It isn’t even worth a hate-watch anymore
Can I steal you for a second?
The first episode of the Bachelor franchise aired March 25th, 2002. ‘Bachelor Nation’ was yet to be coined to describe dedicated fans of its many spin-offs. Before online dating was largely normalized, and way before Instagram’s inception and all of the drama online communication inevitably caused (I’m looking at you, Blake), Alex Michel was the first Bachelor to court twenty five women on national television. Since then the stars, Bachelor and Bachelorette alike, have been exceedingly white. They don’t boast an impressive ratio of resulting couples that have stayed together, either. So, why do we watch it?
In June of this year, viewers called for more diversity after fan-favorite Mike Johnson did not receive an offer to become the first Black bachelor. Instead, this year we will be getting Matt, a close friend of Tyler from Hannah Brown’s season. He is outside of the sorority/fraternity the show cultivates but has enough of a social media presence that it may appease some. In my opinion, it’s too little too late.
I won’t be watching.
I began with Sean Lowe’s season in 2013 and have watched every one since. I watched it as a feminist who never dreamt of a big wedding or giving birth. At the same time, I completely understand and respect anyone who has those desires. Personally, growing up they just were never something I thought much about. I watched it for fun and to make fun. It was a guilty pleasure I didn’t feel guilty about. Gushing with a coworker or friend about the latest episode was something to look forward to and pointedly discussing the show was the best part of its existence. Despite this, for me, it has run its course.
This year’s election has loudly and violently split our country and has bled into social media as social distancing has more of us consistently online. Celebrities, for better or for worse, are being transparent about whom they support for our next president. Kirstie Alley posted on Twitter that she voted for Trump and immediately became a trending topic. Fans discovered Bachelorette Becca’s choice Garrett Yrigoyen liked racist and transphobic tweets years ago, and after they split this year, Becca Kufrin posted a photo of herself and her reasons for supporting Biden. Both comment sections were flooded with support and insults alike.
The political leanings of contestants is impossible to ignore this year. A show that has consistently showcased conservative values of love and marriage has always been and will always be political. A cis male and cis female, more likely than not white, meet one another and want to get married and have children. This is the ultimate goal and point of the show. If you propose or get proposed to, you “win.” It’s old-fashioned ideals under a spotlight.
The show had previously been a light, carefree watch for me. It didn’t feel dissimilar to watching a Disney Princess float through life. Here was a heteronormative and ridiculously romanticized experience that I could watch while not wanting or wishing it for myself. I could laugh at the number of times they say the word “journey” or giggle at the fact that last year they took Peter’s women contestants to Cleveland, Ohio instead of… well, literally anywhere else.
Clare Crawley’s season has begun and I, admittedly, watched the first twenty minutes of it. I felt insulted by the way they addressed Covid-19. The men and Clare had to quarantine before the big “first night.” They complain about the tests being painful and gush over how lucky they are to be able to hug while the pandemic is going on. Clare’s following quote solidified I won’t be tuning in anymore:
“This pandemic can literally crush people and it’s terrible. If it’s not loneliness from being by yourself for so long, it’s going crazy because you don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’m 39 and I might not ever get the chance to meet my husband.”
This pandemic has killed millions of people, yet there is an emphasis on loneliness. I don’t know what I expected, to be fair. Loneliness is difficult and mental health decline is a major issue and worthy of its own conversation. A show that used to be a form of escapism and fantasy had “real life” issues thrust upon it and addressed it, in my opinion, tastelessly. Since they insisted on moving forward, abusing their privilege and resources to do so, it isn’t surprising.
I was excited for Clare to be the Bachelorette. I’ve never really been a huge fan of hers but was looking forward to it because she isn’t a teenager. 79% of women on the show, Business Insider reports, have been 28 and under. There is not a shortage of pressure in society to get married, either to appease parents, to post on social media, or for tax purposes. There are plenty of people that fall in love young, get married, and are happy, but it isn’t “the norm” like it used to be. In April of this year, Brides.com revealed the median age of marriage for men is 29.8, and for women 27.8.
It is rumored that she may leave and will be replaced by another Bachelor alum that I did like… but that isn’t enough to bring me back to it.
While young women are especially prevalent seeking the Bachelor, they aren’t treated very well — by women in the house, or the media. My favorite example of the media berating a young contestant for her emotions occurred when Mykenna from Peter’s season gave a self-help-esque speech partially in the third person. The fashion blogger and Instagram influencer’s impassioned speech did not go over well and the internet, as it does, roasted her.
Is it ridiculous? Absolutely. However, they all speak in hyperbole and she was 22! We’re getting mad at 22-year-olds for not being bitter now?
When the franchise finally casts a mature woman, they poke fun at it and use The Graduate’s film poster as inspiration for the promo shots.
Harrison addresses the “fishbowl environment” due to shooting a season of television during Covid-19 and how they were forced to “concentrate less on travel, more on keeping that intimacy,” concluding “there were some positives” on Buzzfeed.
Chris Harrison Says The COVID-19 Season Of "The Bachelorette" Will Be The Most Dramatic Ever
I can’t in good conscience support the franchise that hears this dialogue, decides to air it, and not only recognizes but verbalizes the “silver linings” they have experienced during the pandemic as a good thing. The pandemic isn’t over.
I simply don’t need the Bachelor anymore. It glorifies “drama” and toxic behavior in relationships. There are newer shows engaging with a variety of diverse points-of-view. Dating shows like Dating Around, Love on the Spectrum, and Indian Matchmaking all on Netflix attempt to show a wide array of people and love stories. Unless the Bachelor completely restructures itself and starts from the ground up, it risks crumbling from within as Bon Appetit did this year.
I imagine they won’t. An upheaval could mean the franchise loses a significant percentage of fans that like it the way it is — or they could potentially grow a new following. It’s difficult to suppose what would happen.
What is the Bachelor/ette really adding to the conversation? It has had eighteen years and potentially has said everything it has to say. It’s a joke how certain phrases like “right reasons,” “journey,” and Chris Harrison without a doubt always declaring that the most current is “the most dramatic season ever.” Despite the incredibly slight differences between stars of the show, the format and narrative is the same.
I don’t want dramatic.
I crave authentic representations of love (a pipe dream, maybe) if that’s what I am sitting down to watch. We all deserve the Bachelor or whatever comes next to make an effort, a real effort, to be inclusive of more than one type of person.
I used to watch the Bachelor to “turn my brain off.”
I don’t want to turn my brain off anymore.