TIME celebrities

Brad Paisley Took a Very Unimpressed Selfie With the Westboro Baptist Church

Members of the extremist church was picketing his concert Sunday

Country singer Brad Paisley is an equal opportunity selfie-taker.

Before a Kansas concert Sunday, the country singer decided to take a picture with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who happened to be protesting outside. Paisley, 41, posted the image to his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages along with the caption: “Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We’ll play loud.”

The photo has almost 238,000 Facebook likes and counting two days later. Many fans have posted messages of support for Paisley and ridicule of the extremist group.

The church wasn’t as sure that Paisley was mocking them:

The Westboro Baptist Church has protested other country stars, including Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift.


TIME Culture

How Hollywood Can Get More Women to See Movies

The Queen of Mean gets to tell her side in Disney's Maleficent Walt Disney Pictures

Want your summer movie to have a big opening weekend? Adding a female protagonist will help

Traditionally summer blockbusters are created for, marketed to and star men. And most major movies this summer fit that mold, including Godzilla, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

But Maleficent, a film starring a woman — and an evil woman at that — cast a spell on audiences with a $70 million opening weekend, hitting the high end of its prerelease expectations. Why is the Disney film doing so well? The answer is women: 60% of the movie’s over-25 audience was female. Which means the other 51% of the population does matter when it comes to creating a box-office hit.

Earlier this year, an analysis by Vocativ found that movies with strong female roles make more money. This means movies that pass the Bechdel test — a simple evaluation that questions whether two women spoke to each other in the movie about something other than a man — score higher numbers at the domestic box office. And yet, 2013 was a dismal year for women in film: of the top 100 grossing films in 2013, women made up only 15% of the protagonists, 29% of the major characters and only 30% of all speaking characters, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

That trend seems to slowly be changing. The Heat, Frozen and The Hunger Games were some of the industry’s biggest hits last year. This summer things look even better: Angelina Jolie, Emily Blunt, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Lawrence, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne are all featured on the silver screen — along with a brood of male superheroes and a giant green lizard (who we’ll call genderless). Studios are finally catching on.

Unsurprisingly, movies with the most robust roles for women drew the highest percentage of females: The Other Woman’s audience was 75% female; Maleficent’s 60%; and Neighbors’ 53%. The first film stars three actresses (though their dialogue may be problematic), the second centers on superstar Angelina Jolie, and the third film actually lets Rose Byrne deliver almost as many jokes as co-stars Zac Efron and Seth Rogen.


(A word on the sneaky feminism of Neighbors: as he promotes the movie, screenwriter and star Seth Rogen has spoken about consciously subverting Hollywood’s gender stereotypes. “That actually became the most exciting idea of the movie to us,” Rogen told Studio360. “That we could portray a couple where the wife is just as fun-loving and irresponsible as the guy, and they get along really well. In a comedy that’s almost nonexistent.” Neighbors features a fantastic scene in which married couple Rogen and Byrne debate who gets to be the irresponsible one in the relationship. He says she has to be because she’s the woman and the woman is always the wet towel. She says that’s not fair and refuses to act as his babysitter. Keep writing dialogue like this, Rogen!)

Meanwhile, movies with less interesting parts for women didn’t pull as many ladies into theaters. X-Men: Days of Future Past counts Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry and Ellen Page among its stars, but Berry is given little to do except look worried and Page — whose character goes back in time in the comic books — spends the whole movie massaging Wolverine’s head while he takes her place as all-important time traveler. Lawrence gets plenty of screen time, but her character is a clear bid for young men’s tickets sales — the Oscar winner is covered in blue body paint for most of the film. So only 44% of X-Men‘s audience was female.

Godzilla and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, both of which offer pretty female flimsy roles, clock in at 42% female and 39% female, respectively. These movies still did well at the box office, but would more women have seen X-Men if Kitty Pride (Page) was the character going back in time? My guess is yes.

