I like spoilers. I’m like Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally in that I like to flip to the back of the book to read the ending first, just so I know what’s going to happen. (Harry did it because he wanted to know the ending in case he died. I’m not that dark.) If we want to take a microscope to my psyche — which, sure, it’s Thursday — you could say my anxiety fuels a need to understand, to know, to palpate the things I’m watching as comprehensively as I can. Willful ignorance is dumb. Why would you blindfold yourself to the narrative twists of the plot of Game of Thrones when you can just look them up on Reddit? It doesn’t mean I enjoy Game of Thrones any less. It just means I’m not going in blind. Think of it as television reconnaissance — I get to know the layout of my TV shows before I watch them. I still get to enjoy the way the layout’s been orchestrated, but I’m not overwhelmed by some unnecessary surprise.
That said, I won’t be reading spoilers for The Bachelorette this season. Now that production on Becca Kufrin’s season is in full swing, Bachelor blogger Reality Steve has started sharing details of the season. My colleague inadvertently told me the other day who wins the first impression rose on the first night. (Luckily, my mind buried his Bland Muscle Boy name right alongside how to spell “restuarant.” Too many vowels!) Soon, the internet will know where the show goes and who wins. The season of Bachelor spoiling is here, and I’m not participating. This is because I think I’m ready to make like a Bachelor contestant: Y’all, I’m ready to be vulnerable.
When I argue with friends over spoilers, I usually argue that spoilers don’t matter when it comes to really, really good television. If this is the age of prestige TV, then we certainly don’t need to rely on plot twists to keep us interested in watching television. A lot of factors contribute to great television. Like, say, writing! There’s also music; music does a lot! Great performances, great sound mixing, stellar editing, and even a swell lighting designer can take a 2D plot to 3D perfection. Spoilers — details regarding the plot and only the plot — reveal just a fraction of the joy a good TV show has in store. In fact, to place such a premium on the plot kind of ignores the work of literally thousands of crew members. Narrative surprises happen when you don’t know what’s going to happen, yes, but they also happen when the music builds and the shot is framed juuuuust right.
I wish I could call The Bachelorette “prestige television.” Though I treat it like the modern Oresteia — as it should be treated — the show simply doesn’t have the mechanics of fictional television. It’s reality television. Reality television is not supposed to be produced. The music isn’t supposed to be good. There’s no acting, and certainly no director. Producers act as shepherds, guiding the plot into place, but they can’t tell anyone what to do, despite what UnREAL tells us. And even if they are manipulating contestants, manipulation is not the same as writing a script. The Bachelorette is bad television in that it has no craft. It’s worthy of criticism and attention because it’s a kind of postmodern performance art. But it’s not good television.
During the last season of The Bachelor, I happily spoiled myself. I knew Arie Luyendyk, Jr. would pick Becca Kufrin then dump her for his runner-up. The season was, granted, a very boring season. Knowing what would happen somehow made it more boring and, even worse, it made me jaded. Like most Bachelor fans, I survive on the sliver of hope that fantasy romance is possible. We have to aspire to something, right? I started watching The Bachelor because watching people try to fall in love was just as poignant as watching people succeed at it. Somewhere in my pre-show reconnaissance, I forgot that this show isn't about plot. It's about people. It is people, actually, and I don't need to know everything about it to enjoy it!
With that, please don't send me links to spoilers, or news about Kufrin's current love journey. I will be enjoying my Bachelorette-free life until May, when ABC releases the list of contestants. And then, I will leap without fear. If you're a bird, I'm a bird!