It has been a long time coming -- 18 seasons, to be exact (and that's not even counting all the spin-offs). But after yesterday's fantasy suite episode of "The Bachelor" with Juan Pablo, the veils have finally dropped, exposing the show as the anti-fairy-tale it actually is.
Cynics and smart people have known all along it was a sham, but the producers have always taken great pains to perpetuate the fairy tale myth. For instance, every bachelor follows the script which dictates that he have no clue who he's going to choose until he wakes up on the morning of the final rose ceremony with sudden, miraculous clarity about his "one true love." No conversations about religion or politics are ever aired, because matters of the heart are supposed to transcend that. And the vast majority of the women the producers usually pick are not career-driven realists -- they're romantics with more traditional "family values" who feel like they're old maids at 26 because they haven't found "The One" yet.
But last night, the producers had to let all that go when one woman refused to play along: Andi, our hero.
Cracks in the facade began appearing earlier this season, when Juan Pablo's flaws couldn't be contained. First, while Juan Pablo was doing publicity events in real time between episodes two 2 and three, he went rogue, making homophobic statements during an interview which began chipping away at his Prince Charming exterior. He was being honest, but that's something the producers don't let bachelors get away with on the show, at least not while it's in mid-season.
Next, came the slut-shaming of Claire, who broke protocol and actually made a move on JP in the middle of the night. But since Claire knew what she wanted and she went for it, she had to be punished -- it didn't fit "The Bachelor" script, nor did it fit Juan Pablo's macho notion of how good girls behave. Even though he willingly and wholeheartedly participated, he realized he had been out-manned, so she needed to be taken down a peg. He gave her a paternalistic talking to, explaining it was wrong of her to invite him for a midnight romp in the ocean, using the lame, made-up excuse of needing to set a good example for his daughter -- a need he failed to honor in every subsequent episode by engaging in more bathing suit make-out sessions with at least five other women.
Other glitches in "The Bachelor" matrix presented themselves: Juan Pablo's inability to deal with women's emotions ("Don't cry," "Stop crying," etc); his need to control them ("Look at me [when I'm talking to you]" in combo with his patented chin lift); his preference for kisses over conversation (something all bachelors could be accused of, thanks to the producers heavy hand in editing, but Juan Pablo takes the cake, and we're guessing without that much help from them); his really poor timing in letting women go (he may not have know it was Cassandra's birthday when he dumped her, but he knew he was going to dump Renee right after meeting her son -- no way would he raise another man's child); and the fact that before last night, one contestant (Sharleen) had already voluntarily bailed -- an inexplicably rare occurrence in the warped world of "The Bachelor."
But the last veil dropped last night, when "the fantasy suite turned into a nightmare," as Andi put it. Like Sharleen (the other sharp, career-driven woman on the show), assistant district attorney Andi had had reservations about this "process" and JP all along, feeling uncomfortable with having to wait such an unnaturally long time for one-on-one encounters with someone she's supposedly dating (a totally legitimate and understandable reaction that sane people who've seen this show wonder why more contestants don't seem to have and express more often). When Andi brought JP home to meet her family, her father and sister openly expressed reservations. Even the language she chose to describe her feelings at that point reflected, perhaps inadvertently, her ambivalence: I think I feel like I could almost be kind of close to something akin to love (we've paraphrased for dramatic effect). It was as if, having come so far in the show and having enjoyed the world travel and having succumbed to the pressure of the cameras, she felt obligated to pretend to feel something she didn't. It's a phenomenon that happens to all the women -- but with Andi, we could tell she didn't believe it, and it was obvious that deep down, she could tell too.
So when Andi and Juan Pablo got to their fantasy suite -- which is presented as a sex den by the producers but is probably more often a safe place for participants to let their guards down, be their truer selves and get to the heart of important matters for the first time -- the harsh reality of Juan Pablo (and the show itself) became clear. Without a thrilling activity (like bungee jumping or waterfall climbing), without an amazing view, without the cameras and microphones and without sex, the two of them had a chance to talk, really talk. And Juan Pablo couldn't deliver. Not because English is his second language, but because he is a sexist man who views women through a retro lens: they are sex objects, wives and mothers, not independent individuals on equal par with men who might have their own ideas and opinions and careers. Women should be seen, not necessarily heard. They should bend to the light of the man. And their greatest goal should be to get married, have children and support their husband. It's the kind of worldview that someone who is arrogant enough to be "The Bachelor" and date this many people all at once in this manner would, unsurprisingly, have. And it's the kind of world view that the set up of this show perpetuates. ("The Bachelorette" series tries but fails to even this effed-up playing field -- there's a reason there've been half as many episodes of The Bachelorette as "The Bachelor").
Most of the women on this show are happy in this traditional role -- at least while the mesmerizing cameras are rolling. Never before has someone rejected the script so wholeheartedly, nor brutally taken down a Bachelor mid-season. But after spending real genuine quality time with Juan Pablo alone, Andi couldn't stay silent: She had to tell the producers, Juan Pablo himself, and the world what a joke it all was:
The fantasy suite turned into a nightmare. I saw a side to him that I didn't really like, and the whole night was just a disaster. I hope he did not think that went well. I really hope he did not think that that was a good date... Every time I started to talk about feelings or started to talk about, you know, something from my past or whatever, it was always him that started telling his own story. It was all stories about him, and not once did he really ask anything about me... I just started to realize that he didn't really care about who I was, and what I thought, and what I want in life... It blew my mind that he thought that was OK to talk about [Claire's overnight date]... There's just no filter with him... He thinks that he can say whatever he wants to say, and that everyone's gonna laugh and still fall in love with him... but, you know, it gets to a point where it's just offensive.
When she confronted Juan Pablo in broad daylight and in front of the cameras about the previous night, she asked him if he had any idea what religion she practices, what her politics are, how she intends to raise her children (he didn't), revealing that it's not just that the producers choose not to highlight these conversations, but that they don't happen -- at least not with Juan Pablo (and chances are, not with many other Bachelor-types as well). As with Sharleen, Juan Pablo didn't fight for Andi, didn't express regret or remorse, didn't try to make amends -- he simply simply shrugged his shoulders and dusted off his hands. After all, he doesn't have to listen to the opinions of an uppity woman; he's got plenty of other women to choose from -- and not just the two remaining contestants, but all the idiot women who will line up after the show to get a piece of this celebrity frog, warts and all.
Andi's unconventional departure from "The Bachelor" was the equivalent of a Super-Bowl-sized home team win a long-time coming for all the progressive feminists who watch this show like a car crash. Hopefully, the producers will see that a more honest, more realistic portrayal, not only of the messiness of relationships, but of the strength and independence of different kinds of smart women -- rather than the candy-coated charade of "The Bachelor's" Barbies and Kens -- is what truly makes for the most dramatic episodes ever.