After weeks of speculation, ABC revealed last night on the season finale of Bachelor in Paradise that Peter Weber, the lovable pilot from Hannah B.’s season of The Bachelorette, will be the new Bachelor. My reaction resembled that of my parents when I failed my driver’s test by backing into a pole while parallel parking in my instructor’s car: not mad, just bewildered disappointed. After shocking many loyal viewers by choosing Hannah as the Bachelorette, I was hoping the bigwigs at ABC would pull something similar with this year’s Bachelor. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to quit their addiction to mediocre men and went with the safe choice, once again shying away from a lead that might spike controversy or (heaven forbid) a cultural conversation.
He’s Slightly Sketchy
Peter caught some flak this summer when it was revealed by his ex-girlfriend that he dumped her shortly before Christmas, presumably because he found out that he’d been cast as a contestant on The Bachelorette. Opinions differ as to whether the show had anything to do with the breakup, but Peter himself has insisted that his casting occurred months after he parted ways with his ex. Even if we suspend all disbelief and take him at his word, his characterization of the breakup in the People interview is not consistent with the one he gave us on The Bachelorette, particularly during his hometown date, where his parents and brother recounted his most recent heartbreak in a way that gave me Blake-crying-on-his-mommy’s-shoulder vibes. While breakups are usually sad for both parties, the dumper does not usually come away disillusioned at the prospect of finding someone to love again, hence the dumping. We can all agree that Peter’s transgressions pale in comparison to those of dog food jingle lyricist Jed, but he’s not quite the wounded bird he’d like us to think he is either.
One important detail Chris Harrison forgot to announce last night when naming Peter as the Bachelor is that he’s already been The Bachelor. It was four years ago, his hair was darker, and his name was Ben Higgins. In all seriousness, it’s pretty clear that ABC is trying to recreate the ratings magic they had with nice guy Ben by bringing in a shiny new version. To be fair, there is nothing objectively wrong with either Ben or Peter. They’re both mild-mannered, sensitive and steadfast guys. The problem is that their best qualities are the same ones that come to mind when looking to purchase a family minivan. While comfort, reliability and safety are wonderful, I’m not really attracted to a Chrysler Pacifica. In light of recent events I knew we wouldn’t get my first choice Tyler, but I still can’t help but feel that ABC isn’t sending their best. We need a man with an edge and/or some undeniable sex appeal, and someone that still lives at home with his parents isn’t it, no matter how many condoms he has in his center console.
He’s (Yet Another) White Guy
It’s no secret that the Bachelor franchise has a race problem, but it’s a fact that bears repeating. In the more than 17 (!) years that this sh*tshow has been in the cultural zeitgeist, we have had one black female lead and no black male lead. It’s. Time. One could argue that we’ve had several great candidates in years past, especially when we see what passes muster to lead this dumpster fire year after year, but it’s pretty hard to deny that Mike Johnson from this year’s season of The Bachelorette would have been an excellent choice. Kind, charming, successful, smart and handsome, Mike was and is the full package (and Demi Lovato agrees, so don’t @ me). For all those who say he was “boring” on Bachelor in Paradise, kindly refer to my previous paragraph.
Even if Mike was boring on Paradise, I’m not totally convinced that his brief stint on the spin-off was the right litmus test. Mike doesn’t really exude f*ckboy like the Deans and Blakes of the franchise, so it’s possible he simply was not in his element arriving late into a situation where no one but the most boring and phony people were left (you know who you are). It’s true that ABC seriously botched the season with its first black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, but refusing to engage in the issue at all kills any hope for future progress in dealing with race competently and compassionately. If they can handle a same-sex couple with grace, can’t they work towards doing the same with its contestants of color?
By choosing Peter, the franchise is making a conscious choice to remain stale. It’s not the wisest move for a show that’s been airing for so long that nearly every contestant has learned the rules and is out for fame. If ABC can’t find a dynamic and compelling lead from its usual crop of last year’s rejects, why not flush the format and let art imitate life by casting an actual celebrity? Not only do we reclaim the premise of an aspirational lead that the show was founded on, the contestants’ famewhoring can be repurposed and encouraged as a key element of the entertainment instead of an undesirable byproduct that must not be acknowledged. Until ABC hires me to consult on strategy (call me!), all I can do is hope to be pleasantly surprised with Peter, like I was with Hannah. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and watch, but if I see even the shadow of a windmill, I’m out.
Images: ABC; Giphy (3)