Standing in line at H-E-B the other day, I remarked to my wife that I had no idea who any of the people featured on the covers of various gossip magazines were. Now, granted, I'm a dude who doesn't pay that much attention to celebrity news, but still, I have enough knowledge of Hollywood to recognize Angelina Jolie or Matthew McConaughey. So when I glanced across the conveyer belt at US Weekly and the other assortment of register magazines, I had to ask my wife who the hell these people were. "That's the Bachelorette," she responded.
Every damn cover was some woman who decided to try and find love on a reality TV show with the exception of People, which had some shirtless, six-packed dude from True Blood. Amazingly, him I knew.
Now, before I dissect this phenomenon, it should be noted that I do not blame the magazines or websites that feature these pseudo-celebs. They are simply doing the job we Americans want. If there is anyone to blame, it's us. Like most publications, they are simply reporting on what their readership demands.
Fact is, we seem to have an obsession with the people who go on these reality shows and what happens to them. I'm not sure if it says more about our collective boredom or our view of what love and relationships are supposed to be that we pay such close attention to people who decide to try and find "love" on a television show. Probably a little of both.
But, even the shows don't seem all that odd to me. Going back to the '70s, there were game shows like The Dating Game and The Newlywed game. Dating websites, relationship experts and advice books represent billions of dollars of revenue every year. The only thing we appear to like more than dating is watching other people do it, and in the case of reality shows, really attractive people.
All of that seems at least marginally reasonable, voyeurism being what it is, but following these contestants around after the fact and critiquing their every move is just bizarre. This story continues on the next page. Look, it's tough enough to maintain a relationship that begins the traditional way, drunk off your ass in some bar filled with strangers. But, amplify the pressure through a contest broadcast to millions of people and it's a miracle any of these couples don't end the show with a Hunger Games style fight to the death.
I cannot imagine what would possess people (besides money) to put their love lives on display for the world, but it clearly captivates an audience and what happens after the season ends drives magazine sales to such a degree that nearly all of the ones that cover this sort of thing have at least one of the previous (or current) bachelors or bachelorettes on the cover every couple of weeks.
I guess recaps of shows every week don't seem that out of the ordinary, but who cares what happens to these people once the season is done? Apparently, lots of people. From reports of cheating (shocker) to possible pregnancies (dear God) to wedding plans, it is all on display every week on magazines and reported on gossip websites and TV shows.
Do people really think that this is a good way to find a life partner or are they just fascinated by the train wreck potential? I certainly don't have any answers, but if no one paid attention, the shows wouldn't be hits and get the coverage they do. I'd like to say I understood, but I'm clearly not their target demographic.
Maybe the contestants will find love. More likely, they'll just get paid and Americans will stay glued to the results either way, for better or mostly worse.