"What is Sharleen?" Clare, a woman who is still in the running to become the chosen person of Bachelor Juan Pablo, asked Monday night. The answer is surprisingly simple: Sharleen is one of the most revolutionary Bachelor contestants to have ever chosen to attend this televised jaunt from polygamy to monogamy.
I don’t agree with everything in this article, but it’s worth a read because Sharleen was definitely a square peg in the slimy, aspirating hole that is The Bachelor franchise.
What I liked most about her is that, while a complete fucking weirdo in the alternate reality that is The Bachelor, she was overwhelmingly normal by real world standards. She always gave off the vibe that she was somehow on the outside, peering through the window at the other contestants, at Juan Pablo, at the show in general. That, in itself, is the correct, normal, reaction to a process so steeped in artificiality that it astounds me every week to find that people watch it earnestly, truly rooting for the contestants to “find true love”.
What I found most interesting about Sharleen is that she accidentally pierced the veil of “the process” by her very existence. To be clear, The Bachelor process is simple, relying on psychological trickery and simple economics of scarcity to convince otherwise average narcissists that they have found the love of their life. All the skydiving and helicopter rides stimulate fear-based adrenaline, a feeling that the human mind easily conflates with the butterflies of love. Trapping tens of humans in a room with no stimulation makes the one person they’re doing this for seem all the more worth it, particularly once booze is thrown in to the mix and actual territorial fights break out. There are countless other small and large ways in which the process wreaks havoc with the mind in a simulacra of “true love”, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that someone like Sharleen, brainy, nerdy, accomplished, normal… she fell for the tricks too. Clearly not hard enough, since her Jiminy Cricket convinced her to eventually move along. But enough so that she spent most of her time on the show confused at her own reactions.
This is what makes her such an interesting case. The fact that she has a purely performative career, and that she auditioned for the show in the first place, hints at the standard levels of self involvement that lead people to reality television. Beyond that, however, what she showed is that no one is immune to the process, no matter how sharp their mind, or how clear their sense of self or purpose. Only through “the process” could a dull witted, slightly bigoted blond party boy himbo with a Madonna-whore complex morph into an object of attraction for someone so antithetical to what he represents. This, in a nutshell, is why I watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. The process is endlessly fascinating, and the producers (and spectators) as cruel and curious as scientists positioning rats in mazes.