Is It OK to Watch the Bachelor Franchise in the #MeToo Era?
It's a big Bachelor summer on ABC, with The Bachelorette recently completing its 14th season and Bachelor in Paradise jumping into late summer with its fifth season. Even with all the hoopla about who's returning to the show and the watercooler talk on Twitter, I find it's really hard to support the franchise in the #MeToo era.
More: Becca Kufrin's First-Impression Rose Winner Is Causing a Lot of Controversy
When the Harvey Weinstein allegations came to light last fall and women in Hollywood began to speak their truth, it was a real eye-opener for me. I had been in work situations where I had been sexually harassed and never felt like I had the power to speak up. That all changed for me in the #MeToo era.
The tsunami of stories from thousands of women in the workplace — in every industry and in every city — made me rethink what type of businesses and even TV shows I was supporting. Who was creating a powerful space for women to speak, think and be creative? Certainly not the Bachelor franchise.
I watched the early seasons of The Bachelor because it was fascinating to watch. From the first season with Alex Michel to gasping at Trista Rehn (now Sutter) walking down the aisle with Ryan Sutter in a sea of pink, I was hooked. I eventually fell out of love with the series after a few seasons because it was just boring.
Then Twitter came along, and it was one of the best series to hate-watch. There was always someone to make fun of — the girl who was desperate to get married on the first episode, the girl who drinks too much and the villain who makes every episode delicious.
Doubts kept creeping into my mind over the seasons when I felt bad for some of these women. Why would they subject themselves to such editing on a show that clearly favors the men? Even watching the first season of the fictional UnReal gave viewers a Hollywood look at the wizard behind the curtain when it comes to producer manipulation of storylines.
I still showed up to watch, but I really started to put on the brakes when the Bachelor in Paradise scandal with Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson emerged. ABC and executive producer Mike Fleiss were OK with contestants drinking unlimited amounts of alcohol until it put one producer into the uncomfortable situation of breaking up a drunken hookup. The incident halted filming and required new rules about consent and drinking on the Bachelor portfolio of shows.
You would think that particular scandal along with the influx of #MeToo stories would enlighten the producers to create a more empowering show. Unfortunately, the narrative took a sharp turn left during Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season. He chose to allow the producers to film his breakup with fiancée Becca Kufrin instead of doing it the classy way — privately. The Bachelor audience isn't owed anything when it comes to breakups.
Instead of Kufrin having control over her story and how it ended, she was subjected to a humiliating dumping in front of millions. While Luyendyk kept returning to the scene of the crime and badgering Kufrin to make sure she was OK even though she was asking him to leave. It was like watching harassment in the workplace, and that's when I knew The Bachelor producers had learned nothing over the last six months.
Kufrin thought she was taking control of her narrative by becoming The Bachelorette, yet her season has been mired in controversy, with one contestant convicted of indecent assault and battery and another contestant's social media history revealing some less-than-savory views. The Bachelor franchise has one public-relations disaster after another, and I've decided that — for me — it isn't OK to watch this show anymore.
That's the great thing about choice and empowerment, though. Many of you will continue to hate-watch the show on social media while some of you will have a girls' night in filled with endless glasses of rosé because it's your guilty pleasure. The show isn't going anywhere, but I do think it feels a little tarnished in the #MeToo era.