Maclean’s Bachelor panel: Week Two

So many questions. No. 1: Why?

Sonya Bell, Colin Horgan and Aaron Wherry
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Week 2

Our panel of Sonya Bell, Colin Horgan and Aaron Wherry reconvenes to consider what they’ve learned from another hour and a half of The Bachelor Canada. Last week’s discussion is here.

From: Colin
To: Sonya, Aaron

“I’m finding it harder than ever to manage eight women.”
— Brad Smith

To be fair to Brad, handling eight people—men or women—vying for your attention in a small champagne-soaked hotel room in New Orleans, only hours after each of them has given you a private burlesque performance would probably be a bit much for anyone to manage. And to his credit, under the circumstances, he seemed to deal with it fairly well—all episode, in fact. He even managed to deal with Melissa Marie P (for ‘Playboy,’ presumably)’s unstoppable barrage of impatient attempts at getting him into a very serious and heavy conversation about how much he, the Bachelor, does or does not want to love parenthood.

He also handled Laura B’s unexpected breakdown near the end, where she seemed to become suddenly enveloped in some seriously crushing self-doubt, to the point where she was worried Brad would eventually come to realize how boring she is. This struck me as an odd, if somewhat endearing, admission, considering how little we all know about Brad so far. To this point, he’s effectively a waxen figurine the producers cart around to North American vacation destinations so they have an excuse to get a bunch of girls drunk and competitive. That is to say, he’s not so compelling, either, as of yet. Dry your eyes, Laura B.

Anyway, what’s great about reality TV is how quickly we have to get to know—and distinguish between—characters. Whitney is clearly the villain, Gabrielle is the more likeable underdog villain-in-waiting, and Chantelle is obviously the girl from that My Little Pony commercial you saw in the ’80s. I think in the same way that anyone else might be on this show, Melissa Marie was trying to carve out an identity—one that’s perhaps closer to “Single Mom” than “Playboy Model.” But she failed in doing that. Why?

Because she was annoying, yes. But, oh, can’t it be because of something more?

There’s this Marshall McLuhan quote I think of when I see reality TV, where he was talking about how technology (read: TV) changes how people think about themselves. Show business, he said, “has become one way of establishing identity by just put-ons, and without the put-on you’re a nobody.” I don’t know what Melissa Marie’s put-on was, but I don’t think she had one and I think that was her ultimate undoing. I think she just misunderstood what this was all about. I’d also guess Michelle V (of the end-of-show I-just-want-someone-to-love-me confessional) didn’t either. Laura B has no idea who she is, let alone probably any idea of how to adopt yet another identity on top of the one she already has, but she hung in there, bless her. Ana? She’s like a Wedding Crashers persona: Haunted Past.

I find myself again coming back to Bianka, who is still perhaps the most interesting one of them all, in some ways. The dark horse, I think. Or Supervillain?

And what kind of guy is Brad, anyway? Do we have any idea? I was surprised that after so much apparent love (and many tongue-diving kisses) for Whitney, he chose Laura B and Chantelle for his roses. Does this mean he sees through it all?

I demand answers and postmodern one-liners.

From: Sonya
To: Aaron, Colin

All right, Colin. Here you go. It’s Larry McCaffrey, musing about The Bachelor Canada‘s product placement, as far as I can tell: “This is the postmodern desert inhabited by people who are, in effect, consuming themselves in the form of images and abstractions through which their desires, sense of identity, and memories are replicated and then sold back to them as products.”

Squeezed between the Whitney vs. Gabi trash talk this week, we saw eight bachelorettes shave their legs with Schick Hydro Silk razors, Brad and Ana lounge on HBC blankets drinking Molson Canadian and Whitney throw a fit over the apparently significant brand names of the dress and necklace that Brad gives to Laura B.

Leg shaving. Jewel ogling. That dazed remark about how the long-stem rose lying on the table “actually has a really long stem.” This week’s episode of Survivor: Vancouver Island was no victory for womankind.

