Do you fear vulnerability? Or do you fear what vulnerability yields?
Last night, I watched The Bachelorette season premiere and I think I’m beginning my breakup process with the series. No disrespect to Katie, I just don’t find the show compelling and don’t find her to be that interesting of a lead. And this is not to say that I think badly about her as a person because 1. I don’t know that girl and 2. I don’t know that girl. But seriously we don’t know these people, we know what we see, and what we see is a carefully curated and constructed story crafted by people who transitioned into unscripted programming after graduating from film school and realizing they DO NOT want to be a filmmaker.
Katie seems nice and deserves love like the rest of us, but I don’t know if she or the show has what I’m looking for in a reality show. Once you’ve seen the proliferation of the genre on networks like Bravo or platforms like Netflix, it’s hard to go back to a Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise and be like, yeah I’m really happy to spend two hours this way. I crave a high-octane drama. Give me table flips, drunken fights at a nightclub in Cabo, binge drinking on a yacht, “smart house” social experiments involving strategy. Don’t give me a room full of 25-year-olds, with jobs like “former football player” or “lifestyle brand,” who are trying to convince me they’re totally ready for an engagement in six weeks.
And this isn’t Katie’s fault, it’s just the show is so behind the times, and it’s starting to affect the viewing experience. Last night’s episode just felt off. Maybe it’s because host Chris Harrison was not present as he has “taken a step back” from the franchise after defending a prior contestant’s participation in an antebellum south-themed sorority formal. Or maybe it’s because Katie is being touted as this sex-positive, free woman just because she used a vibrator as a prop during her entrance on Matt’s season. And I’m not saying she isn’t liberated, it was just weird to celebrate her sexual freedom whilst she sat in an interview with former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe, who was slut-shamed on the show because she had sex with one of her suitors in the middle of the season, as opposed to waiting for fantasy suites week. See? It’s just a little off.
Though I found much of the episode boring, there was a particular moment that drew me in like no other. Before all the men arrived in their limos to greet Katie, she stood at the foot of the driveway all alone. And she looked…nervous. And not the type of nervousness that appears on the face of a gymnast before they hurl themselves at a vault, it was the type of nervousness that appears when someone is truly exposing themselves.
Sometimes when you have an opportunity to truly put yourself out there, if you’re anything like me, the fear and doubt can become so overwhelming, you convince yourself it would be better to retreat and not try at all. And then there’s what happens when you actually take the plunge and say, I will persist despite my fear. This decision often unleashes a whole new beast. A beast that asks what if you take a chance, seize the moment, put your whole self on display and no one wants it? What will you do when you’re told the person you are is not quite desirable enough? For a second while I watched Katie shiver in a red formal gown outside an empty resort in the desert, I saw a glimpse of that vulnerability in her eye, and it was tragically beautiful.
There’s a reason why we are most attracted to the people who present as the most authentic, no matter what form that authenticity assumes. Like millions of others, I watched Bo Burnham’s most recent special, “INSIDE,” on Netflix. First of all, if you have not seen it, stop everything you’re doing and watch it! Bo is a satirical musical artist who took a break from performing standup a few years ago. Then, the pandemic hit and he wrote, performed, and edited a comedy special while in quarantine. He perfectly incorporated his mental state and astute societal observations into a highly entertaining and sobering piece of art. There’s a song called “Welcome to the Internet” that is one of the best creations of the 2000s (find it on YouTube). I could go on and on regurgitating what everyone else has said about how he is a genius comedian and musician with the most poignant and discerning eye, but there was something else I loved about the special. All of the in-between bits. The moments where a song hasn’t quite started. Or an awkward transition. A glance at the camera. The moments where Bo, even just for a moment, said hey, this is me.
I’m currently on my own journey of self-affirmation, trying to elevate myself while meeting the doubts I often have with compassion, instead of judgment. Some say it’s hard to see people for who they are, but I think it’s even harder to truly be seen. To dare the world to take you in, even if it means you’re chewed up and spit out in the process. But that’s the point, isn’t it? To live freely and try to love the gnarled, devastated version of ourselves just a little bit more each day.
Want to engage? Tell me when you feel most afraid, most filled with doubt, most unsure, and what you do about it.