I’m one of the few, the proud viewers that believes The Bachelorette is the greatest installment of The Bachelor franchise. I’m well aware that the lady-led seasons still get ratings in the millions, but even lackluster Bachelor seasons (like this year’s Ari snooze fest) still get double if not more eyeballs than it’s female counterparts.
Of course, it’s also all about preference; why do fans tune into the show. With The Bachelor, the female contestants tend to be more dynamic and produce more epic drama. Maybe you come for the girl fights and the villains. Krystal with her glitter and her calling Ari a “needle dick” will easily best golden undies Jordan. Some viewers love the spinoffs Bachelor in Paradise or this year’s Bachelor Winter Games because it distills the show down to its more simplistic (and admittedly entertaining) elements: hookups and boozing. I like The Bachelorette because I’m feminist but also because I’m a sucker for love.
I’ve been watching the franchise since it’s inception. I did take a breather on a couple early Bachelor seasons, but watched all The Bachelorette seasons. I can easily name my five favorite Bachelorette leads (Kaitlyn, Ali, Ashley, Rachel, Jillian) but ask me to name my favorite Bachelor and it’s a real shrug (I guess Sean… but I also find him obnoxious and preachy, so I guess Mesnick). Maybe that lack of enthusiasm for a male lead is because the female contestants are the most interesting and the male lead just needs to be handsome and fit enough to open a crossfire franchise post show. But ain’t that life, ladies?
Perhaps that’s why the OG incarnation isn’t as exciting to me, but it feels too much like the real life norm. A guy only needs to be attractive and maybe have a job to be fought for and lusted after by 25+ women at one time. The Bachelorette lead on the other hand must not only be stunning but should be full of personality and have an enviable job. Pre-show, Rachel and Andi were both successful attorneys and Ali worked at Facebook (back in 2010 when EVERYONE still wanted to work for Facebook). The Bachelor leads tend to have these Ken doll sort of careers that they haven’t actually worked at in a long time but will turn into a theme for their entire season (see: Ari as racecar driver and Jake as pilot).
With The Bachelorette, there’s something so satisfying about seeing one awesome woman be fought over by a ton of guys. Granted, maybe 5 out of those 25 seem like a dateable catch, but still seeing men working so hard to impress a woman is very appealing. Because women are just smarter, the statistics for Bachelorettes staying in a relationship with their final pick is SO much stronger than the Bachelors. Yes, there’s also a strong element of predictability in The Bachelorette seasons (many of the women have given their first impression rose to the guy who becomes the “winner” in the end) but there’s also the fact that with those strong, lasting stats, audiences get to see the beginning of a love story with genuine staying power. The female-led show delivers on the main show’s promise–the search for love. The Bachelor mostly looks like the search for the hottest woman who will be on the cover of People Magazine with me and cheer for me while I romp in spandex on Dancing with the Stars and then eventually co-sign on a breakup statement released to the media a handful of months after you put a Neil Lane ring on it.
There’s something so forced about The Bachelor and something very wish fulfillment but still real about The Bachelorette. Maybe thats why ABC and the studio can’t help but do The Bachelorette leads the most dirty. Kaitlyn is a grow-ass woman who’d like to sleep with one of her contestants before the show ordained sexy times of the fantasy suite. Then her whole story becomes about having to share that information with all the other dudes. By the way, this was also the lead that had to initially compete on air with another girl Britt to get the lead spot in the first place. America also sex-shamed her allllll over twitter. Then there’s Rachel, the first black bachelorette, who gets played by the show on a couple levels. They let Lee into the cast, who previously had a VERY public racist social media presence, and casting claimed ignorance. When Rachel chooses her fiancé to be Brian instead of Peter, the “After the Final Rose” special becomes more about forcing Rachel to hash it out with Peter than allowing audiences and the couple themselves to enjoy the ending of the televised portion of their love story. I will say Peter is the most attractive guy in the franchise and I wanted him to win or become to The Bachelor, but my own sweaty, superficial lust for him doesn’t remove the fact that that ending should have been celebrating Rachel’s choice not questioning it.
This season Becca was really thrown under the bus by the show. Not only did they cast a hateful bigot (at least where he stands liking super alt-right photos on Instagram) in Garett, but fellow contestant Lincoln also had serious sexual assault charges against him. These casting issues felt less overt than the Lee for Rachel casting, but still feel like Becca got placed in a potentially dangerous situation with Lincoln and set up to fail with Garrett, if that’s who she chooses (Becca has quite publicly shared that she was a Hilary voter and was at The Women’s March).
Maybe it’s the fact that these Bachelorette leads get an opportunity that doesn’t come to many women in real life and then get put through the ringer on the show and still manage to make a lasting relationship work that makes me keep tuning in and really rooting for this particular arm of the franchise in a way I’m not as invested in the others. Even though I’ve found Becca’s season a bit boring and uneventful, if Garett’s the one she chooses over Blake, I still hope they can have serious conversations about their views and he can be receptive to change instead of her sweeping his hate under the rug. If that’s the way tonight’s finale ends up and she can enlighten him against finding hate humorous, then maybe that’s a pretty healing message to put out in the world.
But I’m also cynical enough to know they might just present a canned statement about being more thoughtful online and then rush off to their Jimmy Kimmel interview. If that’s the case, there’s hunky Miles Teller-lookalike Blake in the running to be The Bachelor and while his career may be a sales rep for Coors, he also survived a school shooting so perhaps he’s got more depth than the average fitness trainer The Bachelor lead. If not, he also looks great shirtless.