August 23rd, 2016

Bachelor in Paradise meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Some read detective novels for escape, but I’ve never cared for them. Some gamble, some drink, some look at porn online.

My vice is a bit different: every now and then I follow a reality TV show. I’ve written about some of these before (nope, I’m not going to provide the links), and now I have another reality TV confession to make.

Never the Kardashians; but the one I watch isn’t much less trashy. Maybe it’s even worse: I’ve taken to watching this year’s group of young and beautiful and in some cases quite empty-headed singles, cavorting about on a Mexican beach and falling in and out of love and lust and angst.

“Bachelor in Paradise.” Yes. My degradation is complete.

Why? Why do I do it? Maybe it’s the perfect escape from Trump and Hillary, maybe it’s my substitute for a soap opera, which it much resembles. But it struck me recently not only how silly and manipulative the show is, and how much I enjoy it nevertheless (or maybe for that reason), but also how certain moments in it remind me of the eternal verities of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

You may laugh. Indeed, you might do well to laugh. “Neo,” you may say, “are you kidding me? Don’t you just want to put a veneer of culture on this terrible piece of trash so that you can feel better about your nasty habit of watching it?”

Well, maybe. But I’m actually quite serious about the connection. The play—one of my favorites—is about the intensity and yet the absurdity of unrequited love, and in the play there’s a magical flower that makes everything right and has the lovers all happy and coupled up at the end. In “Bachelor,” the resolution is not that simple, although there have been very real marriages that come of meetings on the program.

And by the way, this is the first time I’ve ever watched it. This season’s “Bachelor in Paradise” features a woman named Ashley who has been in love (for a year, because this is her second time on the show) with a man named Jared. Hopelessly in love, that is. Where once he led her on a little bit, now he’s trying desperately to head her off. But Ashley’s having none of it.

Rather much like the characters Helena and Demetrius in “Dream.” So I started to think that what the TV show really needs is Puck with his little squeeze of flower power. What ABC wouldn’t give for a squirt of that!

If you’re still with me here, I’ll illustrate what I’m talking about with a short clip from “Paradise” and one from “Dream.” First, let me point out that each lovers’ roundelay takes place in a sort of fantasy world, where the young lovers are taken away from their usual environments but then become subject to manipulations by powerful beings (in the case of “Paradise” it’s the producers and host Chris Harrison; with “Dream” it’s Oberon and Puck). The dance of love becomes very intense quite quickly.

Here we have Ashley and Jared talking. It ain’t Shakespeare, more’s the pity. But the sentiment is the same, although I wonder whether either of them has ever seen “Dream”:

And here’s a rather unconventional 1968 production of “Dream,” with quite a cast from the Royal Shakespeare Academy, including Diana Rigg here as the spurned Helena chasing after Demetrius (later on, the Titania is the young Judi Dench and Helen Mirren is Hermia, but in this scene the guy looking on intermittently is Oberon). Demetrius is a good sight meaner than Jared:

Perhaps the most famous line in the entire play is uttered by Puck on watching (and orchestrating) some of the ins and outs, backs and forths, of love: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Puck feels above it all because he’s not human. But for the rest of us (and that includes me) there’s no reason to feel so superior.

22 Responses to “Bachelor in Paradise meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

  1. brdavis9 Says:

    It’s good to know you’re not perfect dear.

    …this isn’t a taste I’ve ever required. And never will.


  2. Julie near Chicago Says:

    Neo, by all means enjoy your Secret Vice to your heart’s content! (Me, I am utterly, unashamedly in love with Soapdish andDon’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. How’s that for high-class intellectual fodder!

    However, not all “Reality Shows” are. I’ll certainly concede that Mr. Shakespeare in his day observed the same unfortunate human foibles as we do in ours, whence one might conclude that Life is a Reality Show; but your two clips are so close as to make me wonder whether the alleged Reality Show is more or less based upon the earlier work by The Bard.

  3. Julie near Chicago Says:

    Once again I have committed the Unclosed Parenthesis. Apologies 🙁

  4. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    We all have our guilty pleasures.

    “I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices.” – Mark Twain

    “Never trust a man without vices…” (Winston Churchill)

    “Show me a man without vice and I’ll show you one without virtue!” ― Pittacus Lore

  5. Cornflour Says:

    At “The Washington Post,” a feminist writes about watching “The Bachelor” as a competitive sport.

