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Can Real Love Bloom on Reality TV?

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It seems to be the most common theme of reality TV -- true love finally found. But is it possible there is any reality to the love matches made on reality TV (and isn't the term "reality television" an oxymoron, anyway)?

bachelorette jillian harris reality tv and real love

Dr. Wendy Walsh: My answer is -- probably not. The real point of reality television shows is to create something entertaining to wrap around the commercials. Producers are more often asked to schedule "train wrecks" -- yes, that's a common TV technical term, and it means some kind of emotional injury that results in the display of big tears or anger. Apparently, that is entertaining to us. So, under such pressure, could real love bloom? No way.

Recently, there was news that "Bachelorette" contestant Ed Swiderski is romancing other contestants, and even sent an e-mail to one saying he had just wanted to win the contest, even though he's not attracted to "Bachelorette" Jillian Harris. Jillian is now his fiancé. Ouch!

Here's his quoted e-mail: "You know, I never took this thing seriously. In addition, I've let the director know that I would be doing the show for the wrong reasons as I am not, in any way, attracted to the chick."

The truth is that the very dynamics of a reality TV shoot make real love building absolutely impossible. Let's start with lack of privacy. How could two people ever reveal the most intimate parts of their personalities to each other with a TV crew standing around them? And not only are they limited to what I like to call their "performance personalities," but they are also asked to do retakes if they say something juicy and it was missed by the cameras on the first take. I know this. I've participated as an "expert" on reality shows. Retakes are commonplace.

Finally, as Swiderski's e-mail reveals, the motivations of reality show contestants are usually not based on some desire to find a soulmate, but rather a strange need to be seen. Reality shows are jam-packed with people who have some clear unmet needs for attention that may even border on a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Need I explain that diagnosis? We've all met the person who lacks empathy, compassion, and basically doesn't even know that any other human is in the room.

For these injured babies (literally) who probably suffered from some kind of maternal neglect, the camera, lights, and makeup team entourage become a kind of surrogate mommy. It is the show itself that these personalities are in love with. The actual "love interest"? Just a prop. My advice to Jillian ... if you love the limelight, stay with him. If you love HIM, run. He's probably bad news.



next: Back-to-School Blues: Prayers for Black Boys
9 comments so far | Post a comment now
wwwwwww September 18, 2009, 9:27 PM

that is for attention…. amazing… but I’m not able to do that… i donno how… but it’s interesting something like that is mostly for attention… make self seem special… and know how to do that so well…… I never know how and… it’s ridiculous pretending something like that…. insane….

SS September 19, 2009, 11:38 AM

Did you actually watch the show? I’m as skeptical as the next person, but i actually saw 2 people fall madly in love with each other. It’s certain that Ed went on the show for “kicks”… he’s acknowledged as much… but I’m also pretty sure he was gobsmacked with unexpected love for Jillian. She seems to be a beautiful, energetic, confident, fun person… The reality show part was the easy bit, I think … now comes real life. Who knows if they’ll make it, but it seems like they are both committed to trying… and I for one, wish them only the best.

SS September 19, 2009, 11:39 AM

Did you actually watch the show? I’m as skeptical as the next person, but i actually saw 2 people fall madly in love with each other. It’s certain that Ed went on the show for “kicks”… he’s acknowledged as much… but I’m also pretty sure he was gobsmacked with unexpected love for Jillian. She seems to be a beautiful, energetic, confident, fun person… The reality show part was the easy bit, I think … now comes real life. Who knows if they’ll make it, but it seems like they are both committed to trying… and I for one, wish them only the best.

Anonymous September 19, 2009, 12:14 PM

You make these decisions How? I understand you know these people personally. You’ve had conversations with them. You know that someone can start out with the wrong reason and end up with the right reason? You know that people can never make a mistake? You made how much money from this article?
I know you are wrong, and you should not write about things that you don’t know for sure, and should also be aware of the pain you are causing

Anonymous September 19, 2009, 1:06 PM

I can’t believe that someone who calls themselves a Doctor, can write something so hateful, and hurtful! Even if their relationship doesn’t work out, it is not necessary to be as hateful as you’ve been. You call yourself a Dr. I call you something you can’t write on the internet

anonymous September 19, 2009, 1:17 PM

I have a few questions to ask to our expert. Did she get to talk to both Ed and Jillian? Did she have the chance to read the e-mails and, if so, did she notice the dates when these emails were sent? Did she actually see the show? And what is her opinion of the Trista-Ryan Sutter love affair and marriage? As we all know both met in the same show and, in fact, got hitched in a lavished wedding that the show paid for. I am not an expert but for these two to fake their feelings on live TV, well, I’d say they’re either gifted actors or just plain in love. It’s much easier to make such clinical assumptions … particularly if the voices you hear or read about seem to agree with your own. I daresay, yes, it seems next to impossibility to fall in love under such contrived scenarios but ‘falling in love’ oftentimes happens at the most unlikely places and circumstances and, in most cases, unexpectedly. I experienced a similar situation decades ago: I married someone I had never seen or met two weeks after our first meeting. It’s been 24 years and I still have yet to understand how that happened to me. He remains the love of my life! So the Jill-Ed case does not surprise me. The man I fell for was not my ‘ideal man’ but when I met him something just clicked … ditto with him. So yes, it sounds unbelievable but strange things happen when cupid’s special arrow hit you where you are most vulnerable. And by the way, it happened even though we did not make love or did not have those intimate moments like those of the bachelorette couples’.

Claudette (Canada) September 19, 2009, 3:21 PM

Guess what? JED have been in our face for so long - one does not have to know them personally to conduct an educated analysis of their relationship.

I believe the clinical psychologist’s opinion is bang on. Thanks for talking about the elephant in the room.

Anonymous September 19, 2009, 11:12 PM

DR. WENDY WALSH, Ph.D???? I can’t believe your comments. You don’t sound your a human being. Maybe you’re only good on dealing insane patients cause they won’t be hurt on your findings & advices. Godd Luck in your career…

Jane October 8, 2009, 3:47 PM

“Believe it or not, I don’t know if we’d be this good without all the drama,” Harris tells People magazine.

A sure sign of a truly dysfunctional person & relationship……..


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