I'm a huge fan of the Bachelor franchise. Watching real people fall in love on screen (or at least pretend to) was always so intoxicating. But now I'm seriously thinking about withdrawing my support as a viewer. I don't know if I can keep watching The Bachelor franchise after the Bachelor in Paradise news.
Bachelor Nation was stunned Sunday night by the announcement that filming of Bachelor in Paradise has been halted due to allegations of misconduct on set. Production company Warner Brother immediately stopped filming and later issued this statement to Bustle:
It has not been confirmed what the "allegations of misconduct" include. TMZ reported that sources close to Paradise cast member Corinne Olympios allege that the misconduct occurred when fellow cast member DeMario Jackson allegedly engaged in sexual activity with Olympios without her consent. Sources close to Jackson claimed to TMZ that Jackson and Olympios mutually hooked up and that she allegedly initiated oral sex while filming occurred. The Los Angeles Times reports that "a producer is said to have ... filed a third-party complaint" which resulted in the production shut down and investigation launch. While the allegations have not been confirmed by Olympios, Jackson, or Warner Brothers, the buzz surrounding these issues has made many fans of the Bachelor franchise, myself included, very uneasy.
UPDATE: In a video posted by TMZ, Jackson says "no comment" in response to numerous questions about the alleged incident. Asked if he's upset about reports alleging that Olympios claims she did not give consent, Jackson responded, ""No, no. I'm all good."
UPDATE #2: On Wednesday, June 14, Corinne Olympios' rep released a statement about the Bachelor In Paradise allegations to Bustle:
UPDATE 3: On the evening of Wednesday, June 14, Jackson released a statement about Olympios' allegations to E! News:
UPDATE #4: On June 20, an ABC spokesperson provided the following statement to Bustle:
UPDATE #5: After the results of the investigation were announced, Corinne's lawyer Martin Singer released this statement to Bustle: (Bustle reached out to Warner Brothers about this new statement but has not yet received a reply.)
EARLIER: Of all the Bachelor spinoffs, Bachelor in Paradise has always been known as the raunchiest. Paradise in part often feels like an Island of Misfit Toys for archetypical rejects of the Bachelor or Bachelorette. The "villains" (Chad Johnson, DeMario Jackson), the "weirdos" (Ashley Salter), the sympathetically brokenhearted (Jared Haibon, Amanda Stanton) and the less sympathetically so (Ashley Iaconetti) all gather together in Mexico to flirt, drink, hook up, and, just maybe, fall in love. Say what you will about Paradise, but it never fails to entertain.
Yet I've always felt the most uneasy about the premise of Paradise, which is saying something considering the other two Bachelor shows espouse the belief that if you date enough people at the same time, maybe you'll find one you kinda like. But in the world of the Bachelor/ette, there is structure. You only go on a date if you are selected. The Bachelor or Bachelorette is in control of how things progress on dates. Is it occasionally problematic, often filled with gendered stereotypes, double standards, and slut shaming? At times, yes. But for the most part, things seem to be under control.
The same cannot always be said for Paradise. Due to the intentionally volatile environment created when you throw a bunch of reality TV stars, many notorious for their unstable behavior, together for an extended period of time, things can often get out of hand. Chad Johnson's explosive exit last season proved that Paradise often doesn't bring out the best in people. Yet these recent disturbing allegations make it seem as though Paradise could allegedly be an risky environment.
One of the biggest problems in my eyes is the role that alcohol plays on the show. We all know that Jorge likes to pour a generous cocktail, and the contestants seem to spend a large part of their time in Paradise drinking. That in and of itself isn't problematic — they're all adults, and can drink whenever they like. The real issue is that the same cast members who are getting drunk also need to be paired up in a romantic relationship by the end of the week, per the premise of the show. And whether they take it upon themselves to hook up, or are paired up by producers — as is claimed about the situation with Olympios and Jackson — allowing alcohol-fueled contestants to engage in romantic activity could help to create a situation with consent issues.
Drunkenness is not an excuse for rape, and alcohol is not to blame for any assault. But anyone who is too drunk to realize what is going on is not capable of consenting to any kind of sexual activity. And considering that the show's intrinsic format is an environment of alcohol-fueled hookups and breakups, ostensibly to create good television, the potential for lack of judgement, and potential violations of consent may be increased. You could argue that continuing to watch the Bachelor franchise after these allegations would only provide further evidence that creating a potentially perilous environment for the sake of entertainment is a viable mode of operation.
Another aspect of this alleged incident that deeply troubles me is the subsequent slut-shaming of Olympios by fans of the show. Fans of The Bachelor franchise have never shied away from reinforcing troubling gendered archetypes, and they have been quick to label contestants as "sluts." Kaitlyn Bristowe was even made to be one by fans on her own Bachelorette season after she slept with Nick Viall. Usually portrayed as the season's villain, "The Slut" is the contestant who is there for the "wrong reasons," is open with her sexuality, and not afraid to use it to engage the Bachelor's attention. Olympios was pigeonholed as that contestant by fans and fellow contestants alike during Nick's season, as her flirtatious relationship with the Bachelor caused many contestants to question whether Nick was looking for a wife, or just someone to sleep with.
Reinforcing these harmful ideas about women who are open with their sexuality is detrimental to society's efforts to combat rape culture and slut-shaming, and it's deeply saddening that Olympios has been receiving abuse on her Instagram and Twitter accounts, as trolls seek to blame her for her own alleged assault.
Sadly, these disgusting actions are nothing new. Survivors of sexual assault are often slut-shamed, as others seek to blame the violent act on the length of the woman's dress, the level of her intoxication, the way she flirted with the assaulter — in short, blaming anyone but the perpetrator.
So, what should Bachelor Nation do? If Warner Brothers' investigation does find evidence of sexual assault, fans should demand accountability from those responsible. And they should think critically about whether they ought to continue supporting the franchise.