    She and her friends are part of a Bachelor fantasy league (said with a straight face) that works like the well-known football fantasy leagues.

    Fake romance as fake sport. I knew you’d be interested.

    Our feminist writer also mentions Bachelor drinking games. If combined with Shakespeare drinking games and feminist drinking games, who could stay sober? Who’d want to?

  6. AesopFan Says:

    I did a lot of theater in college (probably too much, although I did graduate), and one of our staples was an annual Shakespearean play. “Dream” was the production my Freshman year, and it starred two of our English professors in the cast; one (a serious Shakespeare scholar) played Bottom with a great deal of enthusiasm. He also staged the famous Pyramus and Thisbe scene in a way that made a great hit with a bunch of collegians: the rustic playing the “wall” crouched slightly and flexed his knees outwards to make an opening between his legs, which gave a certain anatomical credence to the line “I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all” — you can go and read the Roman post now, if you like.

    FWIW, I was one of the fairies, all of whom (of whatever gender) were scantily clad and covered with blue body paint; we raided the library one night after rehearsal (it stayed open quite late then, as students actually had to go and read books for class) and we found the sight of a snoozing egghead suddenly wakened by a throng of grinning gnomes to be satisfactorily amusing.

    Some 30 years later, I appeared in a community college production with my spouse and two of our children, which was also very satisfying, although not quite so scatologically entertaining.

  7. AesopFan Says:

    Reality TV in iambic pentameter — what’s not to like?

    To the point of the post though, isn’t it the combination of well-recognized emotional archetypes, artful plotting, and sublime phrasing that makes Shakespeare the pre-eminent playwright that he STILL is?

    Not that the SJWs who are so busily cleansing the college curricula of all the ODWM would know that.

  8. parker Says:

    My ‘vice’ is streaming late night tv series on netflixs. Doc Martin, Death in Paradise, Longmire,, and Hell on Wheels are a few of my current favorites. I concur with Julie near Chicago, the follies of humanity are the same now as the follies of the bard’s time. Nothing new about humanity under the sun. Only our technology changes, often for the betterment of our daily lives, sometimes the ‘advances’ are of dubious benefit.

  9. DNW Says:

    I have no vices, since shooting squirrels off the rear deck while drinking Manhattans is no vice.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    Ah, so you question the “reality” in reality TV? 🙂

    You call it “fake romance.” There’s no question that the shows are manipulated, shaped, etc. by the producers and the editors. And some of the romances and conflicts are almost certainly exaggerated, and some couples probably pretend to be involved with each other (for publicity’s sake) long past the time when they actually are.

    That said, the people are not actors and the emotions are in great part very real. The hothouse situation itself leads to emotion that doesn’t have to be faked, and the participants are physically beautiful people in the prime of life. Attraction and what’s known in the reality TV biz as “feelings for you” don’t really have to be faked.

    Proof of all of this is the number of weddings that have occurred, and many of these couples are still married today. Some who ended up breaking up and not marrying nevertheless dated for a significant amount of time before the split, in some cases years. If you really want the lowdown on it, see this.

  11. Matthew Says:

    I’ve never sat through more than five minutes of reality TV, but I have plenty of vices. I’ve read a hell of lot of cheap “Men’s Adventure” novels like the Executioner and the Destroyer in my time.

    Thing is people need to decompress sometimes.

    Also, I find that sometimes “guilty vices” aren’t worth being guilty about. The Destroyer had some very trenchant and sometimes outright caustic satire on the Left. The Executioner series was the epitome of hackwork and basically the male equivalent of Harlequin romance (the rights of the character are actually owned by the company that owns Harlequin.) Yet, it’s creator wrote it specifically as a response to the horrible way soldiers returning from Vietnam were treated.

  12. Sgt. Mom Says:

    Eh — we had a period of watching certain reality shows – Bridezillas and Restaurant Impossible, until suddenly, between one show and the next we were suddenly satiated. No kidding – the awful Bridezillas just palled, and when they did a local restaurant in San Antonio, we did a bit of putting-together-certain-factoids and the whole thing became just too much of a fraud to endure.
    This week – working through the TV series Agatha Raisin. We did a whole long tour through Monarch of the Glen … and I think I am able to teach my daughter a bit about characterization and plotting with these shows … we found holes aplenty in Longmire, although we had enjoyed the first couple of seasons …
    But to each their own taste…

  13. Ruth H Says:

    My secret vice and total political mind cleansing is watching another reality show, Little People, Big World. I’ve watched their kids grow up, get married and now the parents are divorced and still living on the farm in separate houses. More to come.

