Out in the Open

If reality TV gets too real, it might be time to give up your guilty pleasure

CBC producer Mitch Pollock ponders how many problematic plotlines he’s willing to overlook to keep watching The Bachelor.
Taylor Nolan and Derek Peth on ABC's The Bachelor in Paradise (ABC/Paul Hebert)

Mitch Pollock knows The Bachelor has always been problematic.

The long-running reality TV show and its several spin-offs — including The Bachelorette and 
Bachelor in Paradise — has been accused of portraying a superficial, heteronormative and insincere depiction of love and relationships. 

So why watch it at all?

"It resonates with me in a very pure way," says Mitch, a radio producer at the CBC. "On such a phony reality show, there's something truly beautiful about seeing people in the throes of love."

In other words, it's a guilty pleasure. But watching the show has been an exploration of exactly how guilty he should feel.

As the seasons rolled on, Mitch found the show harder and harder to love. When a season of The Bachelorette finally starred the franchise's first black lead, Mitch felt the show played up racial tensions to drum up viewership.

And then there were allegations of sexual misconduct between cast members during this past summer's season of Bachelor in Paradise, which briefly halted production of the show.

"We all have lines of comfort with whatever we watch," Mitch says. Some football fans, for example, stopped watching the sport as more players emerged with stories of debilitating head injuries. All consumers of entertainment need to decide when their own ethical line has been crossed. 

"The line moves, and it gets to a point where you don't want to watch it any more."