If you wanted to walk away from everything right now, I wouldn’t blame you.
In the past two weeks, what used to be a lighthearted (albeit “dramatic”) series that features people dating on television, The Bachelor brand has been rocked by issues as important to American society as anything you might see on CNN. We’re all complicit, and quite frankly, we should have seen this coming.
Because it’s salient to the current The Bachelorette, we’ll start there. With their first black Bachelorette in her big moment, of course, it was instantly ruined.
As soon as Dean stepped on the stage and said, “I’m ready to go black and I’ll never go back,” that signaled this show was likely going off the rails sooner rather than later. Sure, it was live television, but we let our collective guards down. He’s young! He was nervous! Sure. But think about it: You can’t let that happen. It doesn’t take a lot for a producer to ask contestants what they’re going to say and to make sure they do. It was a clear indication that they were down for shenanigans from jump.
So by the time we get to this situation with Lee, Eric and then Kenny, we should have known that not only was this not going to go well, but our intelligence might get insulted in the interim. And that’s exactly what happened. Because the franchise decided that instead of actually allowing us to see the depth of the person who is Rachel, we’re subjected to an arc that stokes plantation politics as a driving force for the storyline.
“Kenny is a big ol’ meat head, and I wanted to break him down,” Lee says at one point. These are not the coded words we’re looking for from a guy with a history of extremely bigoted tweets and social media banter. Instead of this becoming a point of shame or education, at this point, it’s not just an accident. My colleague Domonique Foxworth says they’re actively trafficking in racist tensions to push the plot. Lee and Kenny have a two-on-one date next week, which is apparently worth a two-night special. It’s gross.
Things have gotten so bad that the network has reportedly forced at least one contestant to cancel interviews about the situation until after the season ends.
We haven’t even gotten to the Bachelor In Paradise situation, which feels equally slimy. After an incident with contestant Corrine Olympios, they’ve basically tried to act like the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding. On top of that, the guy involved in it, DeMario Jackson, has been invited back to the show.
They claimed an investigation was carried out, and we’ll be seeing Paradise this summer after all. But the issue of whether the fundamental premise of the show is based on implied consent at all times has not been addressed. Instead, Olympios has said she was a victim. She’s still lawyered up, understandably. Instead of an honest conversation about alcohol and what that means when it comes to sexual assault, we’re forced into a narrative that effectively implies that a woman is lying.
It’s not about implying Jackson necessarily did anything wrong. But call it what you want. By fueling people up with booze and dicey conditions for consent, you’re basically selling rape culture on an island. Of course, we all sort of knew that, but there was a reasonable benefit of the doubt you could give to the producers and the program. Now it all feels like a scramble to make us forget this ever happened. Which will probably work because, all this notwithstanding, Paradise is the best show of all three.
So this is what we’re left with headed into Monday night’s episode. A franchise that’s staked itself to a couple of premises that make the entire situation not only not fun, but actively painful. Maybe at some point there’s a way to find some level of redemption in this, but that’s not realistic. There’s too much money to be made and, as some contestants have pleaded, if it all goes away then, well, suddenly everyone involved is irrelevant.
But whatever it takes to get to paradise, I guess.