This spring semester I have been watching ABC’S The Bachelor for the first time. Despite it being mid-season, I began watching for some roommate bonding time on Monday nights. Mainly, I wanted to see and hear Victoria with my own eyes and ears because I had been hearing quite a bit about her. I did not expect to like the show- and I haven’t. One reason is because it simply bores me (I thought episodes were one hour, not two!) but there are also several deeper reasons, so let’s get into those.
Just in general… The show has a concept that is unfathomable to me. My roommate, somewhat of an expert on the BCU (Bachelor/Bachelorette Cinematic Universe) informed me that the women do not know who the Bachelor is before applying to be on the show. The idea of dozens of women competing to spend the rest of their lives with some random guy does cause me a bit of physical pain, I won’t lie to you.
Another aspect that leaves a bad taste in my mouth is the fact that I feel primed to hate women when I’m watching the show. Of course, some women aren’t great people and no feminist mindset will change that fact. However, on reality TV, with fake storylines, deceptive editing and emotions manipulated to run high and have explosive outcomes, truth becomes muddied. I hate feeling like producers are selling me a false reality about a woman, making her out to look worse than she is for the sake of entertainment. I know, I know, that’s literally what reality TV is, but it still makes me feel icky in this case. I never know how to make actual value judgments about people and I don’t want to blindly swallow the information I’m being spoon fed.
Next up is all about shaming. Women shaming other women, you hate to see it! Victoria, the infamous one I referenced earlier, called fellow contestant Brittany a “sl*t/wh*re.” Victoria!! Stop that right now ma’am. What to even say about these words that hasn’t already been said a million times by now because it’s 2021?! UGH. When will it end? Sadly, this attack was just a fraction of what Brittany had to endure.
Another contestant, Anna, spread a false rumor, with completely malicious intent, among the women that Brittany was an escort. It caught traction and led to a lot of adverse treatment and cruel remarks. First of all, it was awful to see that entire profession demonized on one of the biggest shows on television that is full of women and for women. No, Brittany did not do sex work, but if she did, that would not make her any less worthy of friendships and a relationship! Brittany’s treatment on the show was extremely unjust and it revealed a lot of backward, misogynistic views held by some of the women. Furthermore, sadly, this rumor negatively impacted Brittany’s personal life. She revealed on the Tell All episode that she began avoiding her family because she was worried and afraid of what they would think. Also, Brittany’s actual career could have been damaged if a current or future employer thought she was a sex worker. Again, none of this was fair. Thankfully, Brittany eventually got the chance to address all women and sex workers hurt by this rumor and tell them that they do not owe anyone an apology.
I wish I could conclude this section here, but there is another instance of shaming we have to go over (and probably more that I’m forgetting or did not watch). On the first night, contestant Katie stepped out of her limo to meet Matt, vibrator in hand. Matt reacted very positively, as did many of the other women, but not all. Victoria (yes, her again) disapproved. She told Katie that she must be immature and not ready for an engagement. Luckily, Victoria shut down quickly. Katie responded that she was perfectly mature and perfectly happy with her decisions so she didn’t care what Victoria had to say. Then, sadly, they both called each other b*tches… but I’m trying to focus on the positives from this situation.
We have arrived at arguably the biggest topic of this season, diversity. As I mentioned, Matt James was the first black bachelor. The women this season are by far the most racially diverse season yet. Abigail, a fan favorite, was also the first disabled contestant. Abigail is fully deaf and uses a cochlear implant and reads lips. She communicates vocally rather than in sign language. She was a wonderful contestant and the response from the deaf and hearing-impaired communities has been inspiring to see! The Bachelor franchise made great strides in its casting, but has a long, long way to go overall, beyond face value.
The biggest story of this season was contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s racism. Pictures surfaced of Rachel in various culturally appropriating costumes and outfits, she was seen liking pictures of people in front of Confederate flags, and there are rumors she engaged in racist bullying when she was in school. The main point of contention was the Antebellum South-themed plantation party she attended with her sorority at Georgia College in 2018. It was supremely disappointing and concerning to see this behavior steal the spotlight from a season that was supposed to highlight and celebrate racial diversity. Since much of the incriminating evidence was discovered by fans of the show, it has been widely speculated that producers were probably also aware when they cast Rachael, since they are essentially doing background checks on contestants. To think that these people behind-the-scenes saw no problem with someone like Rachael being one of the faces of their franchise is disturbing. There is no reasonable or moral explanation for why someone with a documented racist “past” should be allowed to compete on national television alongside women of color for a black man’s hand in marriage. It’s despicable. For her part, Rachael appears to be making efforts to educate and change herself and put her best foot forward on social media, but I’ll leave the forgiveness up to the people she has directly hurt.
Host Chris Harrison gave an interview disastrous it forced him to “step away” from the show. The interview was with Rachel Lindsay, a black woman and former Bachelor contestant and bachelorette. Harrison was purposely blurring timelines on Rachael (calling 2018 “five years ago”??), trying to downplay the severity and immediacy of what she did and asking for people to treat her with “grace.” He looked a black Bachelor woman in the eye and said it wasn’t a big deal to go to a plantation party (aka celebrating slavery) and that criticism is not deserved for that heinous decision. Harrison did not even mention allegations besides the sorority party. Rachel Lindsay is the host of the Higher Learning podcast on black culture and politics and has been speaking out against racism in the Bachelor franchise frequently. She did her part- actually more than her part- to try to guide the show and its fans in the right direction, but she faced such strong backlash that she had to temporarily take down her Instagram account. Bachelor’s white, conservative fan base viciously attacked Rachel, furious that Chris Harrison and Rachael Kirkconnell faced (some, meager…) consequences for their racism. These racist fans wanted Harrison to keep his hosting gig even after he proved himself woefully inept and saw nothing wrong with Rachael’s behaviors. Poor sweet little Rachael Kirkconnell, they thought, she had to take a little Instagram break and then make a few apology posts, oh no :( Yeah, their justice/injustice compassed is pretty skewed.
That’s the snapshot of Bachelor season 25: misogyny, racism, incompetent and malicious production- and there’s plenty more to discuss. I have barely scratched the surface here. Yikes.
For any new or old fans of the show, I want to say that I in no way judge you for your enjoyment. All I suggest, as I’m sure you already do, is to watch with a critical eye and question the messages you are being shown. I’ve had some great discussions with friends about what we’ve seen on The Bachelor. Actually, fan pushback is likely the only way to force any positive change in the program. There’s nothing wrong with a little guilty pleasure drama, but take note of what rubs you the wrong way, and definitely speak up about it.