Another season of ABC’s The Bachelor has ended, and while every year the network promotes its “reality” show as the “most dramatic” or the “most emotional” season yet, without a doubt, this season was the most honest. It’s not clear if ABC knew exactly what it was getting into when they cast Juan Pablo Galavis in the role of ‘The Bachelor,’ but what is clear is that this season exposed the ugly, backward nature of the show.
After casting Juan Pablo, who was previously a contestant on The Bachelorette, ABC probably thought they would get credit for breaking barriers. Galavis, the single father and American born Venezuelan, is the first non-white person to star in the title role of The Bachelor, or The Bachelorette, for that matter. But what they might not have anticipated is the way Juan Pablo would shatter the illusory “fairy-tale” that the show is based upon through a series of controversies. Though ABC is probably happy to be cashing in the extra publicity surrounding this season’s turmoil, you have to wonder, did anyone bother to vet this guy?
Galavis was selected as ‘The Bachelor’ after becoming a “fan favorite” on the last season of The Bachelorette despite a small amount of screen time. But it wasn’t long after his season of The Bachelor started airing in January that Galavis started chipping away at his likability quotient, making homophobic remarks during an interview where he used the word “pervert” in reference to gay people and said that having a gay ‘Bachelor’ would set a bad example for children. He later apologized to GLAAD while blaming his comments on the fact that English is his second language. But looking at the full context, it’s clear this wasn’t a simple matter of his true feelings being lost in translation.
Controversy also erupted from the show itself when Juan Pablo apparently had sex with one of the women in his harem well before the designated time producers deem extra-curricular activity socially appropriate. The next day Galavis “slut shamed” the woman, Clare, who ended up a finalist, scolding her for setting a bad example for his young daughter. He brought her to tears as he shifted the blame to her, as if he had nothing to do with their mutual act in the ocean.
Later, another woman on the show, Andi, made waves of another sort when she called out Juan Pablo for failing to take the time to actually get to know his suitors on a personal level. After spending a night in a “fantasy suite” with the ‘Bachelor,’ Andi revealed that Galavis didn’t ask her any personal questions and seemed only interested in name-dropping and telling superficial stories about himself. The next day she confronted him. “Do you have any idea what religion I practice? What are my political views?” she asked. Galavis admitted he had no idea, and at this point in the show Andi was one of only three remaining women after 24 others had already been sent packing. In theory, Juan Pablo should have known her pretty well by then, if only he had bothered to regard the women on the show as actual human beings.
Andi decided not to wait for Juan Pablo to eliminate her in the next ridiculous and degrading “rose ceremony.” She left on her own accord, making sure to explain to Galavis the “difference between being honest and being an asshole” on her way out.
All this was just a build up to what was one of the most pathetic, yet revealing, nights of television in recent memory, when the ‘Bachelor’ Juan Pablo had to decide between his two remaining suitors, Nikki and Clare, followed by a live hour of analysis in front of a studio audience on March 10th.
Before making his final decision, ‘The Bachelor’ is allowed to go on one last fairy-tale style date with each remaining woman. But while on a helicopter ride with Clare, the same women he shamed and humiliated earlier in the season, when the cameras weren’t rolling, he took the opportunity to tell her he loved having sex with her even though he didn’t really know her very well. Stunned by his open misogyny, Clare fought back tears as she explained what happened during a side-interview.
That night, she demanded an explanation from Galavis, who seemed more concerned with why Clare didn’t give him a kiss the moment he walked through the door. After a lengthy exchange, Juan Pablo was able to appease Clare, convincing her that he respected her for more than just her physical appearance, even if his idea of complimenting her was also condescending in its own way. Given this reassurance in the final hour, she felt confident she would be the one chosen in the end and remained on the show for what she assumed would be a romantic proposal.
But when she stepped into the designated proposal area and stood before ‘The Bachelor’ he rather casually told her that he “had to say goodbye,” as if she had meant virtually nothing to him, without the slightest regard for her feelings. He moved in for a final hug, but Clare put up both hands and blocked him, and as she stormed off camera, humiliated yet again, she told Juan Pablo that she wouldn’t want her children to have a father like him. A few moments later, Galavis callously muttered to himself, “I’m glad I didn’t pick her.” A woman demanding respect was simply too much for him to comprehend.
