The Bachelor franchise is built on the idea of a real-life fairytale.
Within the framework of a
deeply problematic, highly sexist, heteronormative artificial environment, a man and a woman fall in love, surrounded by roses and candles and fancy properties and expensive cars. They wear designer clothes and go on luxurious dates, and at the end, they’re flown to an exotic location to confess their love for each other. A hallmark of the show (which is actually quite rare in the Australian version, and has been wildly unsuccessful), is the final proposal. A man gets down on one knee to ask a woman, who he’s known for a matter of weeks, to marry him. The presumption, of course, is that they’ll have a stunning engagement, an extravagant (and highly lucrative) wedding, before settling down and having 2.5 children, and probably a dog.
The reason this formula makes for such a popular TV show, however, is that it’s not actually how life works.
If any of us were to look around our own circles, we’d see an infinite number of entirely unique trajectories. There’s the couple who have been together for 14 years and aren’t married and don’t have children. There’s the couple who were together for eight months before having a baby, and then maybe got married two years later, with their smiling toddler in all the wedding photos. There’s the couple who have five kids and never married, or the ones who are married and don’t have kids.
There’s also the couple who got married, had a baby, broke up for two years, got back together, and had two more kids. Or the ones who had three kids then divorced, remarried, and make it work with a blended family. There’s families with stepbrothers and stepsisters and biological kids and adoptive kids and a teenager who has a kid living in the family home.
Looking at mainstream media in the last year, however, you wouldn’t necessarily think this was the case. We seem to have had a resurgence in the highly glamorous proposal and engagement, followed by the traditional, extravagant, white wedding.
Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things. It’s just that they’re quite a narrow representation of how relationships actually progress in the real world – and what men and women actually want.
We’ve had two televised royal weddings, both of which were significantly larger and more opulent than any wedding ceremonies we’d attend in our day-to-day life. We’ve had celebrity couples like Kit Harington and Rose Leslie and Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra get married in actual castles, with a number of high-profile guests in attendance and images that look like they’re straight from a movie.