thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Sympathy for the Supervillain: A Post-Bachelor Wrap

In Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 8:20 am

Guest Contributor Sarah H.

Before I begin, it might be good for you to know: I am a sap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a well-educated, well-rounded, well-read woman. But I’m also a hopeless romantic who self-medicates during these long single times with guilty pleasure television like The Bachelor.

But I’m not dumb, I swear. I’m a smart person and I’m freakin’ awesome. (See Sarah T’s recent GLG post “Defending Deschanel” for a more thorough defense of the kind of person I am. I get the Jess comparison a lot.) Rather, I’m just a woman who has grown up with an evolving mental picture of a perfect mate. I want what the Bachelorettes want. I want to fall in love and find that fairy tale. That’s why I watch this stuff. And to be fair, I’m not the only one in this boat. After all, both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are pretty popular.

Now, on with the show. (spoilers abound!)

I’ve liked Ben since Ashley’s season. He’s down to earth, a little off-kilter and he makes wine, which is a total win for a wino gal like me. He’s more relatable than ken doll, jock-brained Brad (Seriously, though. Don’t you think Brad probably has a pink plastic Mattel mound down there?). He’s kind of a normal guy. I believe, under the right circumstances, with my own makeup and wardrobe team, I might even be able to lure him into a conversation.

Throughout this season, I saw him act with a fairly level head. I saw him ejecting ladies in a rational and, I thought, healthy way. He got rid of the crazies, flakes, and fakes. He waded through the boring girls and kept a fairly solid final five including one larger-than-life personality that I, at first, thought was around for production value only.

Courtney simply overshadowed every other lady in the running. I watched each episode this season and have a hard time recalling the names or faces of the other 24 women fighting for our hero’s affections. For the last 8 weeks or so, since the first claws came out, she has been the entire selling point for the season. She was the topic of commercials and online banter and debate, not to mention half of the evening on the “Before the Rose” feature. What would have happened to ratings had Courtney not made it to the end of this competition? Ben’s locks weren’t enough to secure viewers alone.

Ben + Courtney "After the Rose"

What was it exactly that had people so excited about this woman? She wasn’t a villain in the Cruella de Vil sense. The crux of her evil really comes down to a trait Ben’s sister praised in her: she doesn’t “sugar coat”—that is, she isn’t careful. This saccharine series has a premise of finding true love; it’s full of Minnesota-nice, homegrown girls. They are normal girls who deal with conflict in the normal way: through passive aggressiveness. Courtney isn’t passive in any way. That’s her supervillain power.

Courtney only possesses some very average reality TV bitchiness. The major flaws that the producers and her female nemeses claim are her competitiveness, her confidence, her blunt nature and her good looks. Yeah, she wasn’t very nice. Even if she was “winning” she didn’t need to rub her roses in their noses (It does make for a super auto-tune hit!). Yeah, she lacks some social skills. She had an opportunity to smooth things over with the girls when Emily apologized to her, but she botched it. Most people understand that its proper decorum to accept an apology when it is offered.

I’ll admit it: I didn’t really like her that much at first. But I’m kind of offended by the room full of grumpy, judging women shaking their heads at Courtney and Ben during the “After the Final Rose” taping. Yes, Courtney set herself up for some pretty ugly TV caricatures. But that’s what it was: TV editing and characterization.

Remember Bentley from Ashley’s season? It was hard to believe anyone possessed the ability to be as two-sided as he appeared to be. And he offered up amazing villainous gems during his tenure. He told cameras time and time again that he wasn’t into her, but rather he was there for the sport of the hunt. Then he would turn around and woo her. Producers didn’t have to work too hard to portray him as Voldemort.

Someone had to be this year’s Bentley. It would have been a let-down had there not been a snake in the grass. The thing is, if you measure their bad behavior back to back, Bentley is head and shoulders above Courtney. He was actually conniving, Courtney was competitive as a means to a end. Her character was entirely Machiavellian: her affection for Ben helps justify her actions.

