The Bachelorette is a show that reimagines heterosexual dating as a wondrous yellow brick road—a charmed path made up of distinct relationship markers (the first time she says “I’m falling for you,” the first time he lies about being good at basketball to impress her). Along the way, there are all sorts of shiny gifts, sexy hot tubs, and romantic rooftop dinners with gorgeous views over interchangeable metropolises. The journey changes slightly season by season, but the end result, and the total fantasy, are the same. The producers aren’t just selling the drama and the candlelit catfights; they’re betting that viewers will tune in, despite their skepticism and better judgment, for a peek at the ultimate prize: happily ever fucking after.
Of course, this producer-concocted lovefest is completely divorced from reality. Never has this been more apparent than on the current season of The Bachelorette, which, despite its best efforts, has come to hint at the actual perils of husband-hunting in Trump’s America. Whereas past seasons of The Bachelor franchise have insisted that love is an incomparable revelation, Becca’s season reminds us all that while every relationship is full of new surprises, they’re not always going to be good ones.
In Bachelorland, every city in the Midwest is stocked with ex-NFL players who are ready to start families and overcome their intimacy issues. But in Becca Bachelorland, the real world has made like the Kool-Aid man and burst into the mansion, allowing a crowd of sub-par suitors to rush in. Welcome to 2018, Becca, the year of yes all men. Somehow, in your sweet-and-simple quest for forever love, you’ve found yourself in simultaneous relationships with an alt-right sympathizer and a registered sex offender.
You, Becca Kufrin, might be wondering how you got here. Many people, including me, may consider themselves personally wronged by The Bachelor franchise. I am shocked that there hasn’t been a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of everyone who tried to watch Nick Viall’s new body finally find love on The Bachelor, only to be subjected to a lackluster season of thick turtleneck sweaters and obviously-faked orgasms. But no one—not one of Viall’s reality-TV exes or the black Bachelorette who was saddled with a racist suitor—has suffered more for ratings than Becca K.
First, Becca went on The Bachelor and landed herself a fiancé, only to get dumped post-proposal for her runner-up. Fresh off an on-air breakup, Kufrin seemed poised for a redemption arc like no other. If anyone deserved thousand-dollar dates, studly half-employed suitors, and a diamond at the end of the rainbow, it was Becca K. But fate had a different plan: for Becca’s already-way-too-real story to get even sicker and sadder.
In continuing to torture Becca Kufrin, ABC has managed to destroy one woman’s fantasy and ruin everyone else’s guilty pleasure. Because, as much as Ryan Murphy might beg to differ, the Me Too and Trump-era news cycle does not make for quality frothy content. In fact, watching the pro #Resistance Kufrin unwittingly fall in love with a dude who likes transphobic, anti-immigrant posts on Instagram will leave you with a queasy feeling in your stomach and the need to find a new trashy TV safe space.
It bears mentioning that The Bachelor hasn’t been guilt-free programming for a minute now. While the entire premise of the show—you should marry a stranger—is a little hard to swallow, recent seasons have gone above and beyond to make the franchise downright unconscionable. From sexual-assault allegations to poorly-handled conversations and plot lines around race and consent, enjoying The Bachelor has started to feel a lot like laughing along with the Roseanne reboot. But in its callous attitude towards its stars and/or ridiculously incompetent casting, ABC has somehow stumbled on something that almost resembles reality. Because, whether you’re on a reality-TV show or a dating app or a blind date, you never really know the person you’re dating until a stranger on Instagram outs their sus social media presence.
While some realists would probably applaud The Bachelorette for full-on genre-hopping to horror, the franchise is sticking to its veneer of shiny-sweet romance for now. This disconnect is also so very 2018—while the audience at this point knows what’s up with Becca’s shady contestants, their taped relationships are being aired in a vacuum. No one on the show is talking about the fact that two of the Bachelorette frontrunners are decidedly not marriage material.
First there’s Garrett and his pesky Instagram activity. As The Daily Beast previously reported, “He might not be an active alt-right meme maker, but Garrett’s account has smashed the ‘like’ button on an absurd number of offensive posts, including ones insisting that David Hogg is a crisis actor, mocking transgender people, and shitting on Colin Kaepernick.” Both Becca and Garrett have already addressed the controversy, which seems like a pretty clear indicator that Garrett will go far in the competition.
And then there’s Lincoln Adim. According to The New York Times, the 26-year-old contestant pleaded guilty in May “to indecent assault and battery for groping a woman on a harbor cruise in Boston in May 2016.” The conviction reportedly came a week before The Bachelorette premiere. Warner Bros. insisted that they had no prior knowledge of the charge.
In light of this slowly-trickling shit-stream, Becca’s intention “to roll the dice on love” in Las Vegas took on new meaning. Monday night’s Vegas episode didn’t particularly showcase Garrett or Lincoln. It did, however, hammer home all of the unpleasantness of dating men, which is obviously amplified when you’re dating 12 of them. In addition to a groper and a shitty meme lover, Becca has to deal with a bunch of dudes who only seem interested in arguing with each other. At multiple points during the episode, the star of the show is so frustrated with her boyfriends that she up and leaves the conversation, freezing her ass off on various Las Vegas rooftops in a chainmail halter dress. Each suitor is needier and more mediocre than the last. They’re also utterly entitled—like the guy who, upon being sent home, moans, “I was vulnerable and I got no reward.”
A man named Chris fails to approach Becca for one-on-one time, and then gets so hurt when she ends the date without talking to him that he threatens to leave the show altogether—but not before petulantly informing her that “you owe me 50,000 kisses.” To her credit, Becca seems to fully understand how shitty these men are being; she’s just so desperate to finally win at love that she’s willing to keep any guy who swears that he isn’t “settling” for her. Because of her completely valid issues—probably the direct result of being proposed to and then dumped on national television—Becca has lowered her bar to include basically anyone who’s interested in her. Which is also relatable! Of course, when one guy, in the middle of listing all of his eligible qualities, brags that “I can walk,” one has to wonder how the bar got this low.
The episode, which is a series of very insipid fights between very silly boys, culminates with a crowd of men yelling at each other to “let me talk.” At this point, it’s clear that these guys care more about marking their territory and getting their points across than they care about Becca, the incredibly irritated and neglected woman they’re all supposed to be competing over. By the time Garrett is awarded the first rose, I honestly can’t say I would’ve played it any differently. The Bachelorette might as well change its tagline to “no good options.”