One of the pleasures of having an overgrown ego, when it comes to the subject of my own intellect, is that I never doubt my own judgment in matters of taste. I’m always confident my taste is, if not perfect, nearly so — or at least legitimate. I realize that excessive confidence in one’s own tastes and opinions is the dictionary definition of the word “boor,” but never mind.
I’m quite content to go through life as a bit of a boor in matters of cultural discernment, because I never have to second-guess. My boorishness affords me a comfort level — totally blasé — whenever aesthetic judgments are to be made: buying shoes (“Never loafers!” is my rule), setting a table (with garish vintage cloth napkins by Vera), arranging flowers (“Down with sunflowers!”), playing a new song on Spotify for a friend (“Strong Enough” by Ray LaMontagne). . . . I’m not worried about what you think.
If you think my navy-blue Saltwater Sandals are ugly, it’s because you don’t understand.
Indeed, the only social stratum I have difficulty looking down my nose at, in matters of aesthetic judgment, is the British royal family. That’s how colossally boorish my confidence in my own taste is. The Windsors: Why are they wearing emerald-green or butter-yellow skirt suits with matchy-matchy emerald-green or butter-yellow hats? From my viewpoint, perched in an apple tree and peering up through the window of the palace, it appears that the Windsors have colossally tacky taste. But maybe the reason their clothing looks so ugly to me is because I am the one who doesn’t understand. I am unable to approach the Windsors from the angle necessary: above.
All of this is just a very long preamble to explain why I feel perfectly comfortable bringing up the subject of reality television. You may not understand, but, trust me, trust me. My taste is perfect.
I am a superfan of the — terrible, awful, no-good — television franchise “The Bachelor.” This is not incompatible, in my own mind, with my egotistic self-perception as an old-fashioned bluestocking intellectual. I very much enjoy reading the poems of John Donne, and I very much enjoy reading biographies of poets such as John Donne, and whilst driving in my modest car I prefer a podcast called “Philosophize This!” to yer basic “Crime Junkie” . . . I am not above boasting about my upper-middle-brow, pseudo-academic media-consumption habits . . . but I also love to watch and analyze every single broadcast minute of “The Bachelor” and its spinoffs, “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” the upcoming “Golden Bachelor.”
Now I have to pause to make sure you know what I’m talking about.
The “Bachelor” is a long-running reality television competition in which a muscular young man, often a former football player or a real estate salesman — in scenes interspersed between many onscreen showers in which he lathers his chest with soapy foam — dates a group of well-waxed young women (given many opportunities to show off their bikini bodies in hot tubs) until he narrows down his choice to one lucky “ring winner,” to whom he proposes marriage, ending the season on one knee as the palm trees wave and the starlings circle majestically above the crashing waves of a beach in Bali.
The fun is a bit like the Miss America pageant. Retrograde, misogynistic, look-ist, and troubling. But it also satisfies that something deep down in monkey brains that glues us to plotlines of matchmaking. Jane Austen novels? “The Bachelorette”? Kind of the same subject.
Yes, the “Bachelor” franchise is tawdry! That’s why PaceCase and BachelorClues, the originators of a podcast called “Game of Roses,” throw around the term “complicit” a lot. I’m not sure how I missed the memo on this podcast, “Game of Roses,” for so long; I first listened to it only a couple of months ago. “Game of Roses” breaks down every single frame of “Bachelor” shows with the same obsessive — insane, unreasonable, nutty, wonkish — attention to minutiae and statistics that baseball and football fans lavish on their favorite sport. The sport here is “our beloved game,” that is, the “Bachelor” franchise.
“Game of Roses” is not just a podcast but an online subculture with its own very elaborate language and lingo. That’s part of the inanity. The inanity we fans love so well. I’ve now sunk well down into what they call “the Pit” — the Pit being not a physical space but a headspace in which you roll around in endless nitty-gritty details of all 27 “Bachelor” seasons, dating back to 2002. Who knows the names of the golden retrievers belonging to Kaitlyn Bristowe, Bachelorette 2015? We do. Her pups are Pinot and Ramen. The nickname of the mother of Peter Weber, Bachelor season 24? Sweetnums. The title of the romance written by Hannah Brown, Bachelorette season 15? “Mistakes We Never Made.”
The “Game of Roses” lexicon is gibberish, unless you are a superfan. Here are a few examples.
A “P.T.C.” is a “personal tragedy card,” played by a contestant who wants to grow closer to “the Crown” — that is, the lead Bachelor or Bachelorette — by revealing a challenge overcome in the past, crying over it during a dinner date, and being consoled. (Typically, a P.T.C. might be a death in the family, an eating disorder, a health scare, or an earlier toxic romance.) “Dark Lord Palmer” or “D.L.P.” is the current host of the show, Jesse Palmer, who took over from the original host, “Dark Lord Harrison.” A “huju” is a hug-jump, performed by a female contestant who runs up to the Bachelor in some outdoor setting — a park, garden, or castle courtyard — and leaps through the air into his embrace, wrapping her legs around his torso. The shorthands “4.T.R.R.” and “4.T.W.R.” refer to a contestant’s reasons for being on the show: “for the right reasons” (wanting to get married) or “for the wrong reasons” (fame-seeking and Instagram followers).
Before belatedly finding the “Game of Roses” podcast, I’d been directing remarks to my television screen about a lot of this stuff for actual decades — noting hujus and P.T.C.s, without having the words, and believing I was alone in my minutiae-observance.
Next week is a huge, big deal in Bachelor Nation. On Thursday comes the debut of season nine of “Bachelor in Paradise.” That’s the super-ridiculous spinoff in which a gaggle of former contestants mix and mingle at a beach resort in Mexico, making out noisily in cabanas, eating seafood with their fingers, sweating through their makeup, taking shots of tequila, and having tearful spats with love rivals. But also, on the very same night, airing back to back, comes the premiere of an all-new spinoff called “The Golden Bachelor,” starring a 72-year-old widower from Indiana named Gerry — oddly, not pronounced like “Jerry” but with a hard “G” to rhyme with “Berry” — who arrives at the Bachelor mansion, Villa de la Vina in Agoura Hills, Calif., to “begin his journey” of finding a wife among 22 evening-gown-wearing women between the ages of 60 and 75.
This is the first time the cast of a “Bachelor” show has been over 40. We the superfans are all a-buzz: Will the golden bachelorettes be expected to sleep in bunk beds at Villa de la Vina? What will happen during the “fantasy suites” episode near the end of the season, when the Crown traditionally spends a night alone in a richly upholstered hotel suite with each of his three favorite ladies? Which of the silver foxes will get the villain edit? Will there even be a villain edit?
“Game of Roses” is my new favorite treat and I am not ashamed. That and frozen chunks of watermelon whirred into an icy beverage in the blender. Combine the premiere of “The Golden Bachelor” with a pink glassful of frozen-watermelon beverage and I’m not taking any phone calls for the night. I’m in my pajamas, happy as a lark.