Almost anyone who loves The Bachelorette and follows the show and its many offshoots on television has, over the last year, had what might be termed Dorfman Moments. These are times, as you watch the young Atlantan, when the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re O.K.
The Moments are more intense if you’ve watched enough of The Bachelor and Bachelorette to understand the impossibility of what you just saw her do. We’ve all got our examples. Here is one. It’s the finals of the 2014 Juan Pablo Open, Dorfman talking to Bachelorette host Chris Harrison after Fantasy Suites. There’s a medium-long exchange of dialogue, one with the distinctively sassy/earnest tone of today’s power-Bachelorette game, Dorfman and Harrison verbally yanking each other from topical side to topical side, each trying to set up a dramatic conversational winner…until suddenly Harrison leads with a hard heavy cross-discourse question that pulls Dorfman way out wide of her comfort zone, and Dorfman responds but leaves her answer short, a couple syllables past silence, which of course is the sort of thing Harrison dines out on, and as Dorfman’s scrambling to reverse and get back on track, Harrison’s moving in to take her answer on the rise, and he smacks it back hard right in her symmetrical face, trying to wrong-foot Dorfman, which in fact he does – Dorfman’s still off kilter but rushing toward a reply, and the answer’s heading to a point behind her now, where she just was, and there’s no time to turn her mind around, and Harrison’s following her train of thought in to head her off at the pass…and what Dorfman now does is somehow instantly reverse train of thought and sort of skip rhetorically backward impossibly fast, to tell Chris Harrison that Juan Pablo is a conversationally bankrupt name-dropper who can neither dance nor presumably fuck and she’s dumping his bigoted ass at the strategically optimal time for her to become The Bachelorette, which she then did. It was impossible. It was like something out of “The Matrix.” I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs.
Anyway, that’s one example of a Dorfman Moment, and that was merely on The Bachelor — and the truth is that Bachelor Dorfman is to Bachelorette Dorfman pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love.
Bloggeristically speaking, there is no hot news to offer you about Andi Dorfman. She is, at 27, the best Bachelorette currently alive. Maybe the best ever. Bios and profiles abound. “TMZ” did a feature on her just last year. Anything you want to know about Ms. Andi Dorfman — her background, her home town of Atlanta Georgia, her parents’ sane and unexploitative support of her talent, her Bachelor season, her early problems with group dates and sass, her hatred of Juan Pablo, how that asshole’s bottomless stupidity on The Bachelor both shattered and annealed Dorfman and helped make her what she now is, The Bachelorette, her unusually steady and mature commitment to the Bachelor/Bachelorette process (which on and off the show is rare), her old-school stoicism and mental toughness and good sportsmanship and evident overall decency and thoughtfulness and charitable largess — it’s all just a Google search away. Knock yourself out.
This present blog post is about a spectator’s appreciation of Dorfman, and its context. The specific thesis here is that The Bachelor/Bachelorette has reached a point of cultural saturation that allows an individual to internalize all facets of the competition unconsciously, with Andi Dorfman being the first real-world example of such an individual. If you have seen the young woman play, then you are apt to have what one of The Bachelor Mansion security guards describes as a “near-religious experience.” It may be tempting, at first, to hear a phrase like this as just one more of the overheated tropes that people resort to to describe the feeling of Dorfman Moments. But the security guard’s phrase turns out to be true — literally, for an instant ecstatically — though it takes some time and serious watching to see this truth emerge.
The Bachelorette is strange. Verily it is a reality show that preys on the basest psychological needs of both those who produce it and those who consume it; but it would be easier to sustain the appropriate level of self-disgust if the show wasn’t always reminding you over and over that it’s ultimately about finding actual, lasting love. There’s a peculiar mix of ruthlessly inhuman commercialism and scarily human vulnerability on display in the show’s every second. It’s a bit meta-like the actual Bachelor/Bachelorette experience in this regard: one who watches the show must nearly drown across an ocean of awful to arrive on the meager shore of hope’s island. That Andi Dorfman seems evolutionarily predisposed to ferrying audiences to that island is partly distressing and partly kind of not.
Which sounds very high-flown and nice, of course, but please understand that with this girl it’s not high-flown or abstract. Or nice. In the same emphatic, empirical, dominating way that Sean Lowe drove home his own lesson, Andi Dorfman is showing that the speed and strength of today’s pro game are merely its skeleton, not its flesh. She has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied The Bachelorette, and for the first time in years the game’s future is unpredictable. You should have seen, on last night’s premiere, the variegated ballet that was the cocktail hour. Intelligent banter and genuine connection, off-speed stalker interruptions, gambits planned three shots ahead — all as well as the standard-issue grunts and chest pounding. Whether anything like a nascent male Dorfman was there among these contestants can’t be known, of course. Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform — and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled.