In the last post I introduced the idea that idealization can sometimes lead to lasting love. Now I’d like to get more specific about seduction: how the show seduces its cast, and why seduction is so powerful. These are all my personal (and highly disorganized, but I'm posting anyway dammit) musings- I do not come from a place of expertise, so I’d love to hear anyone else’s viewpoint!
On The Bachelor, we were encouraged to create lighthearted experiences and laugh together. The show is about constant, changing stimulation. The best seductresses knew this: Louis IV’s mistress made sure to always have a new exotic trinket or diversion to show him, so he was enraptured with her into old age. Cleopatra never allowed Caesar to see her unhappy and made repeatedly enthralling entrances (Her first introduction to him was rolling out of a carpet at his feet; When she met Marc Antony she dressed as Venus and rode in on a golden chariot). The Bachelor creates these scenes without the contestants even trying- the foundation of each relationship is a pile of adventures, sensory delights, lavishness, and high stakes. Meanwhile, the women are seduced by conversations of family, commitment, and thoughtful gestures to show that the lead really knows them and thinks they’re special (....though the reality of this is questionable). It was oddly powerful to sit down on my first real date with Arie (in a restaurant featured in one of my favorite old movies) and talk about how we would raise our children and where we would live when we’re married. Finally, we had just enough time with the lead to put our best foot forward- to be engaging and make the best use of our time.
The concept of soul mates makes it seem like we find our counterpart in another (reference: Wedding Crashers). But ultimately we are a bunch of ego-maniacal flesh-bags, and all our natural drives push us towards replicating ourselves- a rather narcissistic endeavor. Meanwhile, we live in a particularly individualistic society that values self-fulfillment, self-realization, and social prestige. And then there’s this: we both want to be individually seduced AND respected in our social groups. I think one of the big reasons we generally know if we are attracted to another person within the first five minutes is because we see how we will be immediately judged by others if we enter into a union with that person. (And on The Bachelor? We already know how we will be perceived. As the winner of The Bachelor and fiancée to ‘the most eligible man in America.’ ...Right?! :). Maybe this is why the mistress was traditionally a source of private excitement and seduction, while the wife was a source of social admiration? Two competing drives that are very difficult for just one person to fulfill, but women are now expected to play both roles. I think two overarching desires of most young people once they achieve a level of financial/emotional security are: we want to be admired, and we don’t want to be bored.
All of this is to say that maybe we need to be properly seduced in order to learn to love, and The Bachelor does this magnificently well. The beginning of dating is a selfish endeavor- and this makes sense, because we don’t know the other person well enough to sacrifice for them yet (or at least not more than a dinner bill and our Saturday night). The early stages of love are about how WE feel, what WE want, how the other person reflects US. We think we are obsessed with another person, but we’re really obsessed with what that person can give us- how they can make us feel, and what vision of the future they offer. In order to gain that reward, we have to put effort into making them feel special. Once we start putting in that effort, and the rewards of dating that person are continually reinforced, the relationship can develop into a partnership. We fall in love with the dopamine rush so much that over time we fall in love with reality.
I may have come off a bit cynical about love here (catch me when I haven't just come off of two dumpings and you'll see my sentimental side). I really do believe in falling in love with the actual person. But falling in love with someone is a lot easier when we WANT to fall in love with them. I think humans actually have a wonderful ability to see beauty and value in almost anyone, but we have a less-wonderful ability to shut ourselves off from seeing this when we don’t want to. So when factors collide to make us receptive to love- either we are in the right place in our lives, we’ve become comfortable with who we are, and have realized that putting real love into another is a fantastic accomplishment...or we're on The Bachelor and receive all sorts of encouragement to fall in love- we can accept another person readily. But chemistry, the ability to talk all night, the feeling of recognition you get when you feel you’ve both been shaved off the same star- that’s all real too.