Look, I'm not proud of watching The Bachelor, but as I have explained before, it seems to kind of happen. And until now, I couldn't figure out why.
And then it occurred to me: This show makes perfect sense if you think of it as worst-case-scenario science fiction. This is a dark, malodorous, possibly post-apocalyptic landscape as imagined by some of the greatest minds the ABC reality programming division has to offer.
Let us examine the evidence.
1. Almost all the women of Earth are dead. The Bachelor takes place in a world in which almost all women not between 24 and 29 have been eliminated. Look at them. Sure, one 32-year-old drags her ragged bones across the gray, dusty ash of this lost world, but she is the wizened old biddy, you see. She is 32. She has seen everything. None shall heed her warnings. Two 30-year-olds look warily at her, wondering if they will share her fate. (By the way: the 32-year-old was "eliminated" very early. Coincidence?) But for the most part, women outside this narrow swath (and all women whose heritage is not some variation on "European/Blow-dried") have shuffled off this all-too-mortal coil.
2. The uniform is being adopted. If you've watched very many television shows about the future, you know that we all wind up in jumpsuits eventually. While The Bachelor takes place in a universe where the uniform has not completely taken the place of individuality, almost all human variation in appearance has already gone away. Not only do all the women have essentially the same body type, but they basically all have the same hair — all 30 of them have straight-ish hair falling at or below the shoulders. All the women with bobs were eaten by something. So were all the women with teeth not falling at or above the 97th percentile for whiteness, all the women who do not have good necks, and all the women with pimples, wrinkles, freckles, or a decent supply of waterproof mascara.
3. One man remains to repopulate the planet. The only explanation for the fact that all 30 of these women, most of whom are in their mid-20s, are eager — nay, desperate — to lash themselves to the leathery hide of 38-year-old Brad Womack is that Brad is the last man alive. Were he not the last man alive, presumably one out of the 30 would be heard to say at some point, "Eh." Perhaps, "This is not the man for me." But no. They take seriously the responsibility for contributing to the continued survival of humankind, and that means Brad, Brad, Brad.
4. A rarely seen overlord pulls the strings from behind the scenes. Chris Harrison, the host, does not go on the dates. He does not mingle very much with the participants. He sweeps into the room, he delivers various verdicts and subtly manipulates the fundamentally decent Brad Womack into acts of evil that Brad clearly knows to be wrong, and then he vanishes. Who does this sound like? Well, I don't want to be the one to ring the Darth Vader alarm prematurely, but let's get serious — that's not Harrison's real face.
5. Survival of the fittest pits one against another in a desperate effort to avoid disappearing from the world. Your typical science fiction tends to focus on Thunderdome-like battles to the death, where a desperate crowd cheers on the combatants as they fight with teeth and fists and possibly large chains. Here, the props are roses, spray tanner, and the towels that are eternally being wrapped around competitors emerging from the hot tub. But basically, it's the same thing. Every week, the population dwindles. Every week, hope diminishes. Every week, another button nose sniffles away, never to be seen again ever.
6. There is a dark history which some may know as the canon. "Years ago, Bachelor Bob Guiney did choose for his bride the resolutely bland Estella, and years ago did he abandon her and start dating the host of the Bachelor reruns then airing on ABC Family, and yea did they marry, and then a few years later, yea did they get a divorce, and yea did the fandom begin to fear that it is only a matter of time before Bachelor Bob Guiney returns for Not Exactly The Bachelor: Bob's Hairline Looks For More Love."
7. Every version begets another. As the original Star Trek begat The Next Generation and Voyager and Deep Space 9 and that one with Scott Bakula, so must every version of The Bachelor bury us deeper in the world of rose ceremonies, of overnight dates in fantasy suites, of spontaneously appearing convertibles and private jets, of tuxes and ill-fitting gowns — and, in the end, of the slow and inevitable descent of this world into utter anarchy and destruction.