There should never be a gay “Bachelor.”
And there probably never will be, because only straight people seem to be weird enough to participate in The Bachelor en masse, year in and year out.
Sure, we’ve seen attempts to make reality dating a queerer endeavor before, but they’ve been short-lived: most notably, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, which ran for two seasons on MTV in the late aughts, and Logo’s Finding Prince Charming, which debuted and died in 2016.
But it’s predominantly straight people of either the aspiring Instagram star or gullible fairytale dreamer variety who will keep The Bachelor franchise going well into its golden years.
So that’s why, every time another writer calls for an LGBT Bachelor or Bachelorette, it induces a smirk. This year, it’s Insider writer Louis Baragona who, commenting on the declining ratings for Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s season, came to the conclusion that the Bachelor franchise going queer would bring about “much-needed change in the best interests of both the network and the viewers.”
Let The Bachelor grow old and die with delightful indignity. Although Arie’s season may have been boring in the beginning, the ratings for the dramatic two-part finale proved that this old dog still has some life left in it.
Why would I never want to see myself or my fellow LGBT people represented on what is perhaps—if I’m honest at the expense of my self-respect—my favorite television show?
For one, it would ruin what I and most of my queer friends enjoy the most about the reality series: watching straight people be as straight as they can possibly be.
Baragona argued—and rightly so—that “queer people deserve to see themselves and their relationships accurately, honorably portrayed on screen.” Like many LGBT commentators, I have argued passionately for LGBT representation in Hollywood over the years. But The Bachelor is my sole exception: I’m not watching it for representation; I’m watching it because it’s a theatrical display of hyper-heterosexuality.
For me, The Bachelor is a show about straightness that happens to include dating more than it is a show about dating that happens to feature straight people.
And it takes a special kind of straightness to make The Bachelor franchise tick. How strange are some of the folks who sign up to be sequestered in a mansion without internet for weeks on end so that they can potentially get engaged to someone after two dates? Very.
Britt, who appeared on Chris Soules’ thuddingly dull season, slept in a full face of makeup so she could look flawless first thing in the morning. J.P., who won Ashley’s season disclosed to Yahoo that he “probably worked out six to seven days each week,” which is pretty much the maximum amount a human should work out, if it’s not too much already.
So many of these contestants look identical, too: The women have long hair in loose waves, the men keep it short on the sides, long on the top. They are a clone army of competitive daters, and that is precisely their appeal. The Bachelor gives us heterosexuality distilled to an essence—one that I want to inject straight into my veins.
But apart from The Bachelor potentially losing its entertainment value through queer inclusion, an LGBT incarnation of the show just wouldn’t work, no matter which direction—or directions—it swings.
There is, as my Daily Beast colleague Kevin Fallon noted in his review of Finding Prince Charming, the obvious and famously parodied problem “that the contestants would start falling in love with—or at least start hooking up with—each other instead of the suitor” if the Bachelor or Bachelorette were gay or lesbian and the contestants were all of the same gender.
Although Fallon argues that this would “make the show all the more entertaining”—there’s nothing producers on these shows love more than drama—the show-runners still need to be able to craft a cohesive storyline out of the chaos.
If you believe former Finding Prince Charming contestant Robby LaRiviere, the short-lived Logo series largely avoided hook-ups between the all-male contestants because “it was a house full of bottoms,” meaning, for the uninitiated reader, less dominant romantic partners. That’s what LaRiviere told Vulture last October but, even then, he claims that two men on the show “hooked up on the first night” and then, on the second night, one of those same two contestants “was making the move on” a different man.
A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila had a bisexual lead in Miss Tequila, but cast straight men and lesbian women as two separate cohorts of contestants. I wasn’t yet addicted to reality television back in 2008, but according to BuddyTV writer John Kubicek, the premiere of season two ended with Tequila throwing out two of the women for making out with each other. (“Surely the best choice for each of [the lesbians] is not Tila,” Kubicek wryly mused. “Why should they deny a stronger connection if they find it?”)
The girls on ABC’s Bachelor already engage in some pretty intense homosocial bonding as it is. The most recent “After the Final Rose” special was proof of that, what with five girls all cuddling up around newly crowned Bachelorette Becca Kufrin on one love seat, sitting on each other’s laps, holding each other’s hands.
This is powerful, “frexting”-level closeness, and it’s probably only indulged in so flagrantly because the women can rest assured in each other’s straightness.
In a house full of queer, bisexual, and lesbian women, that hand-holding would take on a different dimension. In fact, the Australian version of The Bachelor has already unintentionally produced one same-sex relationship between former contestants Megan and Tiffany, although the pair have since split, and Australian Bachelor winner Alex Nation split up with the man who proposed to her and is now engaged to a woman.
Imagine all the relationships that could potentially form on an all-queer Bachelor—it’d be fun to watch for an episode, sure, but would it be able to tell a single overarching tale in the way that seems necessary to sustain viewer interest over the course of a few months?
The producers of the American version have gone so far as to allow an openly bisexual contestant, Jaimi King, to appear in the franchise, and King has said that the show is “dabbling” with diversity— but “dabble” is all the producers of The Bachelor would likely do when it comes to LGBT issues, lest the show get out of their control.
We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that some TV executive somewhere could devise a winning format for an LGBT-themed reality dating series—or that, if done right, it’d provide some much-needed representation in a medium that seems to prefer killing off queer people to showing them alive and in love.
But The Bachelor franchise works because of its over-produced rigidity—because it forces contestants to stay in boxes: straight women (or men) over here, one straight man (or woman) over there. And if there’s one thing queer people don’t like, it’s being boxed in. The Bachelor has found a winning formula and people who lead un-formulaic lives don’t really fit into it, nor would many of us want to.
That’s why I’m happy to keep watching the straight Bachelor and Bachelorette shows. I’ll take another couple decades of reliable Monday night entertainment over a risky queer reboot.
Back in 2014, when asked about the idea of showing same-sex love on The Bachelor, Chris Harrison told The New York Times Magazine: “Look, it you’ve been making pizzas for 12 years and you’ve made millions of dollars and everybody loves your pizzas and someone comes and says, ‘Hey, you should make hamburgers.’ Why? I have a great business model, and I don’t know if hamburgers are going to sell.”
I love hamburgers. I think, according to Harrison’s analogy, I am a hamburger. But please, let me watch my pizzas in peace. If we’re looking for more LGBT representation on TV, there are better rows to hoe than The Bachelor.