On the preview of next Monday’s episode of the Bachelor, Serena C was shown talking to Katie, accusing her of “starting wildfires”. A cursory scroll through Reddit would tell you that most people disagree with this opinion: Katie is just about everyone’s favorite contestant, and the fans clearly want her to be the next Bachelorette if she gets axed this season. However, I happen to think that Serena C has it right, and in this article, I will be explaining why.
For the uninitiated, the Bachelor is a dating show in which a man dates several dozen women, slowly eliminating his least favorites until he chooses his fiancée. In the previous episode, there was a groundbreaking twist: Almost halfway through the season, a handful of new contestants were introduced. You don’t need a Master’s in Psychology to guess how the original contestants felt about this. The original contestants were unwelcoming to the point of hostility. One of the cattier women, Anna, repeated a rumor she heard about a new contestant, who was from her hometown: This new woman was supposedly known to hang around the richest men in the city, and some said she took money for sex. The drama and cliquey-ness were worrisome to another original contestant, Katie. During the previous episode, Katie decided to speak to the bachelor, Matt, in private and asked him to address the situation.
It’s easy to forget that this is a show about adult women, not schoolgirls. And although grown women can be just as dramatic and childish as fourteen year-olds at sleepover camp, we expect them to handle interpersonal conflict with a modicum of self-determination and maturity. I admire Katie for speaking up to the other contestants about how they treated the new girls. It takes courage to act against the crowd. What I disagree with is her decision to bring the drama and conflict up to Matt.
It is absolutely not Matt’s job as the Bachelor to ensure that the show is safe and drama-free for the contestants, no matter how much he may take it upon himself to do it. If the toxicity in the house was serious enough to warrant genuine intervention, then any one of the crew members would have been there to step in. It wasn’t, and Katie knew that. They don’t handpick an ensemble of spoiled, beautiful women and force them to actually compete for a man’s attention for the first time in their lives to create a happy and wholesome environment. The drama and the pettiness isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Katie went to Matt because — despite the fact that she is a strong, sex-positive, career-oriented woman — her solution to a problem she found tough was to run to a man to fix it for her.
Would you find it ridiculous if a male contestant came to the Bachelorette to resolve the beef some of the guys were having with one another? I think most of us would. I find it disappointing that a woman like Katie, who clearly has feminist beliefs, would appeal to a male “authority” figure in this scenario. Matt has been playing the stern substitute teacher chastising a class of third graders a little often in the past episode. Freud rolls in his grave.
Some may defend Katie’s actions as selfless: Sure, maybe the burden of clearing the air shouldn’t have been foisted upon Matt, but wasn’t Katie just looking out for the new girls? I would disagree. I’m not sure if Katie has unintentionally dealt herself a great hand, or if she’s playing 5D chess, but as soon as she came forward to Matt to tell him that the unprecedented wave of new contestants has, amazingly, caused new drama, she has painted herself as a noble whistleblower, making every woman who didn’t rush to do something look bad. Never mind that two dozen adult women have the ability to resolve their issues and speak up for what’s right without a man to hold their hands. As an added perk, her actions got another contestant booted from the show. Whether or not Anna deserved it is irrelevant to the point that it worked out quite well in Katie’s odds.
The anonymous vagueness of Katie’s confession to Matt only made her look better – not only is she protecting everyone involved, she also gets to sidestep having to spell out the actual issue. Saying that “lives could be ruined” sure sounds direr than “one contestant spread a rumor that another contestant was paid for sex”. (Does anyone find it odd that a sex-positive contestant, rather than maintaining that there’s nothing wrong with sex work and stressing the importance of not outing other people, would just act as though being accused of engaging in prostitution was the worst thing that could happen to you?) Again, I don’t want to be misinterpreted. I don’t condone spreading rumours, it’s hurtful and self-serving. What Anna did was childish, petty, and wrong, but you don’t need me to tell you that. I also don’t think this situation was threatening anyone’s livelihood, and although it was wrong, it could have been solved without running to Matt for help.
I have spoken of Matt taking up the role of judge, jury, and safe space creator, and his dedication to making the contestants feel welcome is laudable. None of this, however, should be taken as an endorsement of Matt as a watchable reality TV character: He seems boring and romantically immature, to speak nothing of his horse-like sighs and curious resemblance the asparagus from VeggieTales. Perhaps he is meant to be the maximally generic build-a-boyfriend, a proxy for the female audience member’s handsome coworker who she swears she could make *such* a good couple with if only she could find an excuse to hang out with him sometime. You almost begin to sympathize with the constant tear-jerkers and drama-makers, watching him talk. If he was my only source of entertainment for a matter of months I might just go crazy too.