Girls gone mild

William Burroughs once commented that the Paul Bowles autobiography Without Stopping should really have been entitled Without Telling.

I am sure that I was not the only one in the live studio audience of The Bachelor: Rome – The Women Tell All to have been thinking about this and looked forward to asking the ten rejected bachelorettes who would soon be sitting in front of me about their literary tastes and other related questions that could help me get to know them better than bachelor Lorenzo ever bothered to.

OK, who am I kidding? These are the actual questions I wrote down on a 5×7 card that the well meaning production assistant passed out during the interminable hours of waiting for the taping to begin:

1) Agnese–Which of the girls do you feel were supporting and welcoming and which do you feel were never friendly and excluded you? And do you think Lorenzo should have shared the responsibility to communicate? Why was the entire burden on you to learn English?

2) For All–Who has tattoos? Where are they? What are they of? (I’m not going to pretend I didn’t want to know myself, but this was a shout out to our friend Anthony who had in fact spent many minutes with our Tivo’s freeze frame trying to ascertain these very questions)

3) For Lisa–Just how committed to your timeline are you? Would you marry anyone just to stick to your overall plan?

My confidence regarding my questions was reinforced when Rosslyn (“you can call me Rozz”), a member of the production team, asked me if I would be willing to ask a question on the show. I replied that I would be glad to, and she wrote my name on her clipboard.

My wife Adriean and I were excited but not surprised; we guessed that my odds were good just by walking in the door. I was one of four males in the entire audience, and prior viewings of The Women Tell All episodes from previous seasons made clear that the producers liked to maintain the illusion that there is at least some degree of gender diversity in the show’s advertising demographic so the same few men kept getting shown throughout the entire show. Kind of like that African-American guy at the Republican National Convention.

The studio was ridiculously cold as they walked us in to take our seats around a set that was distinguished by the particularly lame way they tried to tie in this season’s gimmick; the bachelor is an Italian “prince” and the bulk of the show is set in the Eternal City. This means that the standard roses and candles décor is punctuated by some busts and other assorted statuary. A bit of research revealed that Lorenzo Borghese’s family had been granted a title by an ancient Pope but that this guy has lived in Manhattan since he was two years old and makes his fortune owning a chain of pet spas.

Yes, you read that right. Makes me feel guilty that I visited “his” museum in “his” park, but this is offset by my knowledge that I can speak about as much Italian as he can.

The girls walk in and sit in two rows of these silly looking clear Lucite chairs. This, my friends, is what we have been waiting for. But not as long as they have.

Let me explain. The show was taped six or so months ago but has only begun airing this fall. That means that even though we just saw Lisa unceremoniously booted on last week’s show and every audience member is staring at her as if she is somehow damaged goods, she has been home and presumably doing just fine for a long time, and so we all perform this Kabuki ritual wherein she pretends to be brave in the face of her trauma and we pretend that we are privileged to be hearing this account as if it just happened. What is more strange, of course, is that when the bachelor finally makes his appearance to talk about his agonizing decision coming up in a few episodes, he has in fact already chosen (and likely dumped if Gawker/Defamer are to be believed–the track record for these shows is not good) his intended.

Here is a quick rundown of the girls, complete with largely uncharitable comments:

Kim–is notable because she is from Long Beach, got really drunk on the show, and appears to have a borderline eating disorder. Sadly, she, like many of the other girls who were cut somewhat early in the process, didn’t really register that much because they just weren’t on that many episodes.

Sarah–the only vaguely ethnic girl, she continues the show’s apparent fascination with Canadian contestants. The racial politics of the show are no less enlightened than its take on gender relations. Women of color are typically kept for one round and then cut.

Ellen–I admit to having a soft spot for Ellen, largely because she didn’t seem to go in for the more standard glamour/porcelain doll look and was willing to work without makeup. Perhaps I am giving her too much credit for just not having enough time to get ready in the morning, but look around–the compliments aren’t exactly flowing, so take ‘em where you can get ‘em.

Gina–wow, this is going to sound even more shallow but our nickname for her was Snarly. And she earned it. Just never seemed happy.

Jeanette–very nice girl who looked better in person than on the show. And yes, I am aware of how awful that must read, but you should hear what they say about each other. I felt guilty for calling her “goofy” on the first couple of episodes; I now read that as “charming.”

Erica–a complete nightmare but the producers are likely more to blame than she is. A car wreck of a personality, she lists her occupation as “socialite,” and makes for better reality TV I suppose than a better adjusted person, but you can’t help but wonder if she is playing a role as the bitch because she has seen enough reality TV to know that is what is required or if the “role” is really who she is. Grab your postmodern theory textbooks and discuss.

Desiree–a Salt Lake City realtor who thinks she is fun but is more just drunk and loud. In this group, however, that somehow equates to some kind of recognizable personality and she lasted for quite awhile.

Jami–self described small town girl from Gavelston who formed a (too?) natural foil for Erica, the aforementioned spoiled rich girl from Houston who claimed that she had never before flown coach as a way to woo Lorenzo. Jami has been compared to a linebacker and is most memorable for having her millions of dollars of loaned jewels literally stripped from her neck on the spot before being shoved into a taxi and sent immediately home when she didn’t receive a rose during her one-on-one date.

