Why The Bachelor demeans us all
OPINION: "Life," says Dwayne in the wonderful 2006 movie Little Miss Sunshine, "is one f...king beauty contest after another. You know, school, then college, then work, f..k that."
I was looking for something similar from 21-year-old Christchurch jewellery story worker Carrisa McDonald who failed to make the cut in The Bachelor this week.
As it happened I witnessed her rejection as I was waiting for the TV to come free and, with the cat on my knee, leaving the room was inconvenient.
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So there was poor old Carrisa who failed to make a connection with our bachelor-to-die-for Art Green and was therefore denied one of the roses he dished out to the successful prospects.
Scorned Carrisa could have come out firing when interviewed by reporters afterwards but she was remarkably diplomatic in a way only the truly blank can be.
You might wonder why a public intellectual like me would even bother to comment on a mindless, beyond disgraceful television programme like The Bachelor.
You are right in thinking I don't have to watch it and I can block it out. What I can't do however is ignore the fact it has become part of common discourse and how, when I look at a news website, a story about this drivel is instantly popular.
It is also true that while I'm in that half of New Zealand which believes the show is skin-crawlingly banal, the other half of New Zealand is perfectly entitled to its harmless entertainment. So why can't I live and let live?
The reason is that a programme like this harms us all even if we don't watch it.
I don't profess to have become an expert on the show after 10-15 minutes viewing but its faults are so screamingly obvious further viewing is not required.
You know immediately how it's going to go. The young women will buy into the fiction Mr Green is a desirable hunk of manhood who would make a terrific husband. Of course anybody who would associate with this execrable show should be avoided like the plague if you want a decent relationship.
There will be the token bitch, the rejection fodder, the little woman who shows it's not all about looks, the mother, the careerist etc. It won't be a beauty show but you can bet there will be plenty of bikini shots and swimming pools and the best looking will win.
You don't have to be a feminist to see this reduces women to a commodity and men to a Barbie Doll. It's underlying and hackneyed theme that relationships are all about the prince finding his princess is so crassly manipulative that it can only twist impressionable and vulnerable minds. It defies belief that the participants are blind to all the pitfalls which, in a way, makes it even worse.
The Bachelor and its ilk are like air pollution. We don't have to live in an industrial zone but we all have to breathe the air at some stage. In the same way, this corrosive show works its way into the general discourse and culture. It sucks the oxygen out of an atmosphere which must sustain us all.
These programmes eat away at the general spirit of the nation. They bed-in stupidity and make it hard for honesty and true creativity to survive.
Such a programme lowers even further the common denominator of viewing taste and tolerance. A contrived and dishonest show which extends the extreme end of rubbish programming and drags the average down with it. If it is successful the effect is even worse. Once programmers see the pap they can get away with to win an audience, they will naturally do it again and so we have a nasty self-perpetuating and descending cycle.
The half of NZ that scorns The Bachelor still has to live with the half that counts the show among its favourite viewing. Those who watch it are demeaned and end up demeaning everyone around them. Those that work and appear on the show must connive to maintain the silly pretence. They are diminished and sullied in a way which must spread to the rest of us like a bad disease.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about shows like this is they confirm the existence of a class of cynical, so-called creatives who derive their livelihoods from pandering to the lowest common denominator of their viewers. Yes the viewers will flock to the screen but that doesn't excuse it.
They will argue they have to make programmes like this so quality programmes can be made and good people kept in jobs. That might be an argument if we did get the quality but it is hard to find.
I'm not suggesting we ban The Bachelor. People must have what they want but we must not give it an easy ride.