Last semester on campus, my curiosity got the best of me, and I finally dipped my toes into Bachelor Nation by watching The Bachelorette. While I thought it was cheesy, it still had its moments and was all-around entertaining to watch along with friends. I mean, who doesn’t love watching something where you can root for real-life people together? I became invested, and so much so that I continued on to watch The Bachelor. This viewing experience has given me more mixed emotions overall than Clare running off with Dale did— and we all know how polarizing that was.
This season began with a solid foundation by having Matt James be the first Black Bachelor. Matt came off as a humorous, laid-back guy with a big heart, and he was fun to watch. The problem with this, though, is that as the season progressed, it became hard to put any attention on him at all. Why? The women vying for his heart were simultaneously vying to gain attention through bullying. I don’t want to simply use the word “cattiness,” as it doesn’t do justice to what has actually occurred on the show. I want to call their behavior for what it is.
Viewers first caught a glimpse of this bullying through the contestant referred to as Queen Victoria, who is believed by some to have been cast to act dramatic and not as an actual competitor. I am honestly unsure about this. Whether she was cast to act or not, Victoria still verbally attacked the other contestants through her self-centered actions. This behavior gained the attention of many on social media platforms, but it was far from the last of toxic behavior that would garner attention.
Perhaps the most notable of this bullying was when four new contestants arrived at Nemacolin— the most notable of them being Brittany and Michelle. A contestant named Anna was so annoyed by the arrival of new contestants that she began to spread a rumor about Brittany being an escort. When later confronted by Brittany, Brittany told her that it was untrue. She was hurt by this, and so much so that Matt ended up removing Anna, leaving her remorseful and full of apologies. It was easy to tell that she was only regretful because she was caught. If Matt hadn’t intervened, Anna may have never owned up to her actions.
The turmoil brought on by new contestants only got worse as several contestants made statements about being more deserving of spending time with Matt through being the “OG” women. Their behavior left women in tears sometimes and ultimately culminated in a contestant named Katie intervening to prevent further harm. Katie’s involvement got the bullying aimed unreasonably at herself, as she was one of the only women to ever tell Matt about the cruel actions of the other contestants. She later left, and the last glimpse of bullying we saw was when Heather, a contestant from a previous season, showed up to talk to Matt, getting glares and snide remarks from the unwelcoming other women.
After this behavior cooled down and there was more time to simply focus on Matt and his journey to find love, the bullying amongst contestants was never condemned by the Bachelor franchise. There were no comments made on social media pages for The Bachelor and no apologies from contestants who chose to bully, but rather clips and photographs of their cruelty encouraging viewers to watch what happened. To me, all of this drama appears like a desire to gain viewers. It seems like the show is playing off of stereotypes about female cattiness for greater attention. Additionally, the fact that one of the main topics that created bullying was a rumor about an escort is extremely harmful. The show chose to display harm caused to Brittany and make women involved in an industry like that seem lowly. And for what? Is the attention that the show gains because of these disputes really worth it when women are putting other women down in more ways than one?
It also seems like there is a lack of awareness about who may be viewing The Bachelor, as it’s most likely not all grown adults. What kinds of lessons would a young teenage girl learn from watching these supposedly idolized contestants bring each other down? Stating the obvious, I don’t think they would learn anything valuable. They would learn that verbally bullying other women is okay in order to try to gain personal success. They would also learn that it’s okay to not apologize once you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. That is, apologize directly to that person. Women apologized left and right to Matt through this season instead of approaching someone who they’ve actually harmed. And no, The Bachelor doesn’t claim to be a show that teaches life lessons to girls, but with a PG rating, I think that the behavior of contestants needs more criticism from the franchise.
We cannot excuse the bullying on The Bachelor as just women being women. To amount cruelty to a gendered cattiness is to deny the hurtful impact of words that shouldn’t be gendered anyways. To put things simply, being kind to others is not difficult, but on the show, it’s an uphill battle fought with stereotypes about women. I can’t say that I find enjoyment in viewing that. If this is the new method of gaining viewers that the Bachelor franchise implements, then they just might lose one when I count myself out.