It has been a turbulent year for the historically racist, heteronormative, and all-around regressive-yet-still-somehow-addictive Bachelor franchise as a whole, as more and more people start to realize that the foundations of the show are foundationally fucked up. And amidst that turmoil has been still more chaos surrounding former Bachelorette contestant and Bachelor Colton Underwood, who came out as gay to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America just weeks ago, announced a reality show about that journey and seemed to want to avoid talking about a restraining order filed against him last summer by Cassie Randolph, the woman he harassed into pretending to agree to marry him on national television in 2019.
In an interview with Variety, Underwood says the story of his coming out is even more stressful than it seemed already, as his public declaration was in response to attempts to blackmail him. He also seems to acknowledge that he did do the things Randolph says he did—allegations which include putting a tracking device on her car—and that his actions in that situation are tied to the panic inherent in being a closeted person in the public eye.
As to the blackmail, Underwood says that sometime last year, he visited a Los Angeles “spa known for catering to gay clientele,” but says he was there “just to look around.” After his visit, Underwood says he got an email from someone claiming to have a photo of his visit, and though he never saw that photo, the email was the impetus for a conversation with his agent about his sexuality. According to Variety, the reality series offer came before a stint in therapy to process, it seems, both his coming out and the rather serious allegations made by Randolph, who dropped the restraining order in November 2020:
“Later, as Underwood’s very small inner circle came to learn about his sexuality, the production company pitched him on the idea of a show about his journey coming out, and after five months of therapy and meeting with a psychiatrist, Underwood decided his story could help others. The show ultimately sold to Netflix, and is slated to premiere later this year.”
However, before all of this happened, Randolph and Underwood were filming a different reality show about their lives as friends following their breakup, though Underwood was still not out to her. While Underwood says that an agreement with Randolph limits him from discussing his actions freely, the interview does attempt to clarify the “abuse” allegations: “I did not physically touch or physically abuse Cassie in any way, shape or form,” Underwood said.
But no reports specified that the abuse was physical, and instead alleged a history of intimidation and harassment, from standing outside Randolphs window late at night, to repeatedly calling, texting, and following her—behavior it does seem like Underwood acknowledges, for whatever that’s worth:
“I never want people to think that I’m coming out to change the narrative, or to brush over and not take responsibility for my actions, and now that I have this gay life that I don’t have to address my past as a straight man,” Underwood says. “Controlling situations to try to grasp at any part of the straight fantasy that I was trying to live out was so wrong.”
But recognizing that the past happened is a pretty meager offering for truly frightening-sounding behavior that allegedly occurred less than a year ago and from a person who processed his own traumatic coming out, not to mention reportedly abusive behavior, with a therapist for less than half a year up until just a few weeks ago. Colton Underwood deserves to feel free in his sexuality, but he never should have been on television in the first place. Televising him yet again after doing so proved damaging to himself and to others last time, especially under the guise of “helping others,” seems in dangerously poor taste.