Grim days lie ahead on ABC's 12th season of The Bachelorette, a Pinterest-board-as-television-show about the generically beautiful, and the tedious rituals they suffer through in order to accessorize themselves with each other.
The season's second half begins tonight without Chad, and for that we all must mourn.
The show has been, for matrimonial purposes, a large-scale failure. Six of the series's first eight seasons ended in breakups. It is a show both guided by the cues of conventional romance, and also repudiation of their relevance in 2016: men working tirelessly through the acoustic-guitar-serenade + did-it-hurt-when-you-fell-from-heaven? playbook, swing dancing dates, make-outs in old convertibles parked on top of a hill, "spiritual connections," then all of it inevitably coming unraveled in strings of tabloid-reveal infidelity. It is a real show about the preposterously saccharine courtships even fake movies are ashamed of.
But it goes to fucking war for the fairytale, even as it's devolved into a low-key promotional device for its contestants' social media presences, giving them chunks of Instagram driftwood to float on between episodes, watching and tweeting along with the audience, the show giving life to handsome idiots, idiots turning their narratives into DIY memes, hoping to return as a candidate on the next season, all of it tumbling over and over again in this reality television Ponzi scheme.
This show is my flu season. Every year, I am defenseless, because of its astonishing predictability, and the surreal, meta intrusions that suddenly send its pop country-scored contrivances into the gutter. For a month, we had Chad for that, our neck-bearded prophet.
In brief: Chad is a "luxury real estate agent" from Tulsa, Oklahoma, which I guess we are to interpret as, "has once crashed a jet ski." He is 28. In his "contestant biography" he answered three different questions with a Matthew McConaughey quote.
Chad is like if you crossed Michael Bay's iTunes with a plate of room temperature pepperoni. He is a quarter-zip fleece pullover having an existential crisis. He is like if Tarzan graduated from a community college business program and then got diagrams-on-the-napkin excited talking to a stranger at a Ruby Tuesday's happy hour about pharmaceutical IPOs.
A few weeks ago, it was revealed Chad purchased the domain names of other contestants and had them redirect to his Instagram account. Asked about it, he said, "That's business, and it's hilarious."
In a show featuring infants, gorgeous conmen, hustler turds, stubbly melodramatics, action figures in cargo shorts who speak only in pull-string you-wanna-take-this-outside?s, Chad was a public service announcement for the counterfeit sentimentality. He wears his lunatic aggression like a motorcycle jacket, but he was the only one calling bullshit on the innumerable moments when this show feels like a montage of gingham button downs and women gazing pensively over balcony railings. Really, these winks to the crowd are sort of why we're watching.
Without him, we're left with our standard Bachelor/ette economy of low-grade fuccbois who seem to have assembled their "personalities" from Elite Daily listicles, seal-the-deal Freddie Prince Jr. monologues, and Bryan Adams choruses.
Chad gets mad. Video via
There are guys like Luke, a war veteran and professionally handsome man, whose every conversation with JoJo feels like a Cialis commercial. He posts Michael Jordan quotes about perseverance on his Instagram, which is relevant, because the basic ethos of every Bachelorette contestant is brazen signifiers of masculinity couched in hollow displays of vulnerability.
He plays the guitar, allegedly. He looks like an illustration of a dream of a shirtless fireman calendar. He looks into JoJo's eyes like a guy on a submarine sweating in front of the sonar. His voice is permanently fixed to that whispery, rolls-onto-his-side "you wanna get some breakfast?" morning after setting, except when he's telling JoJo he's falling for her, and in that moment he gets pretend-choked up and tries to sound like he's swallowing a pinecone.
If you've ever wondered where reality television falls on the authentic to producer-orchestrated scale, I'll offer Evan to you as an answer, a shriveled, timid man whose craft is resurrecting broken cocks. Ta-da. Last Monday, after he was eliminated, Evan said tearfully into the camera, "I thought in some ways I could come out of this and be some amazing guy."
Luke is going to be around for a while; Evan was never going to make it, but we already knew that. We're here for the familiar, the vaguely aspirational quests and aesthetics of these human beings, and the anticipation of some cataclysmic conversation about "connecting." This is a show about knit hats, dog tags, tattered henleys, about metaphors dropped on your face with the subtlety of ACME anvils, adult humans reenacting Disney romances on spotless South American beach enclaves. About "those are the eyes I want to wake up to the rest of my life," b-roll footage of ocean tide recycling, the relentless affections of men in v-necks banging against the insecurities of a damaged woman we last saw sobbing on the floor of a bathroom on last season of The Bachelor.
It is about the tame recreations of white people, about men regaling women with either their stupendous feats of valor or the harrowing circumstances of their upbringing. Awe and sadness, these are the only two ways men know how to negotiate for the affection of beautiful women. Or, at least, these are the only gestures whose implications the audience has the patience to interpret: Tears and fucking.
If that fails, just post a picture of yourself kissing your rival's ex-girlfriend to Instagram. That's business, and it's hilarious.
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