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.
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.