16 May Bachelor in PBL
Gary Oldman once said, “Reality TV, to me, is the museum of social decay”. While I couldn’t agree more, I have to admit that social decay makes for great TV. From catfights to golden one-liners like “umbrella of ambiguity” or “so much chemistry it’s like seeing the whole periodic table” reality TV is entertainment at its finest. Sitting in PBL one day, I realized that although the calm, respectful exterior of PBL is a stark contrast to that of reality TV, if you dig deep enough, there are some remarkable similarities. These parallels are most striking when compared with Bachelor in Paradise (BIP), so buckle up readers, you won’t look at PBL the same after this.
For those of you well-disciplined and tasteful souls who have not succumbed to the wiles of BIP, let me just educate you on the basics. BIP gives ex-contestants of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette a chance to continue their eternal quest for “true-love” on the sparkling sands and in the azure waters of Fiji. They also have rose ceremonies every week or so, mediated by the legend himself – Osher Günsberg. These ceremonies involve contestants giving a rose to someone that they have made a “connection” with or see prospect in. Throw in some tears, a few love triangles and an abundance of emotional fickleness and now you know exactly what BIP looks like.
PBL, a similar group activity, comes with its own goals, process and incentives. Students are placed together in the glassy rooms of G40 with one objective. It’s not true love we seek, but instead, a medical degree. Dates are replaced with cases where connections are made not with people, but with a learning objective (LO). Each LO gets courted for a while before the final proposal- end of year exams and anatomy spotters. After this we might Instagram about an ‘amazing experience’ and what a ‘journey’ of ‘growth and inspiration’ it was. Classic Bachie move.
At the centre of not only BIP, but the whole Bachelor franchise, is Osher. It is unfortunate that no PBL facilitator can ever achieve the incredible standards of hair set by this man nor has any facilitator been greeted by the excited, slightly tipsy squeals of their students as they walk into PBL. However, the power that facilitators hold and the respect they receive is the same. They are often the bearer of bad news: “There are 27 DKHI LOs”. Or the bearer of great news: “Let’s start PBL at 9am instead of 8.30am this week,” or suggest a 10-minute break after a particularly taxing report-back session.
Speaking of report-back, these are essentially our own rose ceremonies. The extreme heights of stress and confusion experienced by contestants during rose ceremonies are comparable to our own emotionally fragile states during report back, especially when we’re told that we can’t use our notes. Whiteboard markers replace roses as we attempt to justify a connection with our designated LO. Although some of these connections are genuinely strong and filled with understanding, others are simply forged to survive. Connections made one week rarely survive until the following week when the next, fascinating case saunters in. You’re lucky if it doesn’t bring with it a needy, high-maintenance LO that returns, like contestants, season after season, even after you amicably parted with them weeks earlier (I’m looking at you blood pressure regulation LO).
Another key part of BIP is the drinking culture. Contestants spend most of their day sipping daiquiri after daquiri, which surely can’t be conducive to them finding “true love”. But who are we to judge? PBL may not have alcohol, but we spend a great deal of time gorging ourselves on an array of MSG-laden, high glucose goodies, all the while saying how patients ought to eat healthier – this surely can’t be conducive to our health, but what would PBL be without it.
I can hear you saying – what about the Bachie ‘villains’? The Bachie ‘villians’ are ever-ready to provide snide comments and possess an uncanny ability to stir the pot. I do admit that calling someone a villain in PBL would be quite a stretch. However, there’s always someone who did their whole undergrad on that one LO and so takes their “connection” too far, or, someone who spends most of their time flexing their extensive clinical knowledge. Bless their souls.
BIP often ends with contestants leaving the sands of Fiji optimistically and full of hope as they think they’ve really found “the one” this time. But after the finale is aired, media outlets soon reveal how the couples we rooted for didn’t make it in the real world. Similarly, the connections made in PBL likely stay in PBL, crumbling outside of the idealistic learning environment as reality takes over. Perhaps PBL and BIP aren’t so different after all.