'The Bachelor: After the Final Rose': Registering my Disgust With ABC
Dear ABC (or more specifically, producers of 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette')
I'm writing this open letter to you at 11:30pm, an hour and a half after finishing a lengthy live blog of your latest Bachelor season finale and thirty minutes after the "After the Rose" ceremony to follow. I'm tired, and a little buzzed, but an Internet culture that demands instantaneous reaction to all things (especially communal TV events) sees me penning another post about your show. I mention that almost as a disclaimer for what's to follow -- this will not be as well written as I'd like it to be. But then your show is a ridiculous farce, so who cares.
Juan Pablo Galavis has obviously been something of a problem for you guys since the start of the season. Right as episodes were kicking off, you were fielding angry phone calls after your Bachelor's insensitive (perhaps misinterpreted) "gays are perverted" comment. A month or two later, he'd cause more problems for your PR team after tweeting something using the word "retarded." And that's to say nothing of what's happened on the show, in which two women left voluntarily and another found herself in complicated emotional waters following a perhaps too sexy dip in the ocean. Juan Pablo wasn't the "family man" you wanted him to be; he was maybe even a jerk, and not who you should have selected in the first place.
Over the past few weeks the editing on the show has worked overtime to portray Juan Pablo as a villain: cold, insensitive, unable to bring himself to say "I love you!" when the women around him are throwing themselves at him. It was made very clear in last week's "Women Tell All" special, when the focus was less the women than their problems with the star of the show. Chris Harrison asked needling questions about "why Juan Pablo was there" and demanded to know more about some of the private (unrecorded) things he'd said to the women. The event was uncomfortable.
And then came tonight, with its studio audience-enhanced finale and the deeply awkward "After the Rose" event to follow. The whole three hour affair seemed dedicated to answering the question "what is WRONG with Juan Pablo," with help from Clare (the runner-up), former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants (notably Sean and Catherine), and the man himself. And I'll admit, based on evidence -- the guy doesn't seem that great. Narcissistic. Immature. Using the "English is my second language" defense a little too frequently. If I were a woman on this show, I think I'd be hard-pressed to stick around and wait for him to reveal whatever hidden depths he might have.
But he also doesn't seem like the charlatan or fraud you've portrayed him as. No, that's you guys.
Listen -- you've got a highly lucrative franchise here predicated on the idea that your contestants find love or lose it miserably, and any end result that lands somewhere in-between is not in your best financial interest. You're running a business! That's fine. But things become a lot murkier, and lot more disgusting, when you hide that truth behind this bizarre, unnatural definition of love you've cooked up. Can love be found over the course of a three-month game show? Perhaps. The same way I'll say you shouldn't judge Juan Pablo and Nikki for their supposed lack of love, I can't presume to say that Sean and Catherine don't have something real. But when you so rigidly adhere to that definition, and then vilify your Bachelor (and his girlfriend) for not reflecting it back at you...well, that's cause for concern.
Make no mistake: Juan Pablo Galavis and Nikki Ferrell just Truman Showed your asses tonight. They didn't do it as gracefully as in the movie ("Good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight!") but they sure did it confidently, and entertainingly. Chris Harrison, aka The Mouth of Sauron, looked LIVID throughout his interviews with Juan Pablo. And why? Because Juan Pablo wouldn't dance for him, answer ridiculous questions about love and affection? "So you love her?" was Harrison's favorite needling question as he desperately tried to coax the narrative he wanted out of the final hour. Juan Pablo: "I'm not going to answer that question."
And why should he? You're mocking this man and his (what seems to me) relatively normal non-engaged relationship on national television, digging in with cheap, faux-chummy comments. Like this shit:
- “I’m speaking for everyone who’s dying right now and throwing things at their television.”
- “This is the time to shine and express your feelings.”
- “I would like to say you guys are in love, but it’s so awkward looking at you.”
Are you kidding me with that high school snarking? Here are two most normal sentences of the night, from two people I don't even like that much:
- "This is a real relationship to us" -Nikki
- "I'm sorry this show didn't end like you guys wanted it to" -Juan Pablo
I want to reiterate that I'm not defending Juan Pablo's actions this season, many of which were pretty shitty. Nor am I claiming that Nikki and Juan Pablo are a great pair. (They don't look that comfortable together. I have eyes!) But The Bachelor's presumption that love and happiness -- and their practical counterparts, engagement and marriage -- have very definite time standards to which they need to adhere is both ludicrous and offensive. Remember last season, when Desiree was professing her love to Brooks ONE WEEK BEFORE SHE'D ACCEPT CHRIS' PROPOSAL?! You got the end you wanted, ABC, but in a way that still makes any sane viewer queasy to think about.
So yes -- I was beyond happy to watch the machinery of your show break down tonight, even if only for an hour. From the awkward pauses to Harrison visibly walking away from the set before one commercial break, tonight's "After the Rose" was probably the most fascinating, real episode I've ever seen of your show. It was sort of amazing! And what I hope you take from it, ABC and Bachelor producers, is some sense of the dangerous culture by promoting "moments" over the possibility that two people might find each other, connect, and go on to whatever relationship they both find comfortable and rewarding. That's what your show is ostensibly about, right?
Ees okay if it's not, just be upfront and honest -- like your favorite Bachelor ever, Juan Pablo.