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How Do You Solve a Problem Like The Bachelor?

Illustration for article titled How Do You Solve a Problem Like iThe Bachelor/i?
Graphic: Joan Summers/Jezebel, Screenshot: ABC, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette

Welcome to Jezebel Inquires, a very serious tabloid about very serious things.

This season, Bachelor contestant Victoria Fuller won a highly coveted Cosmopolitan digital cover during a “modeling challenge” produced by the show, during which the contestants-slash-eager potential girlfriends filmed with noted windmill-fucker Peter Weber. Fuller’s burgeoning digital model career was cut short, however, when photos surfaced of Fuller modeling for a brand that repped “White Lives Matter” t-shirts. She later claimed that the white lives in question were white marlins and not white people, but she did not explain why “Marlin Lives Matter” needed to be printed on t-shirts featuring the Confederate flag. I’m sure everyone can fill in the blank, though!

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This is not the first time The Bachelor franchise has been embroiled in controversy. In the summer of 2017, Bachelor in Paradise suddenly shut down production after possible allegations of sexual misconduct were reported on set. When it finally aired that season, the first two episodes clunked their way through a dedicated sit-down interview with the cast, a bunch of weddings, and yet another sit-down, during which “the media” was widely blamed for blowing the situation out of proportion.

Later, cast member Corinne Olympios sat down with host Chris Harrison and said that a combination of alcohol and medication were at the core of the incident; and that contrary to media reports, she was not a victim of sexual assault. Instead, she told Harrison, “I was a victim of the media.”

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Prior to this, The Bachelorette’s first-ever black contestant, Rachel Lindsay, was given a virulent racist to date in the stable of influencer-adjacent men on her season. The show has also seen transphobic men, sexual harassment, a drunk driving fatality, cheaters, and at least one bombshell memoir that exposed the rather extreme lengths producers will allegedly go to emotionally and mentally manipulate contestants. On a show where men and women both are shuffled through like cattle, this is to be expected. The churn of humanity brings about all sorts of people, including the bigots and weirdoes and fame-hungry influencers looking to shill wellness detox blends and beauty box subscriptions.

Fuller’s aggressive campaigning for white—marlin!—lives is no surprise. By this point, it is an expected outcome from a show that is less about the suspiciously overwrought rituals of modern heterosexual romance, and more about the ever-increasing ways producers can stage manage crises. Ratings across the industry continue to plummet, even for behemoths like The Bachelor, and streaming giants chase production costs off a cliff while gobbling up ever-larger chunks of Hollywood. Television a more competitive industry than ever, and The Bachelor’s continued success is absolutely needed to retain ABC’s relevance.

Last week’s episode of The Bachelor, which is featured in this week’s In Touch, depicted a contestant who had a beloved bottle of champagne quite obviously switched around by producers. When a rival contestant drank from that bottle with potato man Peter Weber, an emotional meltdown of relatively minor proportions ensued, and everyone was left shook-ish. In Touch reports that in addition to the show’s feuding women and the somewhat depressing return of Dancing With the Stars poster-leotard Hannah Brown, Fuller was set up on a date where her ex-boyfriend was hired to perform. This isn’t a dating show—this is a circus!

I understand that is not The Bachelor’s job to produce a thoughtful analysis of what heterosexuality looks like in 2020. I’m also okay conceding that elements of dating in the age of influencers and the gig economy also involves straight men and women stage-managing their love lives for their 578 Instagram followers. But The Bachelor is still a television show that claims to be about dating and love and going on all-expenses-paid for trips to countries so you can fuck your maybe girlfriend in a windmill before she dumps you in the morning. And the greatest crime a television show can commit, besides failing to meet its own premise, is being boring. That is simply unforgivable.

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In this failure, the climate of reality television is partially to blame. Social media is now as powerful as the producers on these shows themselves. On the Real Housewives, this bubbles up in blogs that are obliquely referenced by side-characters on camera and weaponized to further plot lines onscreen. It’s an ouroboros of fuckery! The Bachelor, and its even more dire sister-show The Bachelorette, have it even worse. Without social media, there wouldn’t be a pipeline to maintain relevancy for next season’s lead contestant. The pipeline to Bachelor in Paradise would also collapse, as would the ability for any of its alumni to pay their bills, seeing as a reality TV gig is a surefire way to land yourself some lucrative sponsorship deals with your maybe-fake significant other.

But The Bachelor is not just a television show, it is an industry. A large, unwieldy patchwork of lucrative sponson endorsements, wellness supplements, producer earpieces, Instagram DMs, primetime ad buys, spray tans, marketing executives, bedazzled ballgowns, and discarded glasses half-full with lukewarm vodka sodas.

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Shit-Talking:

I’m giving myself a break from Awards Season party and fashion gossip for the week. Instead, let’s cut to my favorite part of this column instead.

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  • Sienna Miller, on her kid getting jealous: “She gets jealous.” [In Touch]
  • Pink, on wanting her children to know what she looks like: “I want my children to know what I look like.” [Life & Style]
  • Kumail Nanjiani, on being slightly less funny: “I’m slightly less funny.” [Us Weekly]
  • Dean McDermott, on reading Golf Digest: “I read Golf Digest.” [In Touch]
  • Brad Pitt, on kind of seeing dance as his future: “I kind of see dance as my future.” [Life & Style]
  • Dean McDermott, on FaceTiming Tori Spelling: “I FaceTimed Tori Spelling.” [In Touch]
  • Charlie Hunnam, on getting to know Matthew McConaughey pretty well: “I got to know him pretty well.” [Life & Style]
  • Lance Bass, on The Mandalorian being amaziing: “It’s amazing!” [Life & Style]
  • Jameela Jamil, on waddling ‘so fast’: “I start waddling so fast.” [Us Weekly]
  • Ellen, on loving babies: “I love babies.” [Ok!]
  • Jennifer Lopez, on watching When Harry Met Sally 15,000 times: “I’ve watched it 15,000 times.” [Life & Style]

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DISCUSSION

Obstacle courses. Like, full-on American Ninja Warrior-difficulty obstacle courses. Peter’s at the top of the Warped Wall. The first woman up the wall wins (loses).