Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ben Higgins likes Kierkegaard (and other reasons S. 20 of #TheBachelor fills me with glee)

Season 20 of The Bachelor starts in January, featuring Benjamin Higgins, aka “The Perfect 10...I mean, BEN.” Ben is handsome, kind, polite, endearingly unassuming about his desirability. He loves Donald Miller. He looks damn fine in flannel according to his Twitter header (hey Ben, wanna go for a hike sometime?). He’s a “software salesman,” and, while I am surprised to find that is still an actual thing a person can do, it does sound like a real job, unlike what a lot of Bachelors and Bachelorettes claim to do (Chicken Enthusiast, anyone?). And if all of this wasn’t enough to fill me with glee in anticipation of Season 20, our boy Ben knows a thing or two about Kierkegaard, (and shares my love of pizza):

I mean, okay, I’m not sure he actually knows what’s he’s talking about, but I can totally help him out on that part.

In all seriousness, there are a lot of things I find fascinating about The Bachelor franchise. The show has a crappy track record with respect to how it portrays sex and sexuality, particularly the consistent double standards, as Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of The Bachelorette highlighted (three cheers for Kaitlyn, best Bachelorette ever!). Just as intriguing to me though are the bizarre ways that matters of faith are portrayed on the show -- or not portrayed, as the case may be. The conversations between cast members that make it to television are, quite often, totally boring Define The Relationship talks, whereas much of the really important stuff that anyone would talk about with a potential mate -- or even just a boyfriend or girlfriend -- is left on the cutting room floor.

This season will focus on a man who was in the top three on one of the most dramatic (workin’ on my Chris Harrison here, y’all) seasons the franchise has ever had. And here’s where it gets really good: the survivor of all that drama has also sent a consistently guarded yet intentional message that he is, in some way, shape, or form, religious. Kierkegaard, Don Miller, international volunteer work? I mean, seriously, his Twitter bio is “sweetly broken, wholly surrendered” -- if that’s not thinly veiled Jesus language I don’t know what is. I need to write about this.

If you’re late to the party, let me fill you in: I love watching the Bachelor. It’s not a “guilty pleasure,” and I don’t do it ironically, nor am I naive about the fact that the show is in many respects totally ridiculous. (Newsflash: modern romance is ridiculous. Have you heard of Tinder?) On the contrary. I love that The Bachelor is so ridiculous. How else am I supposed to get through the darkest months of the year? I need a beautiful man to watch, I need archaic gender norms to critique, and I need a LOT of champagne.

As a writer, I am interested in storytelling. I am fascinated by the ways we try to narrate our desires, to fit our lives to archetypal storylines, to live our own modern fairy tales. I’m equally fascinated by the decision to reject those storylines. There is a thin line between fiction and reality in both the creative nonfiction craft that I practice, and in these television series we call “reality,” and while I watch the show for enjoyment, I’m incapable of turning off my intellectual curiosity. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” wrote Joan Didion, in a very different context. I want to dissect the stories we tell ourselves about love.

So here’s the pitch: Do you like snarky feminist commentary? Do you like frivolous reality television and/or people who overthink it? Do you think I am funny and/or want to support my writing? Well, you’re in luck.

I’ll be writing a weekly column, via Patreon and on here my blog, recapping each and every episode of Season 20 along with sharp, witty analysis of everything the show reveals about semi-fictional modern romance and, hopefully, the religious over-or-undertones of Ben’s season. I work best when I have clear deadlines and structure, not to mention an eager audience, so I anticipate that this format will be ideal for this project.

Those who have followed my weekly feminist live tweets during past seasons claim that my tweets are better than the show itself. So, what I am saying is, you’re gonna want to subscribe to this business. We’re talking brilliant cultural commentary, my friends. Hit the link, choose how much you wanna pitch in per column, and off we go.

I can’t wait for this amazing journey to begin.