This week’s episode of The Bachelor cursed us with another classic trauma dump date. You know, the kind of “date” where everyone sits in a circle and talks about their insecurities and past traumas, and—if they are doing it right—cries, while a past franchise lead nods in support with absolutely no trained professional in sight. It’s the kind of date that forces women to share their stories of sexual assault and emotional abuse while the men share the stories of when they cheated on their exes. How romantic! But this season’s sharing circle was triggering for a different reason: because we got to witness a bunch of thin, conventionally beautiful people talk about body image issues.
Before I continue on my rant, let me preface the rest of the piece with this: of course thin, fit people can have body image issues, and of course they can be traumatic. In no way do I want to detract from that, and in no way do I want to undermine the experiences that these women (and Clayton) shared this week. That shit was real. But I do want to talk about why a TV show that, for over a decade, has refused to give us any representation of body diversity thinks they have the right to dedicate half an episode to a discussion on body image? Like, excuse me Bachelor producers—you are a cause of our body image issues, not the solution to them. I had no idea the Bachelor Mansion was home to such audacity.
I’ve been watching this show for (insert a number that is far too large) years, and I can count the number of women the franchise has cast that might not fit into size 2-4 jeans on… two fingers? Maybe two fingers and a pinky if I’m being generous. And, those women (Victoria from Matt’s season and Claire from this season come to mind) have almost always been given early season villain edits accompanied by early season eliminations. That’s some pretty serious “you can sit with us but only so we can make fun of you” kind of energy if you ask me. And even those women are tiny compared to the average woman in the U.S.—who is a size 14, btw.
Earlier this month, a TikTok went viral in which a woman claimed she was ghosted by Bachelor producers after she showed off her (hot as hell) size 6/8 body, and while we can’t verify that this is the reason they didn’t call her back, it does seem plausible given the size women they do cast on the show. So please, spare me your “we are creating a safe space for women to talk about their bodies” dates when your space is only open to women with a very specific, very thin, body type. And again (not to diminish the very real pain the women spoke about this week), what the fuck kind of message is it supposed to send to us larger women to have very thin women talk about how their bodies weren’t good enough? And don’t even get me started on the NUMEROUS “I used to be fat so nobody loved me” storylines The Bachelor has run with in the past. Oh, so now that they’ve lost all that weight they are worthy of love and being cast on your show? Okay. Cool.
To give credit where (a very small amount of) credit is due, The Bachelor has made progress lately when it comes to diversity. The casts of the past few seasons of the franchise have been more racially diverse than ever before. Michelle’s season left us with the first all Black final four and the first Black winner of the show. Which tbh, deserves less credit and more “fucking finally” energy, but fine. But body diversity? Absolutely not. You don’t get credit for different shades of fit and skinny.
Sure, it’s cute that all of the contestants can share their tiny-waisted sparkly cocktail party dresses, but the message that sends to viewers is ugly as hell. If your answer is “well the lead wouldn’t pick a curvier woman anyway” then why don’t we start there: cast a lead that is open to dating women with different body types. Not that I’m his biggest fan, but may I direct your attention to Clay Harbor from Becca Kufrin’s seasons’ Twitter account?
Am I expecting too much from an outdated, superficial, backwards, and kinda gross franchise? Probably. Are they ever going to give us a cast of women that more than the aspiring Fabletics partners of the world can see themselves reflected in? Unlikely. But will that stop me from watching, complaining, and demanding more from a show that claims to be about regular people looking for love? Nope, absolutely not. At least not until I see some regular people on my screen.
Image: ABC/John Fleenor