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Returning to ‘Bachelor Nation’ as the Antithesis of Its Target Demographic Is a Strange Experience

Nasty!

JJ Watts and Chloe Fineman make fun of Bach Nash

Some of us are lucky enough to be born into communities where they more or less fit in without having to try. Others have to endure season after season of The Bachelor before they finally get to fly the coop and find commonality.

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Oh, yes, my SoCal upbringing revolved less around living authentically and kindly, and more around the audacity of Juan Pablo for doing his girls so dirty. How dare he, after all! Do that thing that he did! That I can totally remember! Because I was definitely paying attention instead of wishing I was literally anywhere else!

I thought I was rid of this franchise, but like a toxic ex, it seems to have boomeranged and found its way back into my life—and this time, of my own invitation. COVID forced many of us to scrounge for ways to pass the time, and like a lot of people, I did this by reinvestigating old pastimes. And for some reason, now that I’m 24 and have stopped taking so many things seriously, I find The Bachelor incredibly entertaining.

Akin to an anthropologist studying a dig site, I am endlessly fascinated by this franchise and what it represents. To me, the notion of romance being strictly heteronormative and ending in marriage is absurd, and the rituals surrounding such courtships are hilarious, yet fascinating to see play out onscreen.

Fascinating, and also disturbing. I mean, it’s Bachelor Nation. Shit gets weird real quick. So, these are my comprehensive thoughts, now that I’ve fully digested Gabby and Rachel’s season and am just tepidly interested in Paradise.

The Bachelor’s bible belt blues

The Bachelor's Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell talking to each other.
(ABC)

First and foremost, we should address the obvious, which is that this series is still incredibly racist, particularly towards darker-skinned women and Asian men. I don’t know how they cast contestants, but it doesn’t seem like the vetting process is very good, because they’ll end up creating a mix of normal, well-adjusted people from all walks of life, AND Trump-lovin’ Christians. It’s a disaster that often ends in chaos, and it’s rare that we see contestants of color get very far unless the host is also a person of color.

I mean, hell, the former host, Chris Harrison, was pretty much excommunicated from the entire franchise because he excused a contestant for participating in an “Antebellum-themed” sorority party. Even worse, he harshly criticized former lead Rachel Lindsay, a Black woman, for rightfully calling out this behavior. All this was allowed to pass, yet just as recently as last season, Gabby chose Erich as her final pick—Erich, who went to a Halloween party in blackface during high school, and wasn’t further interrogated beyond a simple platitude in the series’ finale. Disgusting and absurd.

Meanwhile, how wild is it that only RECENTLY, an Asian man made it as far as Week 6? Ethan Kang was a fan favorite, as he was charming, handsome, and probably the funniest guy in the entire season (he gave us the phrase “baby back bitch,” after all). Yet he was not picked as Bachelor, despite having so much love on his side, and not having any scandals attached to him.

https://twitter.com/ethankang1_/status/1572424195677601793

Right, and yeah, speaking of Zach …

Why on Earth am I Crushing on The Bachelor’s Zach Shallcross????

In pretty much every fan group I looked into, from reddit to Instagram, a lot of people (a lot of people) were wildly disappointed by the choice for next Bachelor: Zach Shallcross, Patrick Warburton’s 26-year-old nephew who was in Rachel’s final three. Compared to some of the other men on the season, such as charming Ethan and the lovely Nate, many viewers were angry that they once again went with the safe, inoffensive, tried-and-true White Boy Special.

And my god, I want to share that anger. I really do. I usually do! But if I’m being honest, I kinda can’t wait to see his season, because the show has completely sold me on this guy. This confuses me to no end. Every time I saw him onscreen, I’d feel two things at once: pity for Rachel, because he’s kind of a dork and she’s pretty cool; and a strong urge to re-download Tinder and give all the tech and finance bros in my area a second chance, because wow, apparently my standards have changed since my art hoe days.

I mean, I get it now. I get why even the most left-leaning women watch this show. It represents a sort of stable fantasy that would be an absolute relief for many of us to find. In this day and age, and in this economy, any modicum of stability is welcome, and men like Zach are built up to be the fantastical answer to all our problems.

