We love to see two villains get sent home in one episode. We love to see Matt confronting their bullying head on, supporting the women who were targeted by Anna and Victoria’s fragile egos and harmful verbal attacks. And we absolutely love to see Katie—defender of what is right, champion of women’s orgasms, the people’s vote for Bachelorette—make it out of this week’s drama unscathed. But what we really deserve to see is some goddamn accountability. And not just from the Karens/villains/bullies (Victoria, Anna, and MJ), but from The Bachelor producers for encouraging this type of behavior. For creating a space that promotes bullying and women that weaponize their white fragility, for amplifying the incredibly annoying voices of the Victorias and Annas of the franchise while minimizing the voices and storylines of the contestants of color.
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If I’ve learned anything from my time as a reluctant-yet-dedicated member of Bachelor Nation, it’s that the producers have just as much, if not more, control over what happens on The Bachelor than the leads. Sure, the lead gets to choose his future ex-fiancée, but the producers are the ones moving the size zero, botoxed, Restylane-filled chess pieces around the mansion until our Bachelor is check-mated into a proposal (yes, I recently watched The Queen’s Gambit, why do you ask?). I get that the final rose is in Matt’s very large hands, but do we really believe that Matt voluntarily kept Victoria over *reviews full cast list* ANY of the 10+ women he sent home prior to this week’s episode of reckoning? No, no we do not.
…at least, not until the producers say so.
So it’s safe to assume that storylines, one-on-one date decisions, and the topic of today’s rant discussion (bullying) are at the very least producer-sanctioned, if not producer-encouraged. Victoria doesn’t get a rose without the producers telling Matt she has to stay. Anna doesn’t get approximately 500 featured ITM’s, and a baseless rumor about being an escort doesn’t get spread and televised, without editors choosing that footage to make the final cut. To all of you screaming, “Dani this is just how the show works, big drama brings a big audience”, I say: yes, I understand how ratings work, thank you. But just because I understand it doesn’t mean I have to be okay with it. Just because this is how the show has worked for years, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to bring production into the 21st-post-Trump-pro-BLM century and hold them accountable for giving white women carte blanche to do and say as they please, rewarding them with more airtime as their words become more offensive.
We can’t give ABC credit for casting a Black lead and having a diverse cast if that diversity is only used as a tool to promote bullying (the targets of Victoria, Anna, and MJ’s antics were almost exclusively women of color). You don’t get credit for diversity if more airtime is given to Victoria and Anna’s whining than to the emotional conversations Matt has had with women like Chelsea and Michelle about conforming to white beauty standards and being a Black teacher in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder. And we can’t let production off the hook now because Victoria and Anna are finally gone. In fact, even after Matt was given the okay to take out the trash, production simply handed Victoria’s burn book over to MJ for her to take over as head mean girl leading into next week’s episode. It’s rude of MJ to have such beautiful hair and such an ugly personality, and it’s even more rude (and manipulative) of production to pit her against Jessenia, yet another woman of color for a “let’s squeeze this in real quick” two-on-one date that literally nobody asked for. And don’t even get me started on the fact that the one-on-one dates of the week went to Kit, a quieter yet adamant supporter of the OG vs. new girls movement, and Rachael, who may or may not have been a racist bully in high school…
I know that drama and hot girls fighting makes for entertaining television (I watched this week’s episode with my younger brother and he simply could not get enough), and I know Matt is just kinda boring, so the producers have to look elsewhere for content. But I also know that they can and should do better than this, and I don’t think it’s out of line to expect ABC to make socially responsible television. Production and editors give plenty of screen time to the friendships between male contestants on The Bachelorette, why can’t we get the same support for female empowerment on The Bachelor? Magi got U.S. citizenship by winning the visa diversity lotto, why can’t we learn more about her than the fact that she’s not great at kayaking?
I’m sure there is plenty of non-toxic, non-bullying, non-racially insensitive content the producers and editors could use to tell an equally entertaining yet less divisive story, they’re just choosing not to. And production controls who comes back for Women Tell All, who gets invited to Bachelor in Paradise, who gets more screen time, a larger platform. They could decide that enough is enough and leave Victoria and Anna off their callback lists—but do any of us believe that they will? So how do we hold them accountable, how do we hold ABC to a higher standard? I just wrote 1,000 words about how frustrated I am with the show, but I know I will continue to watch. Maybe we aggressively tweet at Mike Fliess, maybe we boycott the Women Tell All if Victoria is there (I am very on board with this plan), or maybe we continue to have more thoughtful conversations about a show that has an undeniable impact on our culture. Whatever we do, I think it’s at the very least, time to stop saying “this is just how the show works”.
Images: Craig Sjodin/ABC; Giphy; bachelordata / INstagram