In the wake of Season 18 of The Bachelor, it seems clear that Juan Pablo Galavis is not only homophobic, he harbors a hatred of women, too. Throughout the season he treated the women on the show as disposable objects. Every time he had a private conversation with one of his suitors he would condescendingly speak in tone one might use to address a small child or a pet, while constantly touching their faces and tucking their hair behind their ears; a misogynist acting in a way he thinks women will interpret as romantic. But in reality, the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of women were insignificant to him, and the women who in any way challenged his assumed right as a man to walk all over them with impunity were either sent home or realized who they were dealing with and walked out. Justifiably so, Juan Pablo has been unofficially labeled the “most hated” ‘Bachelor’ in the show’s history by the fans.
But while it’s obvious that he is a homophobic, misogynistic pig, what’s important to recognize after all the controversy of this season is that Juan Pablo actually personifies the backward values The Bachelor has always embraced. The show is inherently misogynistic and promotes a truly unhealthy, unrealistic, and thoroughly reactionary view of romantic relationships and sex. Galavis might have been more crude and transparent, or, as he would say, “honest,” about what was going on than previous ‘Bachelors’, but his actions were right in line with what the show inherently is at its core.
Take his homophobic comments, for example. Juan Pablo’s hate for homosexuals made headlines, and ABC was forced to issue a statement distancing the network from its ‘Bachelor,’ but Chris Harrison, the host of the show, actually agrees with Galavis. Though Harrison claims that he supports gay rights in principle, he doesn’t think having a gay ‘Bachelor’ would be a good marketing decision. To paraphrase, why mess with a profitable formula? It’s safe to assume that Harrison’s position is closely matched by his employer. The point here is that Juan Pablo’s widely condemned homophobia is just (to use his own word) a more “honest” version of the same core values upheld by The Bachelor‘s network, ABC.
Also, take a look at Juan Pablo’s apparent inability or unwillingness to see women as actual human beings with worthwhile thoughts and feelings. While not every ‘Bachelor’ has nakedly displayed this type of misogyny, The Bachelor is a “reality” show that’s as unrealistic as can be. The basic scenario is condescending and degrading, giving one man the licence to wade through a sea of women, narrowing down his potential mates during designated “rose ceremonies”. And instead of structuring the show so that each contestant has a fair and equal chance to build a relationship with the ‘Bachelor,’ the show intentionally forces the women to fight each other for “their time” with the show’s star. If the goal of the show is truly to develop a meaningful romantic relationship, why set it up in such a way that encourages petty in-fighting rather than allowing the potential couples the time to get to know each other as human beings?
And there’s the rub. The real objective is to reel in viewers with the contrived “drama,” even if that means undermining the supposed central purpose of the show. So again, while Galavis might have been more openly indifferent to the women selected to seduce him than most previous ‘Bachelor’s, in actuality, he was simply acting out the mentality encouraged by the inherently debasing structure of the show, like everyone else has throughout all 17 previous seasons. ABC might have cast Juan Pablo as “the villain,” but the show’s audience should realize that he was simply a personification of the values The Bachelor has always upheld and encouraged from the beginning. The only difference is that Galavis doesn’t bother to mask those reactionary values. He simply embodies them openly.
Now, critics of this analysis will undoubtedly point to ABC’s female-centered spin-off The Bachelorette as proof of the network’s innocence on the question of misogyny. But that show is also inherently problematic. While it’s about a woman deciding the fate of a pool of men on The Bachelorette, the men competing for the lone woman still reap this society’s benefits of manhood. Invariably for the ‘Bachelorette’ it’s a process of weeding out the men who aren’t there for the “right reasons,” discovering who’s attempting to cash in on quick fame rather than actually trying to develop a real relationship. On The Bachelor it’s always about a man with total power deciding which woman can fit into his already established identity, while The Bachelorette is always about the woman carefully deciding which man to concede her power to.
Both versions of the show are sick and reinforce unhealthy gender stereotypes and relationship models. So while there might be a temptation to point to Juan Pablo as nothing more than a bad apple, an anomaly who somehow got his homophobia and misogyny past the show’s casting directors, if you look closely you can see that he is actually the perfect ambassador for the warped values The Bachelor has always stood for.
One positive that came through during this train wreck of a television season is that in several key moments the women on the show stood up for themselves, powerfully asserting the idea that they aren’t just sex objects to be tossed aside when a man decides he’s done with them. They turned the tables on Juan Pablo by reclaiming their power and dignity, openly rejecting his misogyny and demanding respect. Each time this happened Galavis did his best to play off the moment as if it was no big deal. But under that casual dismissal was a palpable anger that a woman dared to challenge his authority. By the end, the audience, too, had completely turned on their former “fan favorite.” Hopefully this will be a moment that illuminates the truth about the nature of The Bachelor and causes the show’s loyal audience to question what they’ve been watching. Or, better yet, to stop watching altogether.