Should the FBI raid ABC's Hollywood Hills compound before its too late? I'm not saying that Chris Harrison is grooming Ben to be another Manson who will compel his stable of freeloading barmaids to terrorize the greater Los Angeles area… but I'm not saying he isn't, either. Last night's episode of The Bachelor exposed some uncomfortable parallels between the show's structure and the criteria that identifies a group as a cult.
Unstable Leader with a Personal Take on Social Mores
The selectively flat-ironed pieces of hair, center parts, pilgrim-inspired outerwear, and shimmering lip gloss are red flags that should not be ignored. If Ben can walk into the world every day and look people in the eye like his hair is okay, what other fundamental rights and wrongs is he willing to ignore?
Not to mention he is now claiming to have two hometowns. Last week he was telling the girls he made his home in Sonoma and it was his life; this week he said the same exact thing about San Francisco. Is Ben F. claiming to astrally project to San Francisco from his secluded Sonoma estate?
Bonding Members Through Fear and Degredation
The first one-on-one date with each girl almost always involves an adrenaline-junkie activity like bungee-jumping, parachuting, etc. Ben used fear during his one-on-one bridge climbing date with skittish Emily, pushing her to her boundary and then kissing her when she balked at the pressure.
The "group date" was essentially a hazing. Have you ever fallen while skiing in snow pants? Imagine doing it in a bikini, while your naked upper thighs wobbled in front of all God's creation in the glaring noonday sun.
Constant Herd Mentality
You could see the strain on the girls' faces as they watched the bridge date via spyglass. They were simply envying the chance to get away from a volatile group dynamic in which everyone is merely a pawn in a master game of social chess Courtney is playing against herself.
Guilt and Shame Over Leaving
Brittany, in an unprecedented display of good sense, decided she needed to leave before Ben had the chance to get her alone with his shiny lips. The shock and outrage in the room was palpable when she hinted she would depart, and when she had to tell Ben she broke down in tears, declaring herself unworthy of him.
Ben rounded things out with a snide snarl of "Say hi TO YOUR GRANDMA," as he hurled the taxi door closed. It's common for departing members of a cult to suffer a trauma in surrendering what they consider an exalted status and grand purpose (in this case, waiting to get voted off a TV show by a douchebag) .
Shunning of Outsiders
Cut off from friends, family, and their former identities, the girls have been reduced to a micro reality in which their only goals in life are to earn Ben's approval and stay out of Courtney's way (Emily hit the nail on the head: This girl IS personality disorder). This goes a long way to explaining why they faced off against interloper Shawntel like a bunch of grizzled lady Crips.
The reaction to Shawntel was especially hateful when you consider that she presented no mathematical decrease of anyone's chances. One girl left, one girl wanted to join. It didn't help that producers sent Shawntel in after the girls were five shots deep into the Rose Ceremony Pre-Game Binge-Drinking Soiree, but their logic was not just incomprehensible drunken rambling, it was a cult solidarity filtered through drunken rambling.
The girls have gotten comfortable watching Ben flit amongst them like so many sister wives in the FLDS, but a new girl who has not gone through the purifying crucible of sacrificing her self esteem via daylight thigh exposure must be prohibited from the sacred rite of the Rose Ceremony.
Ben's "oh SH+T" reaction to Shawntel made me think either he has been sending her cryptic texts this whole time or they had a wildly misconstrued fling at one of the vaunted Bachelor/ette reunion screenings. Regardless, his cowardly dismissal of her at the rose ceremony dropped him in my estimation from "arrested adolescent rich boy" to "social neanderthal super-entitled assface." Ben yielded to the pressure of a drunken mob like a rotten pomegranate to a sledgehammer, and while Shawntel dodged a bullet, Ben's behavior was simply not that of a gentleman. (Somewhere, Jennifer Love Hewitt is unpacking her bags and sending a "never mind" email to ABC producers.)
There's no doubt ABC is using strategies right out of the Jonestown City Charter to keep this show going, and it's because Ben as Bachelor simply is not enough motivation for these women. If the show were to cast an actually hot or compelling Bachelor, it would be less the perennial awkward fest it has become and more the high-stakes real-life romance it claims to be.
... Was the fainting at the Rose Ceremony a ploy to net one last cocktail so the limo ride home would be comfortably buzzed?
... What happened between Shawntel and Ben?
... Are Ben's lips, at this point, the equivalent of a bathroom floor at a bus station?
... Can't you see Courtney eventually marrying some rich guy and sending all his kids off to boarding school and running around his mansion carrying a riding crop and bathing her skin in human blood to keep it from aging?
... What is your favorite cult?