The theory will continue to be tested this week when two more movies with strong female protagonists — The Fault in Our Stars, starring Woodley, and Edge of Tomorrow, co-starring Blunt along with Tom Cruise — open in theaters.

The takeaway? Getting a lot of women to see your movie is not essential to its success. Superhero and monster movies will continue to draw big crowds: Spider-Man, X-Men and Godzilla all had at least $90 million opening weekends. But courting more women certainly doesn’t hurt. After all, females make up 51% of the population.

TIME Late Night Highlight

Watch the Actor From The Fault in Our Stars Tap Dance

Those are some Astaire-like moves right there


You may not know who Ansel Elgort is yet—but don’t worry, he might have just tapped-dance his way into your heart.

The star of the the highly-anticipated film based on John Green’s 2012 young adult novel—The Fault In Our Stars—made his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Monday, where he chatted about his new found fame and his friendship with Shailene Woodley.

And if his dancing moves made you a fan of Elgort’s, here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes of The Fault in Our Stars.




TIME Television

RECAP The Bachelorette Watch: Connecticut Yankees In Andi’s Court

...In which we say goodbye to Eric Hill

Welcome back to The Bachelorette. Tonight, the show is taking their sausage factory on the road. First stop? Connecticut, which is “very romantic” according to Andi, who has apparently never been anywhere else ever. On the plus side, Connecticut gets some A + marketing materials out of this appearance and someone in Hartford is undoubtedly re-writing their press releases to say “Come to Connecticut, as seen on The Bachelorette!”

Here’s what happened on The Bachelorette:

First Date: Dylan, the floppy-haired sad-eyed accountant, finally gets some alone time with Andi so he can tell her his tragic tale. He wears pleated jeans for the occasion. As Dylan waits for his moment, the sad music of sadness plays as Andi interviews that her date with Dylan has been fine, but she hopes he can open up a bit. Well, her mouth says “open up,” but her slightly panicked eyes say, “I hope he chills out before his head explodes all over my borrowed leather jacket.” At dinner she tells him that she wants to see “the real Dylan” now, not later. So he cries as he tells her the deeply sad story that he told Farmer Dan yesterday: his sister overdosed and his brother followed soon after, which is extremely sad, but if this is weighing so heavily on your mind that you’re crying on a televised first date, why are you on a dating show? Go home and grieve. As Andi cries along with him, he tells her that he doesn’t want her to feel bad for him. She’s touched that he was willing to open up to her. She gives him a rose, because how could she not?

The Worst: The one thing no one should forgive The Bachelor franchise for is their use of transportation and extreme sports as metaphors for relationships. To wit, Andi announcing that she’s hoping the train ride with Dylan will help their relationship “pick up steam.” Must we? Really?

Group Date: The date card says, “You got game?” and Brian, the basketball coach, is very excited when it turns out they are going to play basketball. After all, the state’s marketing material says: “New England is the birthplace of basketball!” A few members of the WNBA come out to play for both marketing purposes (shout-out to the Chicago Sky!) and to scrimmage with the men. The athletes wear their uniforms, but Andi, who is contractually obligated to look hot at all times, wears a v-neck version and short shorts. To win the prize (a date with Andi, natch) the men don’t have to lose to the women, but have to play against each other. They face off 5-on-5, the Rosebuds versus the 5 of Hearts, who are wearing their hearts on their jerseys or something. Then we watch a basketball game and it’s tied at the half, but the Rosebuds destroy them thanks to Basketball Brian and Marquel. The winning team got dressed for a relatively chaste 5-on 1 date with Andi, while the sore losers stuffed themselves in their lockers.

The After Party: At the winners’ group date, Andi pulls Eric aside for a chat; she thinks their relationship “has stalled” since their first date. He agrees, and says that he doesn’t like the formality of the situation. She shrugs, because dating in weird situations is the crux of this show. She also thinks he’s holding back, so he settles in and tells her about how much he loves his family and about his Mormon upbringing and… just drink, because he’s charming and erudite and self-reflective and full of life and love. So: drink. Anyway, Basketball Brian sinks a half-court shot, but while he has game, he doesn’t have Game and doesn’t bother kissing the girl. Nick V. doesn’t have that problem, though, and they make out for awhile.

