The Fall Of The Bachelor: Why Playing It Safe Isn’t Paying Off
Remember the glory days when women competing on The Bachelor weren’t just a bunch of influencers racing to settle for a retiree with a really, really bad reputation or a fame-seeking human Chia Pet? I honestly don’t, but rumor has it that The Bachelor used to feature a male lead who didn’t eerily reflect the current dating culture where a bunch of awesome women fight tooth and nail for the attention of a mediocre dude who isn’t worth their time. Setting aside the depressing reality that even television networks can’t find a single man worth dating, fans of The Bachelor never really cared about any bigger picture issues inside the beautiful, contained bubble that was Bachelor Nation. Sure, the basic concept is the opposite of progressive (yes, that’s right, it’s regressive) and the more horrible the contestants are, the more fun it is to watch the show. There has only been one couple on the original franchise who have actually gotten married, so we all know the contestants aren’t there
for the right reasons to find love. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s good television. Which is why the current state of Bachelor Nation, once a thriving sovereign country, is so upsetting. All the producers needed to do was make an entertaining show, but after a plethora of PR nightmares including the Bachelor in Paradise sexual assault accusations (which I’m still confused about TBH), flat-Earther and domestic abuser Lincoln Adim, and Twitter bigot Garrett Yrigoyan, showrunners are playing it safe instead of playing to win. Colton Underwood, the whitest man on Earth, will stick to the rules of the Bachelor mansion — crying on command, running when his emotions overwhelm his delicate sensibilities, and returning with a ‘genuine’ declaration of love for a pretty blonde after pretending to entertain the idea of choosing the clear villain of the season instead.
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Colton entered Becca Kufrin’s season of The Bachelorette looking like everything the franchise had been missing. He was a self-made millionaire after ending an unsuccessful NFL career (but still, it’s the NFL) who has dedicated his life to helping sick kids and dogs with his piles and piles of money. This was the type of man The Bachelor had in mind back at the beginning of time when it was first conceived. He was the show’s Great
Caucasian White Hope after years of scandals, from Chris Soules’s hit-and-run manslaughter to Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s cold-hearted, real-time dumping of Becca K. (who we then had to give a pity Bachelorette season to). Their risky choice to cast Juan Pablo as the Bachelor in 2013, despite him only saying about four words during his Bachelorette season, backfired in a major way when he revealed himself to be an *sshole who none of the women could even pretend to love for Instagram followers. Nick Viall is, well, vile. The last success they’d found was in angel-human Ben Higgins, who was a boring, handsome man who had an uneventful season and now loves hanging out at UCLA’s basketball court and probably has inspirational quotes as his iPhone background. Colton, the closest thing to Ben Higgins we had seen in a while, could have brought the show back on track instead of looking like a weird game of real-life Tinder.
Then, Colton revealed that, too, he kind of sucks. He dated Tia Booth back when it looked like she was going to be the Bachelorette, only to cast her aside for Becca K. when the tables turned. We had assumed Tia was also just using their flirtationship to social climb until the excruciating past season of Bachelor in Paradise where she did her best impression of Ashley I. and Colton didn’t have the chutzpah to actually tell her he wasn’t interested. But really, it was more than that. Bachelor in Paradise is where Colton revealed that he really just wanted to be the lead Bachelor all along. He couldn’t break Tia’s heart and risk ruining his sensitive, ‘ready-for-love’ character, but he couldn’t fall for her on television and risk his shot at the lead. So, in a contractually-obligated slow-motion train crash, Colton proved that he, in fact, cannot act that well and played the nice guy who finishes last all the way to Bachelor mansion.
It was hard for any girl who’s been led on by a guy who’s just ‘too nice’ to let his backburner girl go to watch, but it was even more difficult to see Colton rewarded for his bad behavior. By choosing Colton as the Bachelor over Blake Horstmann, Jason Tartick, or Eric Bigger from Rachel Lindsay’s season (which leads into a whole ‘nother conversation about race that I’m not even kind of qualified to speak on — but, seriously, they chose an ancient retired race car driver last year instead of one of the many qualified men of color and we’re not supposed to think they’re racist?), ABC shows that it has no idea where the Bachelor has gone wrong.
Not going to lie, we’d even take Ben Higgins season two! We’re all still going to watch this terrible upcoming season, obviously. The Bachelor is the only proven cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder and CSSD (Cuffing Season Stress Disorder), since it premieres usually at the start of January and right after 90% of us didn’t get our movie-esque New Years’ kiss. But their litany of issues didn’t come about because the show had become too sexualized or too manufactured or even too scandalous. They ~did~ happen because of massive oversights during background checks, which they apparently did not solve this year since a contestant has already caused a PR disaster through Twitter and the show hasn’t even started. Another issue is that we haven’t actually cared about the series lead since Ben H.’s season. But, mostly, every ‘safe’ choice the franchise has made, from choosing Becca K. and Colton to refusing to step into a more interesting demographic (seriously, where’s our LGBTQ Bachelor?) has made the show even more boring than its fanbase. The only thing keeping the series alive today is the strong female friendships made in Nick Viall’s season that we still see on Instagram, because they clearly cared more about hanging with each other than they cared about winning Nick’s heart, and podcasts sh*tting on the show from Bachelor Nation favorites that were on the good seasons of Paradise. Going back to what never worked in the first place isn’t going to save their dwindling numbers. Picking a Bachelor who’s even better at hiding his shady intentions isn’t going to do it either. Welcome, Colton.