I’d never watched a season of The Bachelor before. Truth be told, I didn’t watch much of this one either. But when I heard about the furor over Juan Pablo a month or so ago, I couldn’t resist tuning in. And while he struck me as self-absorbed and inauthentic, what’s shocked me the most is the outcry since the finale at his refusal to give a ring along with his final rose. When did “I like you a lot” become grounds for collective viewer rage?
So while I’m not inclined to defend Juan Pablo, I’m more interested in the controvery he’s inspired and the potential psychology surrounding it. Read on, and then feel free to disagree.The Bachelor can be an exercise in cynicism or wish fulfillment. It’s probably a good Rorschach test: Who watches to mock, who watches to root for people falling in love. How romantic are you? How jaded?
In the finale, when Juan Pablo gave a rose instead of a proposal, when he said “I like you a lot” instead of “I love you”, the audience in the studio (and on Twitter) exploded. People were incensed. It’s one thing not to give a ring, but to refuse to even say, “I’m falling in love with you”? It’s like he was robbing Nikki of her whole experience, and the viewers along with her.
And then on “After the Rose,” we learned from Nikki that he still hadn’t said the word “love.” The host was flabbergasted. His manner seemed to suggest, “How could you put up with a cad like this?”
Now, I believe that Juan Pablo may very well be a cad. But is he a cad for that particular offense? He and Nikki hadn’t seen each other in person for months. Isn’t a relationship allowed to develop? Can’t feelings blossom with time and proximity?
Not in The Bachelor universe. The social contract there clearly states that love must be invoked. It’s what the viewers want. We’re supposed to be watching people fall in love. If we don’t get to see that, then did we waste our time as much as Nikki did?
I guess what bothers me is how propogating that fantasy can operate to detract from true love. If we meet a guy and date him for a while, and we fall in love but he still only “likes a lot”, that becomes criminal. I know that with my husband, he waited to tell me he loved me until he knew absolutely. I, on the other hand, was comfortable saying it much sooner, with much less of a definite promise. Once my husband said it, he was saying that he was all in, for life. Isn’t that worth waiting for?
I’m not equating my husband and Juan Pablo. But I am saying that deciding at what pace love should occur can mean that sometimes, it won’t. It means some people will walk away from something real and developing because they want to chase a fantasy. When viewers are so incensed to find their fantasy thwarted, when they’d rather a ring be presented even if the couple breaks up a week later, what does it really say about the nature of love and commitment?
Or maybe it’s just that Juan Pablo is a tool.
Watching TV image available from Shutterstock.