With one exception. The bachelorette I enjoyed most this week—and it seems I disagree with Colin here—was Melissa Marie. That bad attitude. That bitterness. She’s Canada’s own Kristen Stewart! This episode desperately needed Melissa, with her concerns about Brad’s suitability as a step-father, as a contrast to the bachelorette mentality that Brad is, undeniably, The One. At the end of each perfect, romantic date he had this episode, we’re hearing words like “meant to be.” Finally, of Melissa, he said: “This one is going downhill with no brakes.” That. That is a realistic dating experience. I am sad to see her go.

Looking ahead, I think the one to watch is The Vein in Whitney’s Head, most prominently seen in HD during the rose ceremony when Whitney’s archrival Gabi was given a rose before her. “I’m definitely a person who refuses to lose,” Whitney told the cameras earlier in the episode, while being handed the keys to a Ferrari and told that if she drives it the fastest, she’ll win a one-on-one date with Brad. (She succeeded.) We’ve established that Brad might not have been ready to become a step-dad to Melissa’s daughter. Is he ready to become guardian to The Vein?

For that matter, will we ever know anything about Brad?? I’ll turn that over to Aaron.

From: Aaron
To: Sonya, Colin

Brad is but a mirror. In his large, straight and perfectly white teeth, these women see themselves and are made to confront who they really are.

To be honest, I kind of want to just skip ahead to the season finale when the producers will announce that they’ve already started shooting a Canadian version of The Bachelorette and that Chantelle is the star. I am completely and hopelessly in love with the idea of watching a reality TV show about this woman.

Let’s review the basics. Chantelle is a pastor from Alberta who giggles at everything and looks like Anna Faris‘ long lost twin. Also, she is a virgin. This last bit she confessed in this week’s episode to Melissa Marie, the Playboy model and single mother. Chantelle and Melissa Marie are friends who bonded in the first episode over Melissa Marie’s ability to identify fake breasts. I’m pretty sure, in addition to watching Chantelle as the bachelorette, I would also watch a buddy comedy starring Chantelle and Melissa Marie.

Chantelle is cute. This is the word Brad uses to describe her, repeatedly. Not “cute” like “I want to make out with you,” but “cute” as in “look at that adorable puppy.” I fear this means Chantelle won’t last much longer than a few more weeks, but I’m pretty sure these weeks are going to constitute an epic, giggly, morality play that begs us to consider deep questions about the human soul.

At the start of this week’s episode, Chantelle was one of eight women selected to accompany Brad to the “Big Easy.” (None of the women could figure out where the Big Easy was. Guesses included: a mountain, something to do with surfing and New York.) Once in New Orleans, the women were ordered to don skimpy outfits and perform a burlesque dance for Brad. Brad attempted to explain this as a test of character (something about going with the flow and being spontaneous). And this, of course, constituted a moral crisis for Chantelle. She was concerned about the kids in her youth group seeing this, but obviously torn. “‘i’m a woman of faith,” she explained, “but I’m also someone who wants to fall in love.” There is a lot going on in that sentence. The producers liked this line enough that they played it three times. What they cut out was the rest of the sentence. In full, it should read, “I’m a woman of faith, but I’m also someone who wants to fall in love, so I’m now going to dance provocatively on national television for a man I’ve barely met as part of a reality television show that has a very poor track record of leading people to lasting and enduring love.”

Let’s be serious for a moment: Can anyone rationally participate in something like this with any rational expectation of finding true love? You can maybe tell yourself that this is as good a way as any of finding your soulmate. But ultimately, somewhere deep inside, you have to know this is a lark. A silly thing that might be fun and, hey, who knows, you might fall in love and then you’ll have a hilarious story to tell your children someday (and the excruciating video to prove it). Anything above and beyond that is some kind of, as McLuhan might say, a put-on. That’s all this is, right?

But here’s the thing: Chantelle seems like the most sincerest person in the whole world. She is purity personified (and not just because of the whole not-having-had-the-sex thing). And now here she is in this fun house of mirrors. I fear for her. I cheer for her. I suspect this will all end badly and then she will be rewarded with her own TV contract. And then I will watch that show.