Embracing the Dark Side

Discerning the positive aspects of sadness, bereavement, and other negative feelings.

The Bachelor: Redemption through a marriage proposal?

With his choice of partner in question, so is his character.

The Bachelor. Every season, a single man - the star of the show - is supposed to end the season by proposing to one woman from around 30 attractive singles who are competing for his attentions. This season is a particularly controversial one because the current bachelor - the first one who has had a second season - walked away at the end of his first season without proposing to any of the women. As viewers wait for tonight's season finale, it is not just the bachelor's choice of partner that is in question, but also his character.

The subtext of the show - particularly during this season-is that falling in love and committing to a relationship is proof that a man is an acceptable, mature human being. If this point is not already obvious enough, just look at the way one of the female contestants on this season greeted Brad: with a slap to the face, delivered "on behalf of every woman in America". In other words, Brad's failure to choose a partner during his previous season was an insult, an affront to women everywhere.

Brad himself publicly embraces the narrative that his "failure" to propose to one of the women during his first season on the show was a bad thing, a function of his psychological issues (namely, his inability to open up to a potential partner). Yet if the longevity of relationships formed in the show's previous seasons is any indication, Brad's relationship would not have lasted even if he had made a proposal. The short-lived nature of the supposedly life-long commitments speaks to how unlikely it is to find a truly compatible lifelong partner among a group of 30 random singles, even if they are all of one's preferred gender. Given the rough odds, walking away without making a commitment to marriage may be not only smart, but a sign of good character.

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Jenna Baddeley is working on a Ph.D. in social/personality and clinical psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

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