My husband and I tuned into last night’s finale of the Bachelor (yes, he watches; yes, it’s for me) after I found myself strangely invested in a show I normally do not watch. I tuned in midway through the season because I wanted a Monday-night show to watch. I soon found myself pleased that so many of the women in the house seemed friendly with each other and that Bachelor Sean seemed seriously committed to his personal integrity and treating all of the women with kindness and grace. In spite of the plot-turning moment of conflict with Des’s brother (hopefully she’ll find love as this summer’s Bachelorette), I believed Sean when he rejected the label of playboy and affirmed his commitment to find love, marriage, and a family.
And apparently I’m not the only one who noticed a different vibe to this season, the 17th incarnation of a franchise that churns out fairytales on tap. The Daily Beast reports that Sean remained abstinent through the entire season (apparently this is unheard of on the show, even though the cameras can only imply what happens behind closed doors); author Ramin Setodeh claims Sean is a “born-again virgin” who has decided not to have sex (again) until he is married. That determination seems to stand in stark opposition to the show’s premise, where make-out sessions are the normal ending to dates; this is the show that put the term “fantasy suite” into the cultural milieu, after all, and that overnight stay in a lavish hotel (because really, the one thing that’s lacking from The Bachelor dating context is fantasy…) happens with three different prospective partners. It’s not exactly a program that seems to perpetuate abstinence or monogamy as worthwhile.
But the funny thing about Sean’s faith and his faith-based decisions on the show is that it all seems so normal. I remember watching marathoner and outspoken Christian Josh Cox on Jen Schefft’s season of The Bachelorette, and he came off as intense and insane; I have no idea to what extent that impression reflects editing or reality, but it seemed like the show didn’t really know what to make of weirdos who run and pray a lot. Not so on Sean’s season, where several women in the house arrived with Bibles and met in the mornings for study and prayer. Watching the live updates the other night, I couldn’t help but notice how often Sean and runner-up Lindsay Yenter talked about prayer in their awkward reunion. Lindsay, who wins the classiest-runner-up in reality television history award, kept asking for closure, until Sean finally concluded that his decision is explicable only as a movement of the Spirit. That’s cold comfort for Lindsay, I imagine, but she expressed the resilience and poise of a grace-filled woman, even as she relived her rejection on national television.
And then there’s winner Catherine Giudici, who apparently takes her faith pretty seriously too. She and Sean claim that their extravagant nuptials will air on ABC “soon,” and I feel hopeful for this couple. Maybe they’ll be one of the rare ones who meet in this manner and actually make it to the altar. As skeptical I am about the formula. method and behaviors cultivated on this show, I’d love to see a couple emerge from the debauchery and build a relationship that is pleasing to God. Maybe they’ll make it. Maybe all that prayer really does something, in spite of us.