Declining This Rose: Why The Bachelor Franchise Needs A Clean Up

by Samantha Ketter

It’s time for reality TV to get, well, real. The most recent season of The Bachelorette has exhausted me. I’ve been pretty uncomfortable, angry, and generally disenchanted with the faux-romance constructed by this highly edited narrative. There’s been too much negativity to bear: the abruptness of Clare Crawley’s departure, the swooning over Dale, how she manipulated the rest of the men in the house, Bennet’s draining belittling and unfortunate surprise return…

The Bachelor franchise has long been rewarding toxic behaviors, setting a stage for manipulative contestants and spinning alarming actions into displays of ‘passionate romance’. They capitalize off of stiff gender norms reinforcing toxic masculinity and objectify women as prizes to be won. And while ABC has refused to acknowledge their part in ruthlessly editing red flags into romance, fans and past contestants are calling for change.

Clare Crawley 

Remember her, from way at the beginning of 2020? Because that was just a year ago. Clare has had a total of five appearances within the Bachelor franchise, with her role as this season’s initial bachelorette as the most recent. From the moment she laid eyes on Dale, she was infatuated. She manipulated men in the house to talk about Dale and then scolded them for not forming better connections with her after their conversations about Dale. Most uncomfortably, Clare pushed deeply personal information from men who weren’t ready to share yet. While these actions seem insignificant alone, they’re manipulative displays that aren’t part of building a respectful relationship – and can be seen in many troubled relationships today. 

Clare’s not the only one – she’s just the most recent example.

Colton Underwood 

We know Colton Underwood from season 23 of The Bachelor – most notably for his Fence Jump. After contestant Cassie Randolph tells Colton she’s not ready for a serious commitment and leaves the show, he overreacts. He roams the area for several minutes and then makes a running jump, clearing the privacy fence to roam the backroads of Portugal for several hours. The Fence Jump was discussed on Twitter (and advertised) all season long – and while some saw it as a heartbroken man escaping the cameras, others saw the breakup and its aftermath as a threat of what was to come.

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Some of those comments.

And what was to come was truly frightening. After dating for over a year, Cassie and Colton decided to break it off. Colton then engaged in a string of technologically abusive behaviors, including tracking her car with a GPS monitor, sending threatening text messages from an unknown number to Cassie and himself, and contacting her repetitively with desperate and emotional messages. He was even spotted waiting around in an alley outside her home. Healthy relationships mean open, thoughtful communication and respecting your partner’s boundaries, both emotionally and physically. Colton’s actions were desperate and malicious – in some cases, it was his intent to scare Cassie. Abuse is never the victim’s fault – and any survivor looking to the clips of their breakup episodes could spot warning flags in retrospect.

During Cassie’s attempt to end the relationship, he:

His verbal reactions are centered around himself, and his own wants. It’s clear he’s not taking her decisions seriously. His physical reaction is startling and clearly violent. These reactions could have been flagged at any point by production as problematic – instead, their reunion and relationship was encouraged, and his overreaction glamorized as a passionate rage. All for the happy TV endings, right? The resulting fallout of the relationship ended with Cassie filing a restraining order that was recently dropped before reaching court. The Bachelor Franchise had nothing to say, and the videos of their breakup and reunion remain posted online. 

Unless something changes for good, I think this season of The Bachelor will have my final rose. It’s true, Matt James has made history as the first Black man to be named the Bachelor in the show’s 18-year history. Initially, he was cast as a suitor in Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams’s season of The Bachelorette—but was then offered his own season, which premiered on January 4. James says his season will further discussions surrounding race and interracial relationships, and his hope is that those types of conversations will become more normalized, after millions of viewers tune in each week. However, despite the commitments of individual cast members such as James or Tayshia Adams, who brought up Black Lives Matter on one of her dates, there’s no denying that the franchise itself is built on regressive gender norms. Furthermore, the show has made few moves to change the position of their production – or the relationship standards they peddle.

For those who feel they have or are currently encountering emotional or technological abuse, please read our linked blog posts. If you need help or feel you are in an abusive situation, contact Day One for confidential support. 

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