Why We Need to Talk about Luke P. on The Bachelorette

As Bachelorette Hannah Brown so aptly said in “The Men Tell All” this season, “I’m tired of talking about him and can we just never speak the name?” If you were one of the average 5.8 million viewers who tuned into her season of The Bachelorette this spring, then you had to be tired of Luke Parker too. Personally, I was downright angry the more Luke P. opened his mouth and wished he would just be eliminated already, but his behavior on the show not only provided some of the biggest drama of the season (until that roller-coaster of a finale, no spoilers here though), it also revealed much larger problems prevalent within our culture, reaching way beyond the bubble that is “Bachelor Nation.” For those of you who didn’t watch, allow me to briefly fill you in on just how problematic Luke P. was.

 

Toxic Masculinity:

Though Luke was an immediate frontrunner in Hannah’s quest for love, he was also almost immediately pinpointed as the show’s main villain. He consistently clashed heads with all the other men, and after body slamming contestant Luke S. to the ground during a group date, lied to Hannah and got Luke S. sent home. Luke P. got in the contestant’s faces, yelled, balled his fists at people, and even dropped bologna in contestant Garrett’s lap. He was overly and overtly aggressive to all the men whenever Hannah wasn’t around. 

During “The Men Tell All” episode of the season, Luke told Chris Harrison that “a man is supposed to lead and guide a woman in a relationship” and "from day one coming here, I felt like I was on a rescue mission for Hannah, that's how I like to look at it.” When asked to elaborate on what he meant by “rescue,” he tried to backtrack and explain that he was trying to save her from all the other men, but from his previous behavior and his comments on sex, it’s clear that he wanted to save her from her sexuality and her “slip ups,” as he put it himself. Contestant Devin Harris told Luke later in the “Tell All,” “you’re saying that you’re on a rescue mission, but it seemed that the only person that needed rescuing was Hannah from you.”

After being sent home from the show (for sex-shaming her!), Luke refused to leave. In fact, he showed up to a rose ceremony unannounced with an engagement ring in his pocket, claiming "She's never told me that she loves me, but I know she loves me." As if this entitlement wasn’t enough, he said he would stand there all day until Hannah allowed him to plead his case, even after she repeatedly begged him to leave. 

 

Sex-Shaming:

His first major spat with Hannah occurred after her date with another man where they went naked bungee jumping. Upon learning about it, Luke said, “Her body is her temple and to expose it to anyone who isn’t her husband … that was a slap in my face.” He confronted her about it during a one on one conversation and Hannah was not happy, to say the least. “It's my body,” she repeated as Luke tried to justify his statement.  

Just a few weeks later, Luke was finally sent home, after slut shaming Hannah again. After a long winded monologue about how wrong it is for people to use the Fantasy Suite for sex, he ended with “I don't believe that's something you should be doing.” Hannah finally had enough. In a scene that dragged on uncomfortably long, Hannah repeatedly told Luke to leave (sound familiar?) and he repeatedly refused. For several minutes he just kept sitting at the dinner table.When she eventually got him into the limo, she sent him off with a middle finger salute and the parting words, “I f*cked in a windmill. Twice.” Yes. Queen. 

 

Gaslighting:

Gaslighting” is when someone manipulates another into questioning their reality or sanity, and boy oh boy was it Luke’s favorite move. After nearly every conversation in which Hannah became upset over the things Luke said to her, he would insist that she was just “misconstruing and misunderstanding” his words. Again. And again. By blaming Hannah for her own anger, (you’re only mad and upset because you didn’t understand what I said), he was able to get into her head and actually make her question their previous conversations, effectively keeping him in the running. 

 

This long list of incidents just briefly scratches the surface of the ways Luke P. acted and the absurdities he said, but it nicely highlights just how problematic he was on the show. Monday after Monday, viewers watched this unfold on their screens. There was a dark current running under a show that’s usually watched for its petty drama and frivolous fun. It brought an uncomfortable dose of reality to viewers, rather than the usual escape. And for many, the content may have hit a little too close to home: nearly half of all men and women in the US have experienced some type of psychological aggression or abuse from an intimate partner. 

Most relationship abuse is not broadcasted on national television, but happens in unspectacular fashion every day. As a college woman, I know that toxic masculinity, sex-shaming, gaslighting, and other forms of abuse are terrifiyingly prevalent. Some I have experienced myself, others my friends, classmates, and peers have experienced. So, to watch it unfold in front of me every week, and better yet, to hear people talk about it, was kind of incredible. Am I happy that this happened to the Bachelorette? Obviously not. But I am happy that it has started a conversation. I am happy that people were as angry as I was. And I am happy that people recognized Luke’s behavior for what it was, some fans even sharing resources about abuse after watching the show. 

It is one thing to recognize toxic behaviors and abuse when producers have effectively framed it for you, and another to recognize it on campus, in the workplace, or elsewhere. But the fact that “Bachelor Nation” has effectively dragged Luke P. into oblivion for his behavior gives me hope that maybe people will start to recognize the Luke P’s in their lives. The Bachelorette herself triumphantly declared at the end of “The Men Tell All,” “The Luke P. show is canceled, and we will not renew the season again.” Let’s cancel all of our other subscriptions now, shall we?