than a few days of virtual small talk and the occasional meet up for drinks before getting bored and moving on to your next match. Everyone wants that fairy tale story to tell about how they met their significant other, right?

In my opinion, these shows have staying power because people will always be interested in the drama, gossip, and heartbreak. For some reason, seeing Pilot Pete not be able to decide on who he loves more makes me feel better about myself. There’s probably some brain chemical that gets released too but this ain’t no science journal.

Episode 11 Bachelorette Finale GIF by The Bachelorette

The producers of these types of shows only need 3 things: A group of big personalities looking to get famous, a lot of cameras, and a really good editing department. Each show can take it a step further with various schticks to up the ante, but all these shows just bake down to those three things. Oh, and they are always the hottest people around. For those who want a look behind the scenes, check out Unreal on Hulu. It’s a scripted series that follows a producer of a Bachelor-esque show.

Let’s move back to the no sex allowed show for a second. How many people do you think they interviewed before selecting the final ten? These could be the 10 worst people I’ve ever seen. I mean really…

Too Hot To Handle Chloe GIF by NETFLIX

These social experiments add a layer of intrigue to that baseline appeal. How would these extremely shallow people react if they couldn’t have sex? Let’s put ten people in a hotel but they can only converse virtually. Who would be truthful and who would lie? Would you propose to someone based solely on conversation and no idea what they look like? As a viewer, these are all situations we could fantasize about.  

Shows like this have also benefitted from the rise of social media. The allure of being an instagram influencer has encouraged people who normally wouldn’t want to be on these shows to apply. Take Jed for example. He was only there for the clout and managed to keep that a secret the entire show. Sad for Hannah B I know. On the flip side, viewers are now able to keep up with their favorite contestants long after the show airs.

Episode 11 Crying GIF by The Bachelorette

Now, the big question that I want to ask is why are guys so afraid to watch these shows? (Disclaimer, I do not watch them religiously but will pop one on from time to time) Are you afraid the boys are going to give you shit? Are you afraid you’ll like them too much? Spin zone, you now have a new topic of conversation with all those girls you swiped right on. Tired of not being able to come up with innovative date ideas? Make her day by staying in, making some popcorn and a pillow fort, and flipping on her favorite guilty pleasure show. You’ll thank me later.

Until next time…


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