The most revealing thing said during Tuesday night’s two-hour Bachelor finale didn’t come out of Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s mouth but out of Becca K.’s.
“It just adds to my story,” the Minnesotan publicist said of Arie’s decision to end their engagement after the show had ostensibly ended, so that he could pursue runner-up Lauren B. instead.
Who talks about themselves as if they are a fictional character except, of course, people who are about to become the star of a reality series? If there was any doubt that Chris Harrison would announce Becca Kufrin as the next Bachelorette—and you’d have to be pretty dense to think that ABC would pick anyone else—that comment cleared it away.
Becca now possesses the most coveted thing in the extended Bachelor universe: a backstory. She knows it, the producers know it, and damned if they’re not going to milk the sympathy inspired by last night’s thirty-minute breakup for all it’s worth.
The Bachelor finale made quick work of Arie—his live, on-air proposal to Lauren was almost a footnote in the “After the Final Rose” special—and sent him out to pasture, all before pivoting to Becca and setting her up for a season of gowns and glamorous dates.
By night’s end, a grinning Becca was already meeting the guys: One had an Australian accent, one sang a song on a banjo, one came out with a horse. The salt-and-pepper-haired race car driver and his untalkative blonde fiancée were but a distant memory. All that matters now is that Becca was once brutally rejected on television—and that she bring that up every so often next season for added drama.
Indeed, for all the outrage being thrown in Arie’s direction over his mealy-mouthed handling of the Becca breakup, it’s worth remembering that anyone who voluntarily appears on the Bachelor has signed up to be a blank canvas onto which producers project age-old archetypes: the dishonest cheater, the woman scorned, the villain, the wifey. Becca has been given her narrative now and it’s the oldest one in the Bachelor playbook: She was rejected and now she deserves a “second chance” at finding love.
“I want to be the best damn Bachelorette I can be,” Becca told Chris Harrison, when accepting the honorific—and in the sense that the “best Bachelorette” is one so willing to become a network marionette that she won’t even criticize the decision to show an unedited, thirty-minute shot of her sobbing to millions of people, Becca’s well on her way to being just that.
When given the chance to say that maybe, just maybe, ABC shouldn’t have exploited her pain Monday night across at least three commercial breaks, Becca diplomatically replied, “Watching it back, it honestly helps me get some closure.”
It’s a little white lie, but it’s exactly the sort of producer-pleasing response that can eventually lead to a massive error like Arie’s: proposing to someone when you’re not ready because you want to help make good television.
In his segments Tuesday night, Arie blamed that premature knee-bending on “the pressure of this, the pressure of being The Bachelor”—one of a few moments when the mostly-unseen influence of the pushy producers was indirectly acknowledged.
“You go through this intense breakup and you go through a proposal and there is nothing normal about that,” Arie said.
And yet, as the flood of anti-Arie anger on social media has already proved, there are plenty of fans who apparently expect a Bachelor or Bachelorette to go through that process and then behave impeccably in the resulting relationship. Honestly, it would have been more shocking if Arie and Becca didn’t have an acrimonious split. The machinery of the show wants Arie to fall in love with two different women—it actively pushes him toward that outcome to create the most dramatic finale possible—and then it chews him up for doing precisely that.
Arie tried to explain his split decision on live television, he eventually apologized to Becca for backing out of the engagement, and he said he has “no excuse” for what he did. He even convincingly professed his love for Lauren B., which takes some doing because the Virginia Beach woman didn’t exude much of a personality during her time onscreen. But none of that exposition will really stick.
In a few months, Arie will become nothing but the “ex” in Becca’s “story.” When he failed at living up to one archetype—faithful fiancé—it was easy enough for the show to make him a pariah instead. He will soon be the stuff of black-and-white flashbacks—a talking point for Bachelorette Becca to cite when talking about trust with a cadre of hunky gentlemen come spring.
And although Becca may have been ambushed by Arie and the production crew during the breakup that aired last night, the opening minutes of tonight’s “After the Final Rose” special showed her in pre-taped segments, patiently and compliantly posing for the cameras, wiping away a stray tear as she flipped through a photo album of her and Arie. Clearly, it didn’t take long for her to agree to turn her pain into a plot point.
So yes, she became an overnight folk hero after America saw how Arie blindsided her, but she has obviously already made the same devil’s bargain that almost every former contestant makes when they sign up to be the next Bachelor or Bachelorette: the agreement to have your personal trauma subsumed by publicity. Because anyone who signs that ABC contract—yes, even someone as genuinely likable and good as Becca—knows they don’t have a strong chance of finding lasting love on national television.
Out of 13 seasons of The Bachelorette, less than half of the resulting couples are still together as of this writing—and three of them are less than three years old.
“At the end of the day the show is about finding love,” Becca claimed, right before saying that, with Chris Harrison at the helm, she was “in good hands.”
That’s not a lie anywhere near as big as telling someone that you’re ready to marry them when you’re not—but it’s a lie nonetheless, and one that yet another Bachelorette has agreed to tell herself.