The Second Date: Andi hates heights, but agrees to repel down Mohegan Sun anyway. She has a full-on panic attack on the wind-swept, freezing cold roof, but manages to squeeze out a few metaphors like how it’s a “leap of faith” for their relationship. Marcus murbles about how he is scared, but is determined to be the “man in the relationship” and talks her down the side of the building, just like they would do everyday if they were married. They repel past the men in their hotel room and make out on the ropes. She’s proud of herself and proud of Marcus for “being protective,” which is a trait she is seeking in a mate. Over dinner, he opens up and she hands him a rose. She thinks he’s “flawless,” which seems like a good time to link to this.

The Cocktail Party: Before the shindig, Andi got a love note from a secret admirer and we got a historical reenactment of the anonymous scribe writing it. It was very A&E. Then she hits the cocktail party and tries to divine the sender, but no one confesses, so she gives up trying.

The Drama: Eric has had a realization. He thinks he has had been very open with Andi, but doesn’t think she has been open with him. He says that he came on this show “to meet a person, not a TV actress,” and apparently those are fighting words. He thinks she has a “poker face” on most of the time and that he isn’t seeing the real her. She starts crying, because apparently “poker face” means something extremely mean in her world, like he kicked a kitten and called her fugly, when he really just said she hid her emotions well, which really isn’t that bad. She defends herself against charges that she’s being fake and assures him that she is aware of the cameras everywhere, but is fully committed to the process. They agree that this isn’t going to work out and with a curt “Thank you for your time.” “Same.” Eric leaves the show. He interviews that he is disappointed, because despite their misunderstanding, he saw potential. Plus, “love leads to family and those two things together are what life is all about.” As you do a shot, think about this: Not to speak ill of the dead, but coming on The Bachelorette and expecting authenticity is patently ridiculous, or at least reveals a deep misunderstanding of the concept of reality television.

The Reality: Chris Harrison interrupts the regularly scheduled Rose Ceremony to talk about Eric Hill. As America just watched Eric’s final scene on the show, Chris deems the Rose Ceremony trite in light of the grandiose finality of death, which is true. He and Andi sit in a room and have a serious talk about Eric, the impact of his life on their lives and on the show and, ugh, just drink. Here are more thoughts on Eric Hill and The Bachelorette.

Who Went Home: Tasos, whose untimely departure and tear-filled farewell speech, will be left up to our imagination. We can only hope he gave her one of his diamond earrings Breakfast Club style.

MORE: Death and the Maiden: How The Bachelorette Is Handling the Death of Eric Hill

MORE: Late Bachelorette Contestant Eric Hill Remembered by His Sister

TIME Television

Here Are the 10 Best TV Shows of 2014 (So Far)


The shows that already made a big impression in 2014 (by June, at least)

Correction appended June 3, 1:20 p.m.

Every year, I keep a running list of shows that amuse me, amaze me, impress me or depress me (in a good way). At the end of the year, I whittle that list down to 10, and I have my best-TV-of-the-year list. But it’s tough. I have to leave out a lot of really good stuff. And why should arguing over subjective choices come only once a year?

