I never thought it would happen but this year, I became a first-time viewer of The Bachelor and I learned so much over the course of this season that I need to talk about it. Watching Colton Underwood try to find the love of his life was quite the experience, especially since the run-up to the season premiere was marketed around the fact that Underwood is a virgin and wouldn’t it be so interesting to see how that plays out on TV? I got reeled in because of this messaging, but I was not at all prepared for what awaited me during Underwood’s rollercoaster season. Before diving into the world of The Bachelor, I truly had no idea just how intense group dates could be, just how petty women could be with each other or even how loaded the question “Can I talk with you real quick?” really is.
So, with all of this in mind, these are the big lessons I learned while watching The Bachelor for the first time.
The Bachelor loves casting a certain type of woman
I’ve been vaguely aware of past Bachelor seasons because of the critique that Bachelors are often straight, white, in their 30s, physically fit and ridiculously attractive while the women who are cast are often straight, white, are frequently blonde and they’re in their early to mid-20s. This was absolutely the case for Underwood’s Bachelor season — and it did not sit well with me. Yes, there were some notable casting outliers, with a handful of women were in their late 20s and early 30s while a few women of color were also cast. But for the most part, the group of women Underwood was dating was very white, very young and thin. To me, this was the most problematic part of watching The Bachelor because it sent the message that only a certain kind of woman (read: not fat, not queer, not older, etc.) is worthy of being loved by a handsome, eligible bachelor.
Watching a ton of women compete for one man’s affection is just plain awkward
Knowing that an entire season of The Bachelor takes place in about two months (more or less) was wild if only because it made watching the women compete for Underwood’s affections that much more entertaining and, at times, weird. It’s pretty rare out here in the real world to see two people fall in love and get engaged in just a month’s time, so seeing the ways in which the female contestants tried to forge a connection with Underwood almost instantly was both unnerving and impressive. Then again, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something wrong in cheering on these women to try and take things to the next level with Underwood by any means possible based on the fact that time was running out and it was important for them to secure a spot in the next round.
It’s better to support women rather than tear them down
I’ve grown up with the boom of reality television, so I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea that the best reality TV shows thrive on drama. It’s the key ingredient that keeps viewers coming back week after week. But as I watched Underwood’s Bachelor season, I was reminded that it is far more satisfying to watch the women come together to support one another and cheer each other on, even if they’re all competing for the affections same guy. Yes, there were catfights on this season The Bachelor and yes, it was brutal to watch. But there were also genuine moments where the women connected with each other over the intense experience of trying to find love on a reality TV show and it was those moments of sisterhood that really kept me hooked.
The Bachelor needs to do some more emotional labor
Listen, I know that The Bachelor is all about women competing for the affections of one guy but, uh, can the Bachelor actually step up and do some of the work as well? And by work, I mean emotional labor. Underwood should have stepped up this season and poured just as much of his heart out to the women he was trying to connect with, just as they did with him. It’s not enough to just watch Underwood shares his feelings in video diaries or while speaking with Chris Harrison. When you have women like Caelynn or Demi opening up about incredibly sensitive topics like dealing with the trauma of sexual assault or seeing a loved one go to prison, it’s on Underwood to step up and be just as open and honest about his own life and where he comes from.
Even though these were my big takeaways from watching my first-ever season of The Bachelor, I know that I will be all in for future seasons. Sure, this show may not be perfect and yes, it gets a little weird at times. But folks, at the end of the day, I’m all about The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and all things Bachelor Nation.
The final episode of The Bachelor airs tonight, Tuesday, March 12, at 8/7c on ABC.