I’ve been watching quite a bit of reality TV lately, I’m ashamed to say. I used to watch BBC documentaries regularly; now I content myself with the Bachelorette, a show so shallow it’s the equivalent of a baby’s paddling pool. Yes, I’m hooked.
Here’s a quick synopsis: a young, single mother, already rejected by a supremely arrogant bastard on television, looks for love among a bunch of egotistical, competitive maniacs who would rather make each other look bad than win her heart. It made me wonder where all the good guys are. They’re not on the Bachelorette.
My child has been talking about good guys lately. It started one brilliantly sunny afternoon when a fighter jet from Miramar airforce base streaked across the sky. A friend told her it was the good guys protecting us from the bad guys. Before I know what’s going on, she is repeating good guys and bad guys over and over again, and then giggling. I worry that she might get the wrong idea about the world, which is far more complicated than something so black and white.
I approach the topic hesitantly the next night after pondering it for a while. ‘You know,’ I say to her, while we watch the evening news, ‘the world is not so simple as good and bad. Sometimes it’s a matter of someone’s perspective.’ Her five-year-old eyes give me a blank look. ‘Sometimes someone good can do something bad.’ She still isn’t getting me.
‘Never mind,’ I say.
We talk about it in the car on the way back from school today, and she opens up a bit more. ‘What do you think makes a good guy?’ I ask.
‘Someone who doesn’t push or pull hair. Maybe someone who doesn’t fight.’ She pauses a moment and then continues: ‘Someone who tries to solve problems or tells grown-ups when they can’t.’
It’s not a bad answer. If only more countries would try to solve problems through diplomatic means. A bully comes in many guises.
I decide to press her a bit further. ‘Do you think America is a good guy or a bad guy?’ I wait expectantly for an answer. Since being in the United States, I have often wondered about how her view of where she comes from has changed. Does she see London and the UK any differently? Does she perhaps view the world differently? I know if we lived here permanently, she would undoubtedly have different views on the world than if we stayed in Europe, no matter how much I might try to influence her. It’s only natural.
When she replies to my question about America’s role as a good or bad guy, her answer surprises me. ‘I don’t know. Maybe it’s both.’
Perhaps she doesn’t actually know what to say, and she is hedging her bets. Regardless, I’m glad she doesn’t shout about how America is always the good guy. Things are not that straightforward, and I’d rather she believe that we try to do good things, but sometimes don’t.
I think about the Bachelorette. Perhaps there’s more to the show than meets the eye. Could the show’s producers be teaching us a lesson that could be applied to the wider world? Someone who appears to be a good guy could become a villain overnight and vice versa. Or maybe it’s all about who edits the show and the kind of story they want to promote. It’s like the person who writes the history books. It’s a matter of perspective.
On second thought, the Bachelorette probably doesn’t go that deep.