Maybe The Bachelor Needs More Barbaras

Maybe The Bachelor Needs More Barbaras
Screenshot:ABC/The Bachelor

On Tuesday night, Pilot Peter Weber’s Season 24 of The Bachelor came to a close in messy fashion, full of now-vintage production tropes and a whole lot of nonsense.

The episode began as I predicted it would: Peter and Hannah Ann got engaged. Peter waited until proposing to tell her that Madison Prewett left and she was the last woman standing but swore she was “the only one” he would “choose.” He then pulled an Arie Luyendyk Jr. and broke things off shortly afterward. Hannah Ann seemed to take it better than Becca Kufrin did those short two years ago (no doubt because she knew in her heart that she was dodging a bullet, and because I still don’t believe her adoration for Peter, sorry.) She confronted him at the live taping with the well-rehearsed and accidentally homophobic line, “Word of advice: If you want to be with a woman, you need to become a real man,” and sanity was temporarily restored.

Except, of course, Chris Harrison went to visit Madison at her home in Smalltown, U.S.A., convincing her to pack up and talk things over with Peter out in Los Angeles. When the pair reunited, most of the cutaway shots during their conversation were of his mother, Barbara Weber, whose dislike of Madison has become infamous. (Barbara has only met Madison on two occasions and really liked her the first time.) She changed her tune during Monday night’s episode, when Madison revealed that she’s saving herself for marriage and because her son loves to party, their lifestyles wouldn’t align. She also kept reiterating that she doesn’t want her son “to change,” which is exactly like saying she doesn’t want him to grow, which seems like a strange way to parent your adult son.

The episode ends with Peter and Madison making up but not yet getting engaged—just like the end of Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette, with different players—and that’s fine, but not nearly as juicy as the conflict between her and his mother Barbara. Barb spent all her screen time complaining that Madison simply didn’t seem to express the same unwavering admiration for Peter that Hannah Ann did (since when did “compatible” equate to “fandom”?) and doesn’t seem to listen to her son. My theory is that as an intrusive mom, Barbara doesn’t like that Madison stands her ground—there’s something certainly more threatening about Madi being in her life than Hannah Ann—and simply refusing to view a future in which, yeah, her son grows and changes.

“He’s gonna have to fail to succeed,” Barbara said at one particularly damning moment in the finale. “Everyone that knows him knows that it’s not going to work,” to which Peter replies, “I’m telling you that I love Madison, and that should be enough.” His dad is equally apprehensive, making a fairly astute comment about how their reservations stem from an initial interaction that was so negative, it jostled their faith in a Peter-Madison relationship working out. Which, you know, is fair.

“This is about me and Peter,” Madison shuts it down. “This is about our journey. This is something just he and I should be talking about.” Peter is something of a family man, so I would be shocked if the relationship thrives after such obvious and public contention. More than that, I think all domineering parents should have a place on The Bachelor moving forward. It isn’t often that the series showcases family to push back on the fantasy of it all, grounding it in surprising reality. And yet, love always finds a way: more Barbaras, please.

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