Rachel Lindsay’s finger is ready, as she declares on last night’s The Bachelorette premiere. That would be the fourth finger on her left hand, and it’s ready for an engagement ring. Our bachelorette this season is a beautiful attorney who has it all – a loving family, adoring friends, and a thriving career – except for that ultimate marker of successful womanhood: a man! Rachel is also the first Black bachelorette, which is insane considering that this is The Bachelorette’s thirteenth season, but not all surprising since the show’s entire premise is founded on archaic ideas about gender, society, and romance.
Until last night, I had never watched The Bachelorette or The Bachelor. However, after a week of political scandals that had me wanting to disembowel myself, I figured I’d earned the right to indulge in some pointless “reality” garbage. I normally don’t watch competitive reality shows, instead opting for syndicates of the drunken brawls on Jersey Shore or the travel montages of Catfish. Though I’m a sucker for event television, The Bachelorette was one of those things that many people like but I instinctively knew I’d hate, like camping or dating a guy who wears salmon shorts. However, I’d read many thinkpieces about The Bachelorette and its male-centric counterpart over the past year and a half that made me want to examine this mess for myself.
Namely, why are these shows, which pedal harmful tropes about gender roles and happily-ever-afters, still so beloved by women when we have more economic, social, and political independence than ever before? Is it mere escapism, or is there something else to it? Hopefully, I’ll have a better idea by the end of this season.
I never thought that I’d find a woman who would willingly submit herself to this circus so charming, but Rachel is pretty adorable. She’s so adorable, in fact, that I could move past the obviously staged footage of her dancing on the street and saying stock legal jargon in a courtroom. I even forgave her when she admits, “It’s hard to take off the lawyer hat and put on the love one” – she’s that cute.
The bulk of the episode is spent introducing us to Rachel’s prospects, which are just one dork after the other declaring that he definitely believes that Rachel is going to be his wife, despite the fact he knows nothing about her other than that she’s beautiful and a lawyer. One of the men remarks that he likes that Rachel laughed at his corny jokes, even though he knows they weren’t funny. Even in a situation when a woman is supposed to be in control and have her pick of the litter, she is still expected to subdue the most base aspects of herself, like a sense of humor, in order to make men feel comfortable. “She’s the kind of girl you bring home to mom,” one of them states. Yes, she’s the “kind of girl” you bring home to mom, rather than a complex person capable of expressing the full range of human emotion. Women are never granted permission to be full human beings – our worth depends on our ability to slip into some archetypal female character and Rachel is obviously a ‘wifey,’ a Madonna.
At the beginning of the first night, Rachel has 31 prospects and we get to meet about fifteen of them. First up is Kenny, a professional fighter with a daughter. “I’ve been around a lot of rings in my life. Maybe the next one is the ring I give to you, Rachel.” Vomit. Kenny seems like hubby-potential, but something tells me the producers won’t have Rachel end up with a father. I’m sure Kenny’s daughter is just some plot device that will be used to propel conversations between Rachel and Kenny. Most likely, Rachel will find Kenny to be too emotionally demanding around week five and deny him one of those coveted roses.
I think Rachel is way out of all of the contestant’s leagues, which pisses me off. This is a high-powered career woman and she’s supposed to seriously consider taking Jonathan, whose job is listed as “tickle monster,” as her husband? Or Diggy, whose whole thing seems to be that he owns 575 pairs of sneakers? That seems a bit excessive to me, but I’ve been told that sneakers are the only way straight men feel comfortable expressing a sense of style, so maybe this is totally standard. Then there’s Alex, who looks at a title-less book while doing sit-ups at the gym, while his voiceover announces, “People think I’m a stereotypical meathead, but I’m a huge nerd.” No doubt the producers were hoping the sight of a man who works out and can read (imagine!) would make women’s ovaries ache, but it really just made me roll my eyes.
Of course, the apparent nut-jobs were Adam and Lucas. Adam arrived in a penguin suit, toting Adam Jr., his creepy mini-me doll.
Bringing the doll with him is no doubt Adam’s biggest mistake – not because Adam Jr. is terrifying, which it is, but because Adam Jr. is infinitely more interesting than Adam himself. At one point, Adam Jr. sits in the confessional and while a voiceover notes that Rachel is “disgust[ed]” by him. I remember this – I don’t remember anything about Adam’s time in the confessional or what Adam even looks like.