In that spirit, I give you my very provisional list of The Best TV of 2014 (So Far). But first, a few notes:

  • This list is only in alphabetical order, because I only rank lists if my editor makes me. (That said, I’m glad The Americans begins with ‘A.’)
  • I kept this list to 10 items, because you have to stop somewhere or you’ve got an “everything I like” list. There are a few others that came very close. I’m not going to tell you what they are, because that’s the road to madness.
  • That said, I reserve the right to put shows on my year-end list that I omitted here, because I changed my mind / considered new arguments / saw later episodes / suffered a blow to the head.
  • This may go without saying, but criticism is a snapshot: several of these series are currently airing, so they can always get better or worse.
  • I’ve seen six episodes of Orange Is the New Black, the entire season which will be live on Netflix June 6, and I would have put it on the list on the basis of those episodes except for the timing. If the rest of the season holds up, it’s a good candidate for my year-end list again.
  • There are many other shows critics adore but I somehow don’t connect with (Hannibal). There are shows that I love but just got crowded out at the moment (Bob’s Burgers). And there is one show that is obviously the best thing on TV now, maybe ever, and I just left it off because I am a biased idiot who should be fired (Your Favorite Show Here). Please, tell us about it in the comments!

And now, the Best TV Shows of 2014, as of very early June, according to some guy from TIME:

THE AMERICANS - Pictured: Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. CR: Frank Ockenfels/

The Americans (FX)
And you think you have work-life balance problems? KGB agents Elizabeth and Philip Jennings tried to find the secrets of the Stealth program, their children struggled to find themselves, and this ’80s drama found a new gear.

Comedy Central

Broad City (Comedy Central)
Meet your new favorite two broke girls. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson deliver the contact buzz of laughter in the weirdest, freshest, funkiest new comedy of the season.

COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY: More than three decades after the debut of "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage," Carl Sagan's stunning and iconic exploration of the universe as revealed by science, COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY sets off on a new voyage for the stars. Seth MacFarlane (FAMILY GUY, AMERICAN DAD) and Sagan's original creative collaborators.  Hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (pictured), the series will explore how we discovered the laws of nature and found our coordinates in space and time.  COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY premieres Sunday, March 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX and simultaneously across multiple U.S.  networks, including National Geographic Channel, FX, FXX, FXM, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo and FOX Life.  CR: Patrick Eccelsine/FOX

Cosmos (Fox)
Neil DeGrasse Tyson picked up his mentor Carl Sagan’s work (with the help of Seth MacFarlane), breathing new life into the ancient universe and making a passionate argument against the forces of anti-science.

FARGO -- Pictured: Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo -- CR: /Matthias Clamer

Fargo (FX)
This miniseries isn’t a remake of the Coen Brothers’ movie so much as an extended jazz cover of it — in an improvisatory yet deeply original string of riffs. It’s a bloody yet playful examination of the seduction of evil and the hard cold road of good.


Game of Thrones (HBO)
Like Daenerys’ dragons, this fantasy epic in its fourth season continues to grow in scale and confidence. But what makes it great is that it handles small conversational duels as well as its epic battles.

The Good Wife
CBS/Getty Images

The Good Wife (CBS)
For five years running, this sharp-witted legal drama has offered more pleasure per season than anything out there. Taking on love, politics, technology and (spoiler) death, it shows no sign of adjourning.


Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
The Daily Show alum’s blistering comedy-cast is very new, but it’s the most welcome addition in a year of late-night change. Reorienting the fake-news format toward world events and commercial culture, it’s becoming the go-to chaser to the stiff drink of Sunday-night TV.

LOUIE: Episode 8: "Elevator Part 5" (Airs Monday, May 26, 10:30 pm e/p). Pictured: Louis C.K. as Louie. CR: KC Bailey/

Louie (FX)
The only predictable things about Louis CK’s show are that it will be unpredictable and that it will linger with you long after you watch. From philosophy to sex-toy jokes, vignettes to the equivalent of a full-length movie, this is TV that can be whatever it wants to.

Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Betty Francis (January Jones), Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) - Mad Men _ Season 7, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/

Mad Men (AMC)
We’ll see if the back half of the final season can close the deal next year, but this was a fine start. In seven often-haunting episodes, the age of Aquarius met the age of IBM, and it left us with a song.

