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Lions Roar : November 2018
season of The Bachelorette, for instance, producers planned a whole date with a new suitor around bachelorette Becca smashing mementos of her relationship with former bach- elor Arie. The Bachelor has its occasional rays of hope. The format encourages participants to express feelings honestly and promptly, given the possibility of elimination at any point. But the show itself is built on one grand delusion: the craving for a monogamous marriage that will last “for- ever,” and the hope that a TV show can deliver it. It’s an ongoing tangle of attachments to out- comes, people, and appearances. The endless (so far) cycle of the seasons—twenty-two for The Bachelor, fourteen for The Bachelorette—is a perfect TV embodiment of samsara, the biggest show of death and rebirth. JENNIFER KEISHIN ARMSTRONG’s most recent book is Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love. Westworld In Westworld, says SHARON SUH, it’s the robots who wake up. WESTWORLD IS AN ADULT amuse- ment park where the wealthy pay to indulge their wildest fantasies without consequence. But for their robotic “hosts” it isn’t the Land of Bliss the human guests think it is. For the AI robots, it’s a world of suffering. The robots are programmed to satiate the guests’ thirst for adven- ture, sex, and violence. Men and women pay exorbitant amounts of money to sleep with prostitutes, engage in shoot-outs, rob banks, and basically do what- ever they want. They rape, murder, and maim the hosts, whose robotic bodies are then patched up, reset, and sent straight back out into the same storylines to be exploited by a fresh set of guests. The twist is that in the process of cycling through seemingly endless rebirths, or “resets,” where their memories are wiped clean and their bodies reconstructed, the robots come to con- sciousness. They yearn for liberation from dukkha and for final rebirth in the Valley Beyond—a pure realm of virtual reality where they’ll be free from human bondage. The Bachelor Just like samsara, JENNIFER KEISHIN ARMSTRONG notes, The Bachelor runs on delusion. EVERY COMPETITION-BASED reality show traffics in meta- phorical death. Survivor, American Idol, Project Runway, and the many shows they inspired create suspense by eliminating one contestant (or more) every week, until the winner is the only one left standing. But only one show incorporates both meta- phorical death and rebirth: The Bachelor franchise. In this series, candidates vying for the heart of the star of the show—the bachelor or bachelorette—are eliminated with each episode. But unlike other reality shows, karma steps in for one final act each season: One of the unchosen, soon after his or her elimination, is named the star of the next season of the show. Often, this comes as a reward for noble suffering, for showing grace in the face of rejection, for, essentially, passing a test. But that’s not the only way The Bachelor and The Bachelor- ette teach us about dharma. To be clear, this reality show is nei- ther good for humanity nor a model of morality. It’s not even particularly “real”; it’s a version of reality manipulated into being by producers. But it is a laboratory for human behavior, and as such it instructs us in Buddhist concepts such as delu- sion and craving. If there’s one clear Buddhist lesson from The Bachelor, it’s that humans are born to suffer in this world. The show runs on delusion. Contenders show up lugging their past relationship karma. Sometimes it shows up quite literally: real-life exes often appear to make last-minute pleas; former show relationships shadow each bachelor and bachelorette. In the most recent LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 38