Yes, there are a few of us at F2 Legal Counsel that watch the Bachelor and the Bachelorette. Obviously, you do too, or you wouldn't be reading this right now. If you tuned into the episode this past Monday night, you saw the journey of "farmer Chris" come to a somewhat abrupt end. While he handled the entire situation with the most class and poise of anyone that I've ever seen leave the show, you couldn't help but feel for the guy. And, if you're like a lot of fans, you couldn't help but question what Andi, the Bachelorette, was thinking. After all, it was clear as day that Chris was the best choice - the right choice - anyone watching the show could surely see that!
Now don't get me wrong - I'm in Camp Chris, and I think that he's the real deal. You might even say legit (of course, I might just be biased, given that he's a small town country boy named Chris, but I digress). But for me, the situation served to hi-light, once again, just how important presentation is, and the impact it has on an audience - individual or collective.
Let's first look at the individual audience. By all counts, when Andi said that his family was essentially the best family she'd ever met...I'm sure Chris was thinking that meant something, and something pretty significant. With the use of such powerful words, who could blame him? In a show where the lead character can't reveal her true feelings until the very end, a comment like that stands out in your mind, and carries a fair bit of weight - after all, who would make such a comment if they were, in the end, going to choose someone else (and their respective, but apparently not quite as awesome, family)? Yet - at the end of the day - that's exactly what happened, and it quickly became clear that those significant and weighty words weren't aligned with or indicative of the rest of the message that Andi was about to send...over, and over again.
Without a doubt, Chris will land on his feet, and with the world now seeing what a bang up guy he is (Note: Chris, please don't prove me wrong with some ridiculous antics on TMZ), I expect the farm-charm will be working overtime, and Chris will make out just fine.
Now...from a fan favorite on the individual side...to someone that received a whole lot of criticism throughout the course of last season, on the collective side: Juan Pablo.
Whether you thought it was deserved or not, as I sat watching Juan Pablo deflect, avoid, and struggle through a grilling at the season finale, I couldn't help but think one thing - neither the audience, nor the show, are giving this guy a chance, and if this were a courtroom, Juan Pablo's lawyer would be failing miserably.
Yes, he made some questionable comments, and yes, some questionable decisions. I'm sure we've all done that in the course of our lives. Maybe not on the same topics, or in the same areas, but let's be honest - we've all been guilty of doing or saying something stupid, at one time or another. There are people that judge Chris, because he made a passing reference to employment for Andi as a "homemaker". Some think he was joking, some think it was serious...and if that's something that is important to you, your impression of Chris changes, depending on which camp you're in.
Let's stop and think about Juan Pablo for a bit, and the impression that the audience was left with at the end of last season. Let's start with perhaps the most obvious issue in the presentation: the fact that the Bachelor and Bachelorette generate hundreds of hours of footage (give or take). Yet...the footage that ends up being presented each week is a mere fraction of that total...and I highly doubt that Juan Pablo was in the editing room, supervising the process. Next, let's consider the fact that Juan Pablo is bound by contract not to say certain things, reveal certain things, etc. about his experience on the show. On those two facts alone, we've got a situation where Juan Pablo is not in control of the message, and potentially in a situation where a gag order prevents him from commenting to the extent he would like. Then...as a final point...let's take into account the fact that English is not Juan Pablo's first language. Say what you want about using that as an excuse - just remember - he had to take classes just to brush up on his English, in order to get him on TV as the Bachelor in the first place (also keep in mind, that this is the same guy that wasn't apparently TV-friendly enough to get a whole lot of screen time the season before). That should tell you something. Oh - and I know I said that was the final point - but lets not forget the horrible taste that Juan Pablo left in so many viewers mouths when he refused to use the word "love" when talking about Nikki in the season finale. Both him and Nikki were chastised for the stance they took on that one. Of course, people will draw their own conclusions from all of that, so I'm not going to comment on it further except to remind people that some folks don't just toss the term around left, right, and center, and save it for something truly special...as opposed to good TV.
So where am I going with this...? Juan Pablo wasn't a villain, any more than Batman was at the end of The Dark Knight. No, the case of Juan Pablo was simply presented in a way, sprinkled with some inherently polarizing comments and decisions (whether taken out of context or misinterpreted, or not), and left in the audience's hands to decide. In a sense, Juan Pablo became what people wanted him to be, based on their own predispositions, beliefs, convictions and experiences. But, somewhere in all of that, the audience lost sight of the bigger picture - of the counterbalance, or the other side of the story, as it might be - despite the fact that the very same facts could give rise to a very different, and just as plausible outcome.
If there's one thing I know, it's that people take their reality TV seriously. I'm not trying to incite hate mail or negative comments, and heck - I'm not even saying which side of the fence I fall on when it comes to Juan Pablo, Batman, or anything else that someone might disagree with. I'm simply pointing out the fact that you never know what will resonate with an audience - just like you never know what will resonate with a judge. A lot of times you're trying to explain events that took place over several years - all within a few hours or days. It's not an easy task. Just like the Bachelor and Bachelorette, a decision will need to be made on what information won't make the final cut - and unfortunately, sometimes something that didn't seem so important, suddenly is in the eyes of the audience, and you find yourself wishing that you could go back through the editing process and add a clip or two explaining that exact point. As prepared as you are, or think you are, there will always be surprises - because while you can control the message you are sending out (to an extent), you can't control how it's being received. Sure, there are things you just know not to do - showing up looking like you were out partying the night before, or like you're just back from a fishing trip, is probably not such a great idea. Some of those are pretty obvious. But sometimes - it's the not so obvious things - a look, a thrown-away phrase, body language, the timing of certain evidence, delivery, etc. - that really strike a chord in those that are listening to the story you're telling, and alter their perception, rightly or wrongly, about the information they are receiving.
Still not convinced? When you tune in to the Bachelorette this coming Monday (or the week after), make a point of noting your reaction(s), as you ask yourself what you believe, and what you disbelieve...based on the "facts" that are presented throughout the course of the episode. As you assess each character's credibility, you'll no doubt find yourself questioning each glance, dissecting each comment, reading between the lines, and wishing you had more information on certain points. When you find yourself commenting that "it could mean this, but it could also mean...", remember what I was saying about Juan Pablo and Chris - it's all a matter of presentation...and right now, its being presented in such a fashion that it isn't clear...which keeps us tuning in, week after week ;-)