's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

True Detective (HBO)
Few shows have inspired so much obsession so quickly, and it wasn’t just The Yellow King’s magic. This one-season story (rebooting next year) dripped talent, from Harrelson and McConaughey’s testosterone-drunk performances to Nic Pizzolatto’s dirty poetry to Cary Fukunaga’s direction, in which you could practically see ghosts come alive in the postindustrial bayou air.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of a character on The Americans. It is Philip Jennings.

TIME Consumers

John Oliver’s Net Neutrality Rant Crashes FCC Servers


Former Daily Show funnyman John Oliver’s recent 13-minute net neutrality rant ended with a plea to Internet commenters the world over to “once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.” Oliver used his new HBO comedy news show Last Week Tonight to try to convince people to take advantage of the FCC’s initial open commenting period regarding the net neutrality debate, which runs from May 15 to June 27.

Oliver’s call to action seems to have worked. The FCC’s comments section under the title “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” currently has over 47,000 comments and counting, prompting the FCC’s Twitter account to send out two tweets yesterday saying that “technical difficulties” had been affecting its commenting servers.

Things seem to be running smoothly now, however.

TIME Music

REVIEW: Miranda Lambert Strikes Gold on Platinum

RCA Nashville

The country superstar delivers more sass, twang and brio on her fifth studio album

With her bright, bold voice and easygoing charm, Miranda Lambert has a way of making everything sound simple: trucks can be fixed with spare parts and a little bit of elbow grease, respect can be earned by taking a stand and firing off a spunky retort, relationships can be healed over a few glasses of hard iced tea on a sunlit porch. She makes selling records look easy, too: starting with 2005’s Kerosene, each of the Texas firebrand’s first four studio albums have soared to No. 1 on the country charts, all eventually going platinum. (Her collaboration with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley as country trio the Pistol Annies scored a chart-topping album with their debut, too, although their sophomore set Annie Up just missed the No. 1 spot.)

So platinum is more than a sales designation to Lambert: it’s also the color of her hair (that’s platinum blonde, of course) and the title of her new record, her fifth full-length. Platinum doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any sense, but it doubles down on the qualities that have helped Lambert become one of country’s most reliable stars: broad, plain-spoken feminism, rousing choruses that split the difference between archetypal country and contemporary pop-rock, and frank, funny, fully realized depictions of the protagonist at the heart of these songs.

Lambert flips between two chief modes of operation on Platinum: smart, strong meditations on women’s lives and problems, and wistful, wise reflection. Like an older sister offering practical advice to a younger sibling, she tackles image and body positivity with good humor (on the sassy, bouncing title track, and honky-tonk laugher “Gravity Is a Bitch”) and lyrical nuance (the moody “Bathroom Sink,” the only solo composition on the record). The raucous “Priscilla,” the title a reference to the former Mrs. Elvis Presley, is a playful but revealing nod to Lambert’s relationship with fellow superstar Blake Shelton; graceful, moonlit waltz “Holding on to You” represents the other side of the coin for the pairing, trading lyrical cheek for blue sincerity and a soft, smoky vocal take that’s one of the finest on the album. The sum of these varied takes on contemporary womanhood is a clear, detailed portrayal of Miranda Lambert, country queen: she’s fiercely independent but empathetic, romantic but unwilling to compromise her values, packing heat and heart in equal measure. It’s an array of qualities that many people wish they could see in themselves, and it makes the songs on Platinum click.

Lambert’s other main lyrical realm is relatively new terrain for her; having newly entered her 30s, she’s spending less time charging forward and more time looking back than ever. It’s the device driving Platinum’s still-sharp lead single, “Automatic,” which finds her yearning for a time when everyone was still “doin’ it all by hand,” and it crops up again several times throughout the album. (Of course, it’s funny to hear such a ringing endorsement of tradition couched within a thoroughly post-Taylor Swift piece of country-pop, but the harmonies are strong enough to slide the contradiction through.) “Babies Makin’ Babies” is a gently tut-tutting, maternal look at young couples accidentally falling into parenthood; hearing Lambert’s bright, chuckling twang, it seems unfathomable that under a decade ago, she could’ve been one of the song’s lead characters. Closer “Another Sunday in the South” is packed with the sort of detail and rich imagery that has to come from someone who’s lived hundreds of such days, roasting in wicked heat and singing along to old folk songs. (It’s one of eight songs on Platinum Lambert co-wrote.)

