We usually recap "The Bachelor" world of white wine tears, roses, grammatical incorrectness and two-month journeys toward engagement in haikus and tweets. This week, we're going to put that on pause to address the ugly comments "Bachelor" star Juan Pablo made over the weekend about the possibility of having a gay or bisexual star on the series.
When I first heard that Juan Pablo had made anti-gay remarks to a reporter from The TV Page on Saturday morning, I had an initial thought (in haiku form, since that's how I've been recapping the "The Bachelor" this season):
Really, Juan Pablo?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Well, that's ruined now.
I first got suckered into watching -- and then recapping -- "The Bachelor" several years ago by some coworkers. And once I became accustomed to the excessive use of the word "journey," inexplicable tears and painful metaphors, I quickly realized that there was something wonderfully enjoyable about watching the trashy reality TV show. Those of us who willingly watch what we know to be terrible each and every week understand that the pleasure of "The Bachelor" franchise lies in its offer of pure escapism. (And the opportunity to tweet something snarky, thereby having your hate-watching validated by a community of like-minded individuals.)
Unfortunately, when the lead you're presumably rooting for declares that there shouldn't be a gay Bachelor because gay people are "more pervert," escape becomes impossible.
Over the weekend, ABC quickly did damage-control, calling Juan Pablo's comments "careless, thoughtless and insensitive," and stating that such sentiments "in no way reflect the views of the network, the show's producers or studio." And on Saturday afternoon, when Juan Pablo himself issued an apology, blaming his lack of English vocabulary, he made matters worse by stating that what he really meant was that gay people were too "affectionate," "intense" and "racy" for television. Though it remains unclear why a gay courtship would be too "racy," while Juan Pablo making out with multiple women at a scantily-clad pool party, as occurred on last night's "Bachelor," is totally appropriate.
The reason that reality TV shows like "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" work -- especially for people who watch them while recognizing the retro values they espouse -- is because they are about as removed from reality as one can get. (As avid "Bachelor" tweeter Jennifer Weiner told me in October, "Even as somebody who can see every single problematic gender-normative, heteronormative, beauty myth ... I can see all of it and still devour that show like candy.")
"The Bachelor" exists in a vacuum where all of the issues that actually make and break long-lasting relationships -- politics, finances, career ambitions and general worldview -- don't matter in the face of this amorphous concept of "love" and "connection."
It's possible that past Bachelors and Bachelorettes have held intolerant or prejudiced views. But before Saturday, we never had to confront them, because none of the stars of past seasons have used their considerably high-profile platform to spew hate. Not only is it upsetting on a level of basic human decency, but it also does damage to a franchise which has gained viewership back in recent years by relying on groups of women who watch the show for its comedic value, with their phones (and twitter feeds) in one hand, and glasses of wine in the other.
Last night's episode of "The Bachelor" was as absurd as ever, with Juan Pablo showing off Venezuelan cooking skills, spouting "love is like jumping off a bridge" metaphors and the most uncomfortable kiss we've seen in awhile. But the show's ridiculousness became a much more bitter pill to swallow as Juan Pablo's asinine comments about his suitors' hotness and how he wants the girls "to know who he is" felt inextricably connected to his newly-revealed bigotry.
I may continue to watch this season for haiku-writing purposes, but I suspect not everyone will. Any ounce of sympathy for or excitement about Juan Pablo and his "journey" has been stripped away. The emperor not only has no clothes, but he's also a homophobe. And for a show that's built on the premise of romantic, detached-from-the-world fantasy, that's a very bad thing.
I wasn't the only one commenting on Juan Pablo's remarks...