Had my mother not informed me that I somehow knew The Bachelor, I would have never considered watching such a program. When she first told me about it I was confused because I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I thought she was implying that someone was getting married as she continued to repeat, “You didn’t tell me you knew the bachelor!” Apparently my brother mentioned to her that I was cool with The Bachelor in high school and that he attended Sanderson High. Without hesitation, I immediately knew who she meant and erupted into a hysterical fit of obnoxious laughter.
It was the most random news I’d heard all year. More random than the white siege on the Capitol building, but just as hilarious.
My familiarity with the first black Bachelor--The Blachelor--Matt James is one of many moons ago. Memories that consist of typical high school antics of adolescence. We attended different schools but shared a pretty close social proximity, crossing paths at parties and gatherings on a fairly frequent basis. He essentially was just one of the homies, but above all else he was unanimously loved by everyone who knew him, or of him.
Many of the kids that I partied with back then went to middle school with Matt James, and the admiration for him was universal across many of the surrounding school districts.
He was an exceptionally talented athlete, so he received praise on that front. He was significantly taller than most, so he was always visible. He was black, handsome, and nonthreatening, so white people loved him.
But beneath the mystique, Matt James was a pretty chill, silly kid with a good sense of humor, and was generally nice to be around. And even though he was the epitome of popularity, he was pretty humble about the adoration he received, and ultimately people simply enjoyed basking in the presence of such a loved individual.
Whenever he would show up to a function it was like he was a local celebrity.
“Matt James is here,” people would say with sincere excitement.
I can see it so clearly in my mind, and without fail he was always greeted with the love of the people. And you’d look over and there he’d be, just standing there, towering over everyone, smiling and relishing in the attention. So, when my mother told me that I knew The Bachelor, she couldn’t remember his name, but I knew it had to be Matt James.
The last summer I actually saw the man and spent time with him must’ve been around ten years ago during a time where we’d all been fairly fresh into our college years and had returned home to live with our parents while school was out. I haven’t kept up with him since then or established any sort of contact, and it had been a very long time since I’d even thought about the name Matt James, so when I got the big news about how this hometown celebrity was transcending status to become a national celebrity, I thought it’d be pretty interesting to see a kid that used to show up at parties I threw when my mother was out of town participate on a reality television show. And for him to be at the center of attention for such a program made the appeal of tuning in that much weirder and fascinating.
I was curious to see what he was like now, what he was up to, but more importantly, how he’d present himself on TV, and how he’d carry an entire season of a show like The Bachelor.
I had never seen The Bachelor before, and haven’t sat down in front of a screen to witness the entertainment of a reality TV show since the mid-00s, so, I knew that I was in for a good laugh because the format of these type of shows are legitimately insane, but the best part for me was going in knowing that I had the special privilege to watch someone that I used to know be apart of something extremely cringe-worthy.
But there was no way that I could’ve prepared for just how psychotic this show truly was and is.
My experience with the 25th season of The Bachelor was surreal from the beginning.
I had always questioned the sincerity of reality in shows like this, and from the first frame of him, I could tell that something about Matt James was different.
It was his demeanor.
The way he spoke.
It was like he had been groomed and sanitized to present as perfect and flawless. It was almost as if he’d been coached by the producers of the show about how to be on his best behavior while on camera because there was a stark contrast between the person I’d known in my teen’d youth and the person I saw on that screen.
And of course, with ten years time, it’s safe to assume that people grow, mature, and change, but there was an entire lack of personality in this Bachelor version of Matt James.
It was like he was scared or something.
Scared of being judged.
Scared of being himself.
There was something about this Bachelor character he’d invented that was very two-dimensional, lacking in any sort of depth.
Matt James as The Bachelor was behaving more like a politician than an open and vulnerable hopeless romantic.
If he genuinely was participating in the “process,” as they call it, because he wanted to manifest a life-long love that would take the form of a monogamous partnership, I just wonder how he could trust, or hand over such a hefty responsibility to producers and show runners whose only concerns are with the ratings of their process-of-elimination-competitive-polygamist dating show.
A show that is more Stanford Prison Experiment than an earnest depiction of people in pursuit of companionship. The entire environment is controlled like any other social experiment, and everyone has a role to play to yield results. The contestants on the show are all in competition with each other to win a game, a prize, as they are isolated away from the world, forced to focus on the task at hand, and nothing else. And the one single person who wields power and control over them is Matt James himself.
In this scenario Matt James plays God and it is absolutely acceptable for him to use and discard them as he pleases, and with absolute impunity because in their eyes, he can do no wrong because he’s just “following his heart,” as is repeated multiple times in each episode.
At its core, the show relies on the classic capitalistic economic standard of supply and demand, which is how all of these elimination dating shows operate. It’s about resource scarcity. And the resource on the show is time. But more specifically, time spent with Matt James.
Every girl there’s sole purpose is to date Matt James above anything else.
While competing for his heart, nothing in the world could be more important than achieving success in their goal to obtain Matt James. And apparently, more people applied to have the chance to date him than any of his predecessors, and thus he had more options to choose from than any previous season. And because of the virus, the contestants chosen quarantined for weeks just to have the opportunity to meet him.
