I’m not really big on reality shows, especially dating ones, but it’s been hard to escape the furore during the past few weeks around the finale of this season’s The Bachelor Australia—a show where a number of single women compete for the affections of one eligible bachelor over the course of a number of dates and elimination rounds. Even someone who has never watched the show would be hard-pressed to miss the shock and outrage across social media and news sites.
This year’s bachelor, ex-rugby player and underwear model, Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins, went from being a popular Aussie ‘bloke’ to being labelled as ‘the most hated man in Australia’ when he dropped the bombshell that he wasn’t going to pick either of the two finalists. His decision to leave the show a single man left all the contestants feeling as if he had wasted their time—and much of the audience agreed.
Photo: Channel 10
Since then, we’ve seen multiple interviews with the women involved and his family, and he has even been tracked down while on holiday to Papua New Guinea. It’s possible to feel sympathy for all parties involved, Cummins pointing out that if he couldn’t commit properly it was better to be honest about it; the young women feeling rejected and disappointed that they went looking for love and didn’t find it.
It begs the question, though, is a television show the right place to find love and a relationship? It’s clear that plenty of people think so, judging by the multitude of TV shows built around the idea. There’s The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Take Me Out, Married At First Sight, The Farmer Wants a Wife—the list goes on. Their popularity may be partly fuelled by the human drama that reality TV brings—often with the help of judicious editing—but it also comes from the fact we can all identify with the desire to be loved, and the lengths we will go to find that special someone.
The problem with these sorts of shows is that they reduce love to a competition, and pit people with hopes and dreams against one another. In the artificially created fishbowl of reality television, we don’t get to see who the contestants truly are as much as the person they believe they need to portray in order to win. Many of the shows treat people as a commodity they have to market, rather than a treasure to be unearthed, with a focus on superficial attributes rather than the person underneath.
Wanting to be loved is a universal human need, and there is no shame in searching for it. But perhaps it’s time to return to an older definition of what love truly is, like the famous biblical passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4–7 (‘Love is patient, love is kind…’), rather than taking the word of those making money out of it.