I don’t know anything about our other crazy one – as identified by DeMario – Lucas, other than that he randomly screams “WHABOOM!” every now and again. I know I’m supposed to find this ridiculous, but it’s so obviously crazy, it’s boring. This tells me the show has been on way too long. The producers have run out of whacky shticks for their ‘loose cannons,’ so they just decided to find a guy who would yell something nonsensical. (it’s worth noting that “whaboom” is also listed as Lucas’s job – need I remind you that Rachel is a bloody attorney?).
However, the show’s real psycho is neither Adam nor Lucas – it’s “aspiring drummer” Blake E. In his introduction, Blake E. proclaims, “I work out intensely, which raises testosterone, so my libido is higher […] Sexually, I used to have high school degree, but now I definitely have a PhD.” In case that didn’t make me completely certain that I would rather die alone under the weight of wedding invitations from every woman I’ve ever met than sleep with Blake E., I was definitely sure when he would not stop mentioning his apparently huge penis. When Blake wasn’t bragging about his manhood, he was vehemently insisting to the audience that he knew what fame-hungry idiots looked like and Lucas was absolutely one of them. So, in addition to being a droll, sex-crazed chauvinist, Blake is also a catty know-it-all.
The serious contenders are Josiah and Peter. Josiah is a hottie lawyer with a tragic backstory – his brother committed suicide when he was a child, which sent Josiah into a rebellious period where he committed petty crimes. After a stunt that landed him in court, Josiah met a lawyer who told him he was too smart for the behavior he was engaging in and set Josiah back on the straight-and-narrow. Now, Josiah is a lawyer at the very same firm! Swoon. Like Rachel, I’m a sucker for a good “full circle” story.
Peter is the real gem. He is an incredibly good-looking “business owner” and has demonstrated the most personality out of all of the contestants, despite his vague job title. My favorite moment from the episode is when Peter gets his one-on-one time with Rachel. He brings up the fact the both of them have ties to Wisconsin and starts, “…because I know everyone likes chocolate.” Rachel admits she hates chocolate, leading Peter to say, “I’m going to throw myself in the fire right now.” How relatable, Peter! Haven’t we all failed miserably while trying to flirt with a potential love interest? You have my support, sir.
As promising as Peter and Josiah are, it’s clear the producers want us to view Bryan, the sexy Columbian chiropractor, as the frontrunner. He immediately starts complimenting Rachel in Spanish the moment he meets her. Wow. He follows this up with sudsy lines like “I’m a chiropractor, so I’m good with my hands,” and “I’m trouble, but good trouble.” Naturally, Bryan winds up being the first to kiss Rachel and lands the “first impression rose,” which is apparently a huge deal for “Bachelor Nation.” Obviously, Bryan will not be a finalist. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that this show is based entirely on outdated notions of how heterosexual relationships should function, and you certainly don’t nab a wife by kissing on the first night. However, I can’t blame Rachel for being wooed by Bryan’s schmaltzy romantic routine because I’m certain I’d fall prey to the same thing.
The payoff for enduring two hours of these men pretending to be total catches worthy of Rachel’s time and attention is undoubtedly the elimination ceremony. Shots of the men sweating are spliced together with their catty musings in the confessional. “If I don’t get a rose, it means I failed, and failure is not something I deal well with,” one unremarkable contestant laments. This had me crossing my fingers that whoever this was would get eliminated and smash something, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The closest we got to a temper tantrum was from a man named Milton, who cried about being eliminated before he could wear all of the outfits he had planned. Boo-hoo.
The thing I’ve found the most fascinating about The Bachelorette so far is that the show’s producers have chosen 2017, a year when a racist replaced the first Black President in the White House, to be the year of their first Black bachelorette. Though this is absolutely just some ploy to profit off of branding Rachel as the first Black bachelorette, I still think this is an interesting decision. I have always viewed The Bachelorette as the most middle-of-the-road, don’t-question-the-status-quo piece of television available, so it seems ballsy to do this while race relations intensify in our country. However, more than likely, there is no political agenda behind this decision. Having 2017 be the year of the first Black bachelorette is most likely the network’s response to the fact that Lifetime’s shockingly good scripted series Unreal, which focuses on the lives of producers who work on a show based on The Bachelor, had its second season center around a Black bachelor last summer – something the actual Bachelor franchise has yet to do in its 21-season run.
By the end of the premiere, we’re left with Josiah, Bryan, Peter, Blake E. (ugh), Diggy, Kenny, Alex, Adam, Jonathan, Whaboom, DeMario, and unremarkably people named Bryce, Dean, Matt, Will, Jack, Brady, Iggy, Eric, Jamey, and Lee. My best is that Alex goes home next week. See ya.