That’s how dedicated people were to be subjected to this madness.
At one point on the show, one of the contestants admits that her dad had 6 weeks to live, but she came on the show anyway hoping that in the end, she would marry Matt James.
Another contestant eventually admits that she resigned from her dream job to stay on the show and pursue her relationship with Matt James.
And the desperation to be with him was seemingly strong within every competitor. They’d do pretty much anything he asks or tells them to do.
One of the main prerequisites that he required was that the women had to be capable of being vulnerable with him. And so, they’d attempt transparency, and open up to tell Matt James--and the audience--personal things they’ve never expressed to people they’ve dated in the past or things they generally wouldn’t discuss to make a first impression, and he’d essentially pocket that information and decide what to do with it later as he smiled and nodded.
He had convinced the participants that vulnerability was key to accelerating the process of solidifying a bond. But really it seemed like a manipulation tactic to get them to expose themselves. To prime them to the emotional abuse Matt James would eventually put them through.
The entire show was death by rose compounded with emotional torture drowning itself in champagne.
At the end of each week those who didn’t receive a rose were sent home, essentially with no explanation, no conversation, no compensation.
But the entire week leading up to the rose ceremony, many of the contestants believed they had a good chance of receiving a piece of validation from Matt James because they were under the impression that he valued them above everyone else, and this was mostly so because he practically told them all the same thing.
He’d lead them on, gas light them into believing they had a chance, but the ones sent home were always the last to know how he felt when they’re left standing there embarrassed and empty handed.
There’s a cruelty to this because it is the role of this Bachelor character to withhold certain truths about his feelings by essentially remaining neutral, allowing the contestants to believe whatever they need to believe, neither confirming, nor denying how he actually feels until provided with the convenient cop out of: rose or no rose, and poof! They just vanish and the remaining competitors raise their glasses in a cheers to love.
This formulaic series is one of the most psychotic and objectifying things I’ve seen praised on television. It’s designed to psychologically break down the people on the show and prey on their insecurities for the entertainment of the audience. Yet, it’s entirely voluntary, so people are choosing to be subjected to this game of love and war and their suffering and drama is the sellable by-product.
This is the life-blood of reality television and it makes me wonder how many people tune in to witness the blossoming of true romance versus people who just want to see a shit show.
The Bachelor was a very interesting social experiment to witness, but the data collected seems hardly worth obtaining unless it’s main objective is to exploit people for entertainment, which obviously is the point, but what was the most baffling thing about the whole show was that these people knowingly participated in an experiment that they knew was designed to manipulate them, and did it anyway. And for what? Because Matt James is getting paid regardless and the contestants just get taken advantage of.
Was it possible that they truly came to find a long-lasting love with Matt James? Because in the end, he was supposed to find his wife and propose. The ultimate objective of the show, is designed to lead to marriage.
A union created and derived from a psych0-sexual mind game for the nation’s amusement.
They constantly refer to the experience as a journey.
A journey to Matt James’ heart.
A journey for Matt James’ wife.
It’s all about Matt James and what he wants. Everything on the show is catered to him as if what he wants is the most important in the process, while the contestants’ feelings can be regarded as irrelevant.
This is a very strange foundation to build a relationship on.
Also using elements of polygamy to reinforce monogamy is very odd messaging and is fundamentally confusing because the show seems to want to promote monogamy and the classic tradition of heterosexual marriage, but creates a circumstance that directly challenges that notion.
Is the Bachelor just supposed to discard his feelings for others because the structure of the show doesn’t allow for it? And if so, what does that do to a person? Because the way that he suppressed and compartmentalized his emotions on the show was borderline sociopathic, and moving forward, how healthy can it be to have the foundation of a monogamous relationship be based on the fact that one person gave up their autonomy regarding any decision making in the relationship so that their beau could have all the power in deciding whether or not he could see a future with or without them? The imbalance of their relationship would always be rooted in the supreme judgment of Matt James. And that’s essentially what ended up happening.
And now that it’s over, Matt James will have to try and find partnership in the world just like the rest of us, outside of the constraints of the narcissistic social experiment he participated in. But I am concerned about the long lasting effects being in that state of mind for that long can have on a person. I wonder how being the center of the universe and having a buffet of souls to try and spit out at your leisure can fuck with one’s mental health.
Someone once said, “No one man should have all that power,” and I wonder what that means in relation to Matt James. Since the process didn’t work for him, will he be able to turn it off when he finally returns to a world outside of The Bachelor’s rules and encounters people who actually talk back, have opinions that aren’t limited to flattery, and might actually attempt to hold him accountable in regards to how emotionally manipulative he has shown he has the capacity to display?
I had a dream the other night where I ran into him, and he just broke down in tears about how the show fucked up his psyche and I’m hoping that the first part of that dream comes true one day where I randomly run into him at a Food Lion or something and I’ll finally have the opportunity to just ask him, “What the fuck was that all about?”