Agnese–a gimmick who, in my opinion, should have “won.” She was one of two Italian girls, she is a student from Venice, brought in on that first night to threaten and unsettle the other 25 American girls. She ended up making it to the final four before that complete loser cut her with some lame excuse about not being able to communicate well enough with her. She makes more sense in English than many of the American girls do, and I admit to having a soft spot for Italian girls. Not to get all Big Love, but that is one of the odd dynamics of the show. Adriean and I watch it together and pull for our favorites as well as try our best to negotiate the tension between who we think he should pick and who we think he will pick (is now the time to mention the fantasy version of the show that you can play online?). I think we are picking based on the same criteria, but Adriean does seem less physically judgmental while I am perhaps more willing to overlook a giggler or a braying laugh than she is.

Agnese, by the way, must be freezing in her little red dress and she has a cold. A little travel-size Kleenex bag is wedged behind her back, visible through her absurd chair. Did they really fly her all the way out from Venice six months after the fact just for this?

Lisa–the girl you love to hate or just goal oriented? The frontrunner who flamed out when her rather unyielding plan of being married by a certain (distressingly early) age, followed by kids an exact two years later, came more and more to light. She was a real fan, even a student, of the show, which made sense in terms of who would apply to be a contestant but which also made her appear more insincere than she likely was: “you don’t even need to show me the card, I know it’s an invitation to the fantasy suite, and yes, I’d love to go.”

All of the girls offer their opinions as to who they think Lorenzo will choose in the end: Sadie the virgin (hey, I wouldn’t bring it up if she wasn’t constantly defining herself solely by her supposed virtue) publicist from Carlsbad or Jen, the 8th grade teacher from Florida with the shotgun wielding father? I’m going all meta here and writing this before watching the final episode myself, but seven out of the ten girls chose Jen, somewhat surprisingly given the way the show’s editors have made Sadie appear the clear favorite in contrast to Lisa . This is mildly interesting because it reminds you that viewers ultimately know so little about these women and that the impressions the girls get from actually living together for however many weeks are more significant than some clips edited together for some kind of dramatic tension and/or coherence as well as the requisite fairytale ending, or illusion thereof, which the ratings demand.

Speaking of illusions, all of you careful viewers of the show in question are probably thinking, “hey big talker Mancillas, I didn’t see you ask a question.” Well, you’re right. Despite my privileged gender status (which actually conveyed to me less than the full hegemonic power of patriarchy given the surroundings), I did not make the cut. My buddy Rozz walked over during the taping and read to me the question they wanted me to stand in front of the microphone and ask. I was not expecting that it would be one of my actual questions, but I wasn’t quite expecting this. I looked at her dumbly and when she repeated it, I said it back to her in my best and most compliant Stepford style. It wasn’t until Adriean asked me what I was going to say on national television and I had to say it again out loud that I realized I would have to call Rozz back over and explain that this wasn’t the right question for me. I do admit to feeling let down when she smiled that she understood and then turned on her heel to find one of the other few men around to do her dirty work. Um, no follow up question, Rozz? Anything else on the ol’ clipboard for me?

The poor stooge who they eventually found butchered it through no fault of his own and they ended up cutting the entire audience question segment altogether. Better him than me, though, to stand up, look Erica (of all people) in the eye (or perhaps I could have stared directly into the tiara that she wore) and ask, “My mother thinks I’m a prince. Will you go out with me?”

The next installment begins in the spring. The guy is a Navy doctor/Ironman competitor who, get this, is ready to get married and “have a ton of kids.” I do think we’ll hold off on any more live tapings in the future; this just wasn’t as satisfying as attending Dancing With The Stars.

For the fall? There’s been no announcement yet, but word on the street is that an application has been printed out and is being submitted in the name of a certain West Coast editor…

6 responses to “Girls gone mild”

  1. Jeremy Zitter says:

    I don’t suppose you or Adriean have actually played the online fantasy version of “The Bachelor”? And why do I get the feeling that Adriean should get (at least) some kind of co-writer credit on this?

  2. Lisa Tremain says:

    See forementioned potential fall Bachelor’s comment above.

    Ruben, I am so happy that my (what John calls sick) fascination with this show has been highlighted in the whatsit, though part of my interest, this season, was in which of these girls (none) would see what a sod the “prince” is. I mean seriously. He regularly missed ridiculously obvious social cues, appeared to be a terrible kisser, and all that crying? Fake.

    I think so many of the girls– and potentially now, Jen– would have had to force any type of continued romance. Hooray for Agnese! She’s free to meet a real guy.

  3. Adriean says:

    Jeremy – to answer your questions, I happen to know some people who seem to enjoy online fantasy games quite a bit and are in no means embarrassed by their involvement (addiction?) in them. So, yes I’ll wholeheartedly admit that I played the Final Rose fantasy game. And unfortunately I cannot accept any co-writer credit for this timely post. Thanks though (I think?).

    p.s. want to trade Deron for Sadie?

    Lisa – I shared the same interest in hoping the girls would see Lorenzo for how dorky he is (unfortunately this never happened) and I’m happy to know I’m not the only one with the “sick” fascination!

  4. Scott Godfrey says:

    Ruben, this post makes me wish that I had your commitment to not missing the important things in life; even though you and Adriean are educators with triplet toddlers, you still make time for trash TV. You are a man who owns his priorities.

  5. Ruben Mancillas says:

    OK, she’s my girl and everything but how great a line is “p.s. want to trade Deron for Sadie?”


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