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The Unbearable Straightness of 'The Bachelor' Franchise

The Bachelor: Vietnam contestants Minh Thu and Truc Nhu ditching the titular bachelor for each other begs the question of whether the long-running reality dating show empire should crumble. While Thu and Nhu may have found a happy ending (for now) outside of the rigid heteropatriarchal design the show perpetuates, The Bachelor and all its iterations trade on gender stereotypes and the outdated notions of soulmates and one true loves.

The female contestants on The Bachelor are paraded and routinely humiliated for that season’s fuckboy’s amusement, while The Bachelorette gets slut-shamed for being intimate with more than one man at a time, which the audience miraculously forgets is the premise of the show. Remember the relentless criticism of Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe for sleeping with several contestants in the Fantasy Suites which, again, is the very point of the Suites?

And how about the racial politics surrounding the first black Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, who said she felt she was “placed on display” during the finale episode, and “labeled an angry black female.” (Not to mention the backlash Lindsay received for choosing a white partner over a black man.)

But the most urgent argument for The Bachelor’s cancellation is the rampant abuse that occurs on and around the show, the most high-profile example being the shrouded-in-mystery alleged sexual misconduct on Bachelor in Paradise last year. In case you, too, were on a deserted island at the time, a producer on the show alleged that a sexual encounter took place between contestants DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios, who were both inebriated, perhaps to the point of being unable to consent. Filming resumed after an internal investigation which found that there was no misconduct, because internal investigations are always legit.

The insistent whiteness and straightness of The Bachelor is at odds with the changing landscape of sexualities and relationships.

This, in addition to the spate of contestants who have been accused of or charged with domestic and sexual assault prior to being cast in the franchise and racist social media histories, raises questions of just how thorough the show’s background checks are and whether this places contestants and crew at risk.

The Bachelor’s toxicity bleeds into other shows that piggyback on its success, such as UnREAL, which had an almost two-year hiatus before crashing and burning with its final two seasons earlier this year, Love Island, which shares a similar premise to Bachelor in Paradise, and Married at First Sight, which contributes to attitudes that a woman’s ultimate worth is as a wife.

That Thu and Nhu, along with Megan Marx and Tiffany Scanlon on the 2016 season of The Bachelor: Australia, were able to find love in this hopeless place is truly a miracle. The increased rate of contestants shacking up with each other rather than their bland bachelor or bachelorette signals both a departure from the series’—and, by extension, the culture it was spawned from—obsession with opposite-sex romance and a larger out-of-step-ness with reality, as evidenced by its increasingly plummeting ratings. The insistent whiteness and straightness of The Bachelor is at odds with the changing landscape of sexualities and relationships.

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