Imagine if you were a fly on a wall in the room where The Bachelor producers meet. Think of the things you’d learn about casting decisions: what are those crazy quotas they have to meet before deeming the mansion “full”? Is there a “your boobs must be this big or bigger to ride” sign? I’d be most interested in overhearing the decisions regarding the characterization of the ladies on the show. They are, in fact, characters built by careful editing and set up moments. Of course, there’s got to be a seed of truth in each of the characters we see in the final cuts on ABC, but the rest is constructed to play out in a certain way.

Here’s the thing. I think a whole lot of the show is constructed to turn each season into a fairy tale. During the Tell All special, the woman concurred that each of them had acted poorly at least once during filming. It was necessary evil of the game to pick at the inadequacies (real or imagined) of their competition. But we don’t tune into this show to watch mean girls duke it out. That’s why we have Real Housewives and Bad Girls Club. We watch The Bachelor to see a romance unfold. Yet while we hope for a happy ending, we don’t want to see it happen too easily. After all, love and dating are hard and messy in real life. Without a stand-out villainess, Ben’s journey would have been too smooth for us to stomach.

I stand by Courtney: she wasn’t so evil. I choose to agree with Ben’s mother and sister on their assessment of Courtney’s character. She’s a strong, secure woman who has worked her way to success. She’s honest, and able to admit to some guilt for her not-so-savory actions. Yeah, maybe she’s a bitch, too. Why should we hate her so much for these things? Come on, ladies. Many of us just wish we had her confidence. And we can, if we just don’t care so much about what other people think of us.

I’m not at all surprised that Ben chose Courtney. Seriously, didn’t YOU see this coming? Ben really likes this girl. Period. And he wasn’t feeling it with the others.

If you believe The Millionaire Matchmaker (which is, admit it, more likely if you’re the type of person who would be interested in reading a commentary on the Bachelor finale), the proof of true attraction is in the kiss. I think Ben must put a lot of clout in this promise, because he kissed his lips to shreds this season. And it was apparent from his kisses where his true loyalties lay. I can’t be the only kissing detective in The Bachelor audiences, right? I know some of ya’ll must have noticed the difference. He didn’t kiss anyone half as often, as long, or as tongue-fully as he did Courtney. Plus, they went skinny dipping.

Physical things aside, Ben’s tough decision came down to a very simple distinction. He needed to choose between the woman he thinks would be good for him or the woman who makes him feel good. He’s trying to distinguish between the heart and head. It’s not an easy decision.

By the brain’s standards, Lindzi’s the safe bet (even if her name is spelled in the most stupid way possible). She fits the mold of the girl he’s imagined in his dreams of his perfect future. She’s outdoorsy and funny, mature and responsible. She’s a grown-ass woman. As Ben says it: “You are what I’ve looked for my entire life.”

But Courtney makes him feel “like a kid again.” She’s playful and silly with him, and they’re natural together. She makes him feel a lot: good or bad, she makes his blood boil. So he follows his heart. Their crazy relationship built on this super-crazy foundation is going to be a great deal of work (as love IS work), but hopefully their passion will energize them for all that hard labor. I choose to believe! Screw the skeptics.

For these reasons, I went into the finale fully expecting Ben and Courtney to walk off into the sunset together. And when they did (deal with it) I cried a little.

It’s always a little sad at the end of a Bachelor adventure. This one is no different. Though I must say, I’m happy to finally see the last of the cheesy montages set to David Grey’s “This Year’s Love.”  That song is officially ruined for me.

Sarah H. is a crafty, vinyl-loving gal who loves to host game nights. She decided not to be a high school English teacher after all because she’s not a morning person. Now, she finds herself living just north of Dayton, Ohio and is making the most of the little metropolis and work-free evenings. Sarah shows off the things she makes and also muses about old-fashioned sentiments at her blog:

  1. […] is the luxury brand consultant, who’s clearly being set up as this season’s Bentley/Courtney, but how many times we are expected to fall for this whole “here for the wrong reasons” […]

  2. […] our other amazing contributors Narinda Heng, Taylor D., Jennifer Lynn Jones, Austin H., Jeni R, Sarah H., and Gina L. for allowing us to post their thoughts on everything from rock climbing to The Hunger […]

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