I’ve tuned into two popular “reality” TV shows on ABC for the last several years: The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Both star attractive Millennials acting in a highly-scripted and staged winning formula: Contestants are eliminated during Rose Ceremonies by the person seeking a wife or husband; there is drama galore, trips to fabulous vacation spots, until finally, after the mating rituals are concluded, one happy couple is left standing. The videography is top-notch.
But The Bachelor‘s “incredible journey to breathtaking Vietnam” (aired 2/14/14) bothers me because it’s only been forty years since the Vietnam War ended.
Host Chris Harrison (43) was probably still in diapers then but he had heard or viewed a little about the war. He wrote in his blog:
I have to admit, when I heard we were going to visit Vietnam this season I was a little surprised and more than a little intrigued. Vietnam is a mysterious country that we obviously have a tremendous amount of history with. I was looking forward to seeing for myself what this land and its people had to offer. I’m happy to say that what I found far exceeded any expectations I had. From the moment we landed, the people couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming. Our crew did have a slight problem at the airport trying to bring walkie-talkies into the country, but other than that it was smooth sailing.
A little surprised? A slight problem? Smooth sailing? It’s hard to relate to these descriptions of Vietnam when others are etched in my mind forever. But all is bliss for the young adults in this show. Juan Pablo says:
“I am excited. I’ve never been to Vietnam. I can’t wait to see what this country has in store for me…This place is just gorgeous. I have 11 girls left, and it’s been great.”
A female contestant gushes:
“Vietnam, Vietnam, I love Vietnam.“
Providing tons of material for young bloggers to ridicule, the show is 100% pop culture. Looking at street scenes full of carefree tourists in today’s Hoi An, or Da Nang, how can they imagine what it was like during wartime? This blogger admits what I suspect is true for Millennials–what they “know” about Vietnam comes from movie cliches.
Juan Pablo is excited about the romantic possibilities in one of the most UN-romantic countries in the world: Vietnam. The only things I know about Vietnam are from the movies, so that’s almost a guarantee that at least one of the girls will go crazy and/or turn to prostitution. However, it would actually be funny to see Chelsie walking around some village saying “Me go boom boom long time.” Ratings would skyrocket.
He finds it hilarious that impoverished women had to sell their bodies to survive. I’ve found no mention in the Bachelor Nation blogosphere of the inappropriateness of Vietnam as “the perfect setting to fall in love.”
Why can’t we oldies just lighten up and move on?
The U. S. Department of State has moved on as its recent update informs us on its Fact Sheet, U.S. Relations With Vietnam (2/14/14). Congress has moved on. The entertainment industry has moved on. Educators have moved on. This remarkable number is one reason why I can’t: 58,286; this is the number of American casualties listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Another significant number is 1,639, our missing in action from the Vietnam War as of November, 2014 (see more information here.) The number of Vietnamese Ameriasians born during the war is unknown (Smithsonian article).
The jolly images younger generations see when watching this episode of The Bachelor (and when viewing lousy movies), are the ones that will be imprinted as reality; any hints of death and blood-baths will be dismissed as fantasy.
Sure am glad to hear it wasn’t ASKNOD who watches those shows!
Yup. My trash entertainment favs. A new one starts in January but my husband hates the show so I’ll be watching it alone.
Vietnam was the place for “Short Time” for most G.I.’s. Most of us were never really “in” Vietnam. We were inside the military in Vietnam. Very different. I don’t have fond memories of that place but I do remember the stink and the dope.
Brother NOD. Although I don’t watch the reality shows you mentioned I read with interest your latest and I both agree & disagree with your expose’. Vietnam for me (1968-1972) was simultaneously the ‘best 4 years of my life and the worst 4 of my life’. I had the honor to serve as a DUSTOFF and combat medic during those years.
One stat you didn’t mention was WIA. Depending on where you get information were 3,000,000(-) who served in country, of those there were 303,000(+/-) injured/wounded. 153,000(+/-) who were WIA requiring hospitalization, 2500 give or take a couple hundred made it onboard our chopper for evacuation. GOOD – being able to pickup and provide life saving measures for 2500+/- wounded compatriots. BAD – having to pickup 2500+/- while Uncle Chuck often made swiss cheese of our aircraft.
Unlike the overwhelming majority of grunts who served with US pure units, I humped with 99+% little people as an advisor. During these years I came to know and love the people, their language, and their culture. It never surprised me when during a ‘hump’ one of the little grunts would walk up beside me and hold my hand for several minutes, then fall back into formation, only to be repeated by another one or two troops. Seems they thought holding the hand of Bac Si My’ gave them courage for what was to come. I knew when shit hit the fan it was their adrenaline that made many of them heroic and not a little skin press. But who am I to say no.
Knowing the language/culture was definitely a plus for me when I met my future bride. 45+ years later Chin is still my unsung hero. She was/is the glue that kept our family together when BBS (bent brain syndrome) grabs me by the ass and won’t let go.
I’ve been back once since we were declared losers. although it looks exactly as it did 50 years ago (US aircraft still sitting on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut, military vehicles still very visible everywhere, etc) there is no need for super vigilance.
Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and their people are truly beautiful, but I pray those who use them as backdrop today would at least pay homage to the 58,286 who gave the ultimate, and the hundreds of thousands who continue to live on a daily basis with – the Vietnam we knew.
Just my 2 cents
Clear Left–I wrote this (Kiedove)– Female spouse of Vietnam combat Marine. I know it’s confusing to see who wrote each post by just reading the posts. The name of author is under the post titles. My hubby agrees that the country is beautiful etc..but the history of what happened there to both sides, is being lost and trivialized already. Vietnamese spouses and children were abandoned and grew up under harsh conditions.
Your comments are very much appreciated and I hope to read more in the future.
Oh, and I usually have to watch this show alone!