Whoever said less is more was really onto something, and perhaps that sage bit of wisdom should have been followed more closely by the producers of this season’s The Bachelorette. On Monday night Katie Thurston, one of the losers of Matt James’s season of The Bachelor, welcomed a group of incredibly average-looking and borderline creepy men to a sprawling hotel in New Mexico where they were surrounded by mountains, gorgeous landscapes, and “no dry bushes.” Katie’s season was filmed while covid precautions were still being observed, so it is extra creepy that she is alone in a gigantic desert hotel with these men, one of whom sells skin for a living. Actual human skin. I shit you not.
This sensation of being alone was heavily played up by the producers for the first 10 painful minutes of the premiere when Katie looked into the camera multiple times and mused about “figuring all this out” on her own. Obviously, this was to remind the viewing audience that long-time host Chris Harrison would not be making his way to New Mexico after the Kirkconnell Kerfuffle of last season. But to Katie’s fake surprise, she was not alone, because Bachelorette alums Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe were there, turning a show about adults trying to fuck into a two-hour sleepover with squealing adult woman giving each other the most useless dating advice possible.
But to my surprise, the addition of Tayshia and Kaitlyn as hosts/guidance counselors is not the worst thing happening in this season of the Bachelorette. In what I can only assume is an effort to make the show feel more modern and less like a guilty pleasure, Katie is being packaged as the Cool Girl, as described at length by Gillian Flynn in Gone Girl—an amalgamation of men’s perceived desires rolled into a single being that is cool with just about anything their man is cool with, even if it means “eating cold pizza and reaming a size 2.” This packaging is, of course, being eaten up by the men who frequently refer to Katie as a “real girl” and “someone I can just laugh with” as if any other woman wouldn’t be real or have a sense of humor.
While Katie’s laid back, I’m just here to have fun attitude worked well when she was part of a crowd, she’s now the star of the show and what was once the role of a jokester is now fully blown up to fill time and none of it translates when it’s just her by herself on a dais. She also for some reason feels the need to bring up multiple times that she is sex-positive but does absolutely no investigation into what that means to her personally or how she’d like to see that reflected in a partner. I’m not asking for a deep personal dive on the first night, but perhaps using more than a few giggles and the words “sex” and “confidence” would bring the audience in a bit more.
Katie’s attitude toward these men is more, Hey Bro than it is Hey Future Husband—another Cool Girl staple. If this is who she really is then that’s all fine and well, but the Bachelorette is not a place to make friends—it is a place to manufacture romance and unfairly pressure two people to get married, and if we’re not going to do that then the audience might as well hit the snooze button until Michelle Young’s season starts later this year.