The best display of reflective lyricism on the album is also its finest musical moment: “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” a collaboration with country group Little Big Town, drifts by like wisps of the very smoke mentioned in the song’s title, thanks to an incredible vocal arrangement. Lambert’s voice, and the voices of Little Big Town, twist and overlap like faded memories from a blurry night around a campfire, and it’s this quality that makes the song’s bittersweet reminiscing feel earned; they know they can’t go back, and they know they shouldn’t, but the part of them that’s stuck in the past is almost impossible to deny. The song fades out on rich pedal steel and impeccably toned guitar, slipping away like experience does — a specific, beautifully rendered moment.

Even when Lambert misfires in a musical sense, her charisma and the sentiment behind her compositions somewhat papers over any errant sonic choices. “Little Red Wagon” and “Somethin’ Bad,” a duet with Carrie Underwood, are closely related: one’s a dusty, uptempo ramble with speedy shredding peppered throughout, the other’s a glammy stomp through some roadside dive. Neither are particularly compelling in terms of melody or arrangement, but they’re essential when it comes to fleshing out Lambert’s character and setting the lyrical tone: they’re both confident, unabashedly sexy, and tightly controlled.

With these songs, Lambert reinforces the principles underlying both Platinum and the rest of her career: feminine strength, force of personality, and command of the situation. Further commercial dominance is sure to follow.

TIME movies

Mandela Scriptwriter Blames 12 Years a Slave for His Movie’s Failure

William Nicholson
British playwright, novelist and screenwriter William Nicholson at his home near Lewes, East Sussex, 13th December 2012. Eamonn McCabe--Getty Images

Screenwriter William Nicholson says that his film Mandela failed to win awards because Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave "sucked up all the guilt about black people"

Well, this is one way to spin defeat.

At a literary festival in England over the weekend, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom scriptwriter William Nicholson told the audience that his film failed to make a splash and win awards because 12 Years a Slave “sucked up all the guilt about black people that was available.” Unlike 12 Years — which earned rave reviews and took home three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay — Mandela received mixed reviews and only one Oscar nod for Best Original Song. (“Let It Go” from Frozen ultimately picked up the prize.)

Yet Nicholson — who previously co-wrote the scripts for Gladiator and Elizabeth: The Golden Age — doesn’t think Mandela‘s lukewarm reception was warranted. “I think it worked superbly,” he said of his film. But “[Americans] were so exhausted feeling guilty about slavery that I don’t think there was much left over to be nice about our film. So our film didn’t do as well as we’d hoped, which was a bit heartbreaking.”


TIME celebrities

Brad Pitt: Red Carpet Attacker ‘Going to Get Stomped’

The actor let Vitalii Sediuk know what's coming to him after the self-styled "prankster" attacked him on the red carpet at the premiere of "Maleficent" and also hid under actress America Ferrera's dress on the red carpet at Cannes


Brad Pitt has opened up about the “nutter” who struck the actor on the red carpet during the world premiere of Maleficent last week.

Last Wednesday, when Pitt was attending the premiere with partner Angelina Jolie, Ukrainian journalist-turned-prankster Vitalii Sediuk jumped the red carpet barrier and grabbed at the actor. Describing the incident — which ended with Sediuk in handcuffs — to People, Pitt said:

“I was at the end of the line signing autographs, when out the corner of my eye I saw someone stage-diving over the barrier at me. I took a step back; this guy had latched onto my lapels. I looked down and the nutter was trying to bury his face in my crotch, so I cracked him twice in the back of the head – not too hard – but enough to get his attention, because he did let go. I think he was then just grabbing for a hand hold because the guys were on him, and he reached up and caught my glasses.”

