The first season of The Bachelor that I vividly remember was in 2015, with farmer Chris Soules at the helm, but I know I had watched seasons before that. It’s been a part of my Monday nights for basically my entire life, and I relished in watching not just two people fall in love, but all of the drama that occurred along the way. It was fun to see the petty backstabbing of the men or women in the house, especially when it was offset with an air of opulence that I would never be able to achieve in my own life.
In recent years, viewership has dropped and with it, so has my interest in the show. The two, of course, are correlated. The Bachelor franchise is no longer what it used to be and that has caused people to want to stop watching. “What it used to be” is a fun glimpse into one of the most romantic ways to find love. “What it is” is a torture chamber designed to ruin each and every one of its leads.
This season, The Bachelorette announced a new twist: It would have two bachelorettes simultaneously trying to find love from the same grouping of men. Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia are supposed best friends who only want the best for each other, and we were set up as an audience to see them both happy. Instead, they have been pitted against each other time and time again, crumbling as guys pit them against each other, and sobbing into the camera as producers continue to do the same. The show is a mess. We aren’t watching either Windey or Recchia find love. Instead, we’re watching the producers unlock their greatest fears of being unloved and exploit them on national television.
In the good old days, never would a lead ever show weakness. The only time where they had a breakdown or threatened to leave would be if one of their final few guys left unexpectedly. The biggest moral conundrum they’d have to overcome was how they managed to fall in love with multiple people. It was general happiness; the drama was for the members of the house, not the leads themselves. This year, the entire show centers around the lead’s unhappiness.
It wasn’t until I was listening to the Game of Roses podcast that the truth was pointed out to me- they’re doing it on purpose. In an attempt to find higher ratings, the producers are hurting the leads intentionally. They believe that drama makes for better TV (true) and that the drama we want to see is two leads having breakdowns repeatedly (false). What they are doing to Rachel and Gabby, as well as to the past few leads before them, is hurting their credibility and tearing them down in the name of making this single season good.
What they are failing to realize is that this show depends upon people liking the leads, and the leads liking the show, in order for it to continue. I don’t know who would agree to go into Rachel and Gabby’s position after seeing the way they are currently being treated. Even on Instagram, The Bachelor franchise has refused to correct their mistakes, posting a photo “team rachel or team gabby?” explicitly pitting them against each other.
It’s a trend that has alienated former cast members as well. Katie Thurston and Kaitlyn Bristowe have both spoken up against the season and the producers, among others. It’s a troubling trend when both of those two women have among the most active social media followings in all of bachelor nation, with a combined 3 million Instagram followers. For context, all three official bachelor accounts have a combined 2.6 million. This trend cannot continue unless what the Bachelor is looking for is a group of harmed and rejected former leads banding together to bring down the legacy of the show.
Mostly, the reality is that harming your leads just makes for a sad show. I want to watch glamour and paradise. Instead, I’m watching emotional manipulation and one of the most difficult mental experiences any of them have had to endure. It’s very much giving, For the Wrong Reasons.