I have two guilty pleasures I don’t much like admitting: ABC’s “The Bachelor” and Kiera Cass’s “The Selection.” Both are pop culture phenomena that I’ve come to enjoy late in the game. I resisted watching the Bachelor for YEARS because I felt like the premise was ridiculous. How could you be expected to find love over a 2 month period with a carefully selected group of 25 women (selected not for compatibility but for TV ratings) and cameras around you all the time? I felt like it was embarrassing for the “contestants” and a really easy way to screw up your life if you’re the Bachelor in question.
I refused to read “The Selection” by Kiera Cass for much the same reason. When I first discovered it’s existence (which was actually before the first book had even been published), I remember reading the synopsis and thinking that it was a Cinderella-ized version of the Bachelor with undertones of other dystopian novels like “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood for the young adult genre. Although I loved “The Handmaid’s Tale,” I didn’t think I could handle what I assumed would be another “heroine falls in love with her captor” story like Lauren DeStefano’s The Chemical Garden Trilogy (which I did actually enjoy). Not that I don’t like that storyline, I just felt like with the Bachelor-like premise, it might make me go insane.
But then there was Juan Pablo’s season of “The Bachelor” which seems to have proven to be the worst one so far because Juan was, well, an attention-seeking jerk that wasn’t in tune with his emotions at all. And that’s the first season of “The Bachelor” that I actually watched! Why? I think it was like when you see something horrific like a car accident that you want to look away, but it’s so horrifying that you can’t. It’s this sick desire to watch how everything plays out. With the encouragement of my mother (who’s been a longtime Bachelor viewer), I watched a large portion of Juan Pablo’s season, enough to get a better idea of the format, become exhausted by the girls’ incessant bickering and competition, and see how scandal was always highlighted. But in the end, it really was a show that I grew to love to hate. I enjoyed watching it just because I could make fun of the obvious clichés and irrationality of decisions and the supposed “reality” portrayed (e.g. Chris Soules season started this past Monday and he’s shown speeding off from Iowa on his motorcycle toward Los Angeles. Yes, I’m sure he traveled there on his bike. *eye roll*) And as Chris Soules’s season started recently, even though I had sworn I wouldn’t watch it, I kept finding myself drawn back to the TV on Monday night for the agonizingly long, 3-hour (LIVE!) premiere.
In the time between Juan Pablo’s and Chris Soules’ Bachelor seasons, I read Kiera Cass’s The Selection Series (and watched “Bachelor in Paradise” and parts of “The Bachelorette.”) I finally gave in to my resistance and said “What the heck?” before borrowing it from the library. I tore through the first novel “The Selection” and then obliterated “The Elite” in two days. It took a month or so before “The One” was available to borrow, but I read that one in two days too. The first book I loved, the second book I was disappointed in, and the third book I loved until the very rushed and confusing end, but overall I’m happy I took the time to read the series. (And am now excitedly awaiting “The Heir.”) Because it’s fluff, and fluff is okay in certain doses.
Like I had expected “The Bachelor” and “The Selection” are actually very similar. I will say that I have a little more faith in the intentions and projected future of America and Maxon’s fictional relationship in “The Selection” than the real-life relationships of couples brought together via Bachelor Nation TV shows which makes me a little sad. They also show how extremely competitive and catty women can be. And how that drama women create in fighting over a man is what people find most interesting about the process. At least 75% of “The Bachelor’s” airtime is devoted to women fighting over the Bachelor while a mere 25% actually shows the Bachelor going on dates, connecting with women and what not (NOTE: These are my made-up, projected statistics). As the women’s pool dwindles throughout the season, you do get more “relationship time” but the drama is always what takes precedence. And the same goes for “The Selection.” Either Kiera Cass binge-watched a lot of “The Bachelor” before writing The Selection Series or she really knows people because the novels center around the insecurities and drama that having a group of women compete for one man’s heart creates. Also, why does it make girls stupid? Girls who would normally be able to hold a genuine, intelligent conversation act like imbeciles when faced with the challenge of making a man love them. Maxon tells America repeatedly throughout the series that “It’s her! Only and always her!” but anytime anything remotely puts this into question she spirals into a hole of defeat convinced it’s all a lie and then does something stupid that gets her in trouble or danger. And we don’t even need to talk about “The Bachelor.” I don’t know if they purposely cast girls with little common sense or they just get blinded by the lights and cameras and can’t think straight anymore so they start babbling incoherently about onions. Either way it’s an embarrassment sometimes.
But in the end, it is a small facet of reality. Don’t put women together to compete for one guy’s affections, it doesn’t end pretty for anyone even if there is a “happily ever after” in the conclusion. Moral of this story though is that a little pop culture fluff never hurt anyone. Sometimes you can learn more about society when you let your staunch expectations go a little lax (I know I did. And I don’t know if I can unsee what I saw.) Other times you find something that you thought was going to be terrible is actually quite enjoyable and you find it has its own kind of merit. But mostly, don’t regret indulging yourself in a guilty pleasure every once in a while.
Also, check out my book tube review of Kiera Cass’s “The Selection” and “The Elite” on my YouTube channel below!