Like how cozy would that be, if suddenly I found myself engaged to some financially secure dude with no emotional baggage who enjoys a steady diet of salami-and-mayonnaise sandwiches, and is decently nice and tall and good looking? Oh, yes, he’s probably definitely at the very least moderate politically, and he probably hasn’t heard of Rina Sawayama, and both of those are big turn-offs. But this show is designed to present a fantasy, and god dammit, they do it well.

I just have to keep gritting my teeth and reminding myself that, according to spoiler rumors, his first impression rose goes out to a Trumpie. Bumsville.

A gay ol’ time

Now, getting back to reality, let’s acknowledge that sexuality is a spectrum and that there is no way in hell every single person in those huge contestant groups is entirely straight. My bisexual ass checks out the women as much as the men every season. I catch myself thinking, Yikes, if I were a contestant, my big “scandal” would be kissing the homies.

And this did actually happen once! During season 6 of Bachelor in Paradise, Demi Burnett admitted that she was having a hard time connecting with anyone on the cast because she was still smitten with a girl back home. So the show decided to bring that girl on the show, and they ended up getting engaged in the season finale.

Sadly, that engagement didn’t go anywhere, but it was still super cool to see, and a nice wake-up call for all the viewers of the show who still believe in its conservative American origins. Like hell yes girls, getcha some, have your fairytale, all-expenses-paid romance!

No, I don’t have some grand insight here. I just think they should consider having a queer lead and opening up the contestant pool to reflect the lead’s sexuality—you know, like that YouTube show “The Button” on CUT.

A queer season of The Bachelor … what would that even look like? It’d be wild. Delightfully wild. There’s potential for it to end in a polycule, which America might not be ready for.

Mawwiage?

Michael Scott says "It's like all my kids grew up, and then they married each other."

And speaking of endings, goddamn, they really need to stop ending the show on an engagement. These people only get ten weeks together. That’s two months. I get they’re trying to sell us a fantasy, but to be honest, getting engaged after two months sounds more like a nightmare to me.

It’s becoming annoying to see so many couples end with a breakup, season after season. It’s like, why even make this show if all it does is lead to conflict and toxicity? Past contestant Clayton Echard got dogged on repeatedly for the way he treated Gabby and Rachel during his season, yet ultimately, the show is a highly-produced, highly-controlled machine. It’s inevitable that someone is gonna pull some fuckboy shit and, while that isn’t cool, what’s also not cool is the level of bullying that follows. Clayton had to go to therapy because all the media attention started leading him down some dark paths.

Ultimately, yes, the show is selling a fantasy, but it does so using real people. And therefore, doesn’t it make sense to treat them like real people? Or is that too much to ask of American reality TV? I just feel like all the drama that this show precipitates could be avoided if they just chilled out. No more engagements, no more grand gestures, no more producer-initiated bullying. Just let the desperate singles mingle and stay in your lane.

And also, no more puritanical ideals about sex, please. Love Island is arguably a MUCH more toxic reality TV show, but it’s European, so they “let” them have sex wherever, whenever. And in my opinion, this allows for the relationships on that show to be realer (for better or for worse). We get it, Bachelor Nation, your primary demographic for years was Southern women who wouldn’t dream of cunnilingus before marriage, but it’s 2022. If you want your show to have a better reputation, you gotta just let your contestants be themselves (within reason, of course) and stop limiting their physicality. All the barely-repressed-horny energy is so wildly uncomfortable to watch onscreen, especially when followed with a tepid statement of “I think I’m falling for _____.”

Uh, no you’re not, bud. You’re 25 and being paid to date. If I believed every hookup in my life was an act of “falling in love,” I’d probably just give up on love by now.

What does it all mean?

There is no way in hell you’d ever find my queer, Asian ass on a show like this. But I get the appeal, now that I’m older. Do I think people should buy into the fantasy wholeheartedly and ignore its flaws?

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But do I think a little fantasy is okay from time to time?

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We all do things to “live the dream,” right? I put on makeup just to go to the grocery store because it makes me feel 20 again. My buddy camps on the beach every now and then to forget about the hustle and bustle of city life. Nothing wrong with a little guilty pleasure every now and then.

But it helps to talk about the mess, so that maybe, just maybe, we can get someone to come over and clean it up, before it starts stinking up the joint.

(featured image: SNL/NBC)

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Author

Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).

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