Sediuk has pulled stunts like this in the past, crashing the red carpet to hug Bradley Cooper and Leonardo DiCaprio’s crotches. Just last month, at the Cannes Film Festival, he stormed the red carpet and dove underneath America Ferrera’s gown, which Pitt seemed particularly annoyed about. The actor added, “he should know, if he tries to look up a woman’s dress again, he’s going to get stomped.”

Consider yourselves warned, would-be pranksters.


TIME relationships

This Is The Bachelorette’s Scientific Formula to Make Couples Fall in Love

Dating lessons I learned from this week's Bachelorette: why you should always skydive, rappel or bungee jump with your dates

Monday night’s Bachelorette featured a date that rose lovers have come to cherish as an ABC classic. The adrenaline-pumping “So you wanna marry me? Do something terrifying to prove it” date. In this episode, Andi made Marcus rappel down a ridiculously tall building — one of their greatest fears! — to make sure that he’s capable of love.

While a high-octane-activity date might not seem like a fair compatibility test, there are many reasons why producers have at least one every season. First off, phobia-inducing situations make for great TV — the more crying, the better — and provide perfect fodder for some truly terrible metaphors: “I’m jumping out of this plane and into his heart.” (Drink.) “Like this bungee cord, love catches you when you fall.” (Drink.) And in Andi’s words, “It’s leap-of-faith day.” A literal leap of faith. (Seriously, just down the whole bottle.)

The second reason? Science.

“Doing very, very high-octane kinds of dates definitely can bond you together more than a mundane, run-of-the-mill one,” says Dr. Diana Kirschner, psychologist and CEO of Lovein90Days.com, striking fear in all suitors who have to settle for a picnic. “What happens is that adrenaline is released that mimics the feelings of falling love.”

And it doesn’t end there. Staring into your partner’s eyes for stability during the terrifying descent causes an increased release of oxytocin, a bonding hormone. “If a person is frightened and literally clinging to a protector, a knight, they actually have the experience of being saved by this person,” Kirschner says. “Certainly it’s not going to make for lasting love, which is a whole other ball of wax, but at that moment you are bonded together and will associate a scary-turned-pleasurable high and relief and excitement with the other person.”

Because after successfully finishing the dangerous-seeming event, both partners will experience a pleasurable burst of dopamine.

“This corroborates the advice Ovid gave young men: take your date to the gladiator fights if you want sex,” says Dr. Elizabeth Saenger, a Harvard-trained psychologist and former matchmaker for upscale professionals. “Actually, he didn’t say it quite so crassly, and he said it in Latin, but that was the idea.”

Fear can trick the brain into feelings of attraction.

Saenger cited a 1974 study by Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron that identified instances of misattributed arousal. In it, researchers placed an attractive woman at the end of a “fear-arousing suspension bridge” and a “non-fear-arousing bridge.” According to Saenger, “Men who crossed the wobbly bridge rated the women as much more attractive than men who crossed a stable bridge.”

This supports the James-Lange theory of emotion, stating “We are afraid because we run.” In other words, emotions are interpreted based on a physiological reaction to events.

But do you really want to fool your brain into thinking that you’re more emotionally connected with someone than you actually are?

And that brings us to why you maybe shouldn’t make your date jump out of a plane (or something) for you:

Apart from the risk of creating a false sense of attachment, the No. 1 biggest reason not to force an early date into a terrifying situation is because, well, it’s terrifying. And if a partner is legitimately phobic of heights, as Bachelor(ette) contestants often claim they are, then forcing him or her to rappel down a building can be a very bad idea indeed.

In the wise words of Dr. Saenger, “Dealing with phobias on a date is, to use a favorite word of psychologists, ‘inappropriate.’ It is also plain stupid, and can be unethical.”

Bachelorette contestants are, by definition, risk takers. Who else would be willing to broadcast their love lives on national TV? But in the real world, maybe stick to a boring dinner instead.

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