  14. Ray Says:

    My vice was watching wrestling. It was totally phony, but it was incredibly athletic.

  15. clarityseeker Says:

    I’m shocked.

  16. Artfldgrs Says:

    Why? Why do I do it?

    biology… there are reasons women are more socially nosey than the guys and why they watch the interplay of relationships in their local group (you make the characters in the tv show your local group by watching them).

    A new poll by the Lifetime cable network – a market leader in U.S. women’s programming – says that 67 per cent of women admit to spying on their partners, with 58 per cent acknowledging that they’ve also spied on their children

    it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our relationships and outcomes from that in a group affect group dynamics and outcomes, and in the past this was more acutely made conscious.

    in many ways our neo modern society post patriarchy do not give us much chance to be social as in the past and circulate. TV makes up for what we lack for in other areas.

    our lack of interaction all the time just dont let women get happy snooping… 🙂

    Only 15 per cent of women polled by Lifetime said they’d bothered to spy on their bosses; far fewer are interested in looking at company plans or financial information than in reading their boyfriend or husband’s diary.

    Snooping is principally a feminine hobby. Two years ago, the online dating service asked its members if they’d ever spied on their partner. They discovered women were twice as likely as men to snoop…

    Sifting through the minutiae of his day-to-day life helps give us a handle on what he’s really thinking and doing. We do it partly out of curiosity, partly out of insecurity, but also because information is power, and knowing what’s going on in his life gives us a measure of control. – Brenda Ross, relationship advisor for

    ‘Women snoop because we juggle so many balls – including emotional ones – that we come to expect we have the right to know what’s going on in every aspect of our lives,’ says psychologist Dr Pam Spurr.

    our brains dont really know that the people in the window box are not real, there is no special area of the brain that controls the input tagging as real or not… except for less than the past 100 years, nothing was fake. ergo, seeing is believing.

    but then why watch a snoop show? easy.. its risk free, the fix without the risk. real snooping has penalties if caught. but snooping through the boob tube is safe, like a roller coaster. not to mention that one can say it channels a negative practice that isnt good emotionally either, into a harmless entertainment.

    and from another source…

    Theoretically, people may have voyeuristic tendencies (i.e. trait voyeurism) in which they enjoy any chance to see “what they cannot otherwise see” when “the curtains are left slightly open.” In other words, reality TV viewers may just like backstage views of many situations in life, which in fact reality shows often portray

    but in truth, we ALL are voyeurs if you broadly think that fiction is just an arranged version of watching reality. that whether we are watching real people in some contrived artificial situation that hopes to coax or make fertile some behaviors and outcomes… or we are watching fake people in real or artificial looking settings and its the same thing. so if you were a guy and thought you are immune, sorry. but there are big differences in the tastes of either sex and unlike the feminists idea of it being programmed its mostly not…

    (heck, on that socially programmed thing, the funny part is that even primate males and females prefer the same toys human children do… )

  17. Steve57 Says:

    I will pray for you.

  18. Fred Says:

    Babylon Before Hitler…

  19. Ron Says:

    Reading your blog neo, and all of your commenter’s responses, is one of my “guilty pleasures”. As a “lurker” I need my daily fix and on Sunday’s I have withdrawal symtoms. Thanks for letting me enjoy all of your many times thoughtful and sometimes bizarre (especially your commentor’s) posts.

  20. neo-neocon Says:


    Always nice to see a lurker come out of the cybershadows.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    I try to remember a single episode of reality tv and…. I can’t find any. I saw a few screenshots of Survivor or whatever, and various music clips of songs and dances, but not anything complete.

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    What I do for fun is hone my swordmanship skills, work on my sword and blacksmithing and polishing hobbies. Learn metallurgy so I can get bang for buck via sword merchandise.

    Also train, retrain, relearn, reanalyze, and teach myself and others, the principles of martial arts or skills that utilize the Art of War.

    Only gets boring when I hit a plateau. Which happens often times enough that I have to spend time reading about current events before I get unstuck.

    Learning how to destroy the human body, and also as a result to heal the human body, was also fun. A kind of destruction in one hand, creation in the other.

    As for stories, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and The House in Fata Morgana, were excellent depictions of this “Savior” concept, humans often need but don’t understand.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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