The Bachelorette: Where Toxic Behavior Is Rewarded

I stopped watching this season of the Bachelorette very early, because I knew where the Luke P situation was going. I did not want to endorse it in any way.

luke p hannah
Unfortunately, I was in the minority. This Monday night’s “Men Tell All” special was its highest-rated special in four years. They were likely popping champagne in the Disney executive suites on Tuesday, when they should have been hanging their heads in shame.

I know, I know. Why should I care? How can I get upset? It’s a garbage reality show aired during the middle of summer when most people have better things to do.

I never watched the Bachelor or Bachelorette for high-minded entertainment that left me enlightened. The only time I’ve ever been quoted in the New York Times, it was to discuss my previous company’s Bachelor office pool to choose a winner.

It was pure entertainment, which is always appreciated on a Monday night. The show, especially in recent years, seemed to understand its place as crummy reality television that forced drama and got us to care, if nominally, about people we’d quickly forget.

This season was different. This season revolved around one person. Not the Bachelorette. But one man fighting for her love, the horrible human being known as Luke P. Toxic masculinity wrapped up in the Bible, Luke P was the perfect avatar for a season-long afterschool special.

Why Was He Still There?

It didn’t take long for every other single guy in the Bachelor house to figure out that Luke P was a creepy weirdo. There’s always one each season, sometimes two or three, but there’s always at least one. Luke P grabbed that title with authority and quickly become one of the worst people in the show’s history.

If you didn’t watch the show, well, good for you. In short, Luke P was a terrible person who claimed to be “born again” and “revirginized” and didn’t want his future lover to have sex before marriage. Beyond the hypocrisy, he was also a misogynistic asshole who wants his wife to be subservient to him.

This was all evident very, very early in the season. It was a trope the Bachelor franchise has always used to drum up drama and interest for the first half of the season while the back half of the season focuses on the “real” relationships and potential winners.

Yet Hannah, this year’s Bachelorette, refused to send Luke P home. Week after week, Luke P did something terrible and stupid, all the other men called him out for something terrible and stupid, and Hannah would swoop in with a perfect “both sides” routine to make them all stop fighting. In the end, she would give Luke P the last rose.

The show has always felt scripted, but this crossed a line. It became painfully clear Luke P was being kept around so he could eventually be taught a lesson.

Sending the Wrong Message

Week after week of Hannah picking Luke P caused a stir online, as you can imagine. However, it was also spiking ratings, as the show continued to trend upward despite everyone hating Luke P. This is essentially the problem of the United States summed up in one awful reality show.

We can’t take our eyes off a car crash. We flock to hate something. We love to let people know why we hate something. As I remember from my newspaper reporter days – you’ll always get letters to the editors when people are mad and only rarely when people are happy.

So as the Luke P saga unfolded, and ratings ticked up, I knew exactly what to expect. Luke P didn’t want his future wife to engage in premarital sex. The Bachelor show ends with fantasy suites where future wives engage in premarital sex. It was so obvious, and it happened.

You can fill in the blanks from here, as Hannah finally dumped Luke P following a fiasco where he was – you guessed it – upset about the fantasy suites. Despite everyone on the planet telling her that Luke P was wrong for her, that was apparently the moment when she figured it out.

Suddenly, Hannah was treated as a conquering hero for doing the obvious. She said that her not listening to anybody for weeks was “female empowerment” because “women are empowered to make their own decisions.” Though I’m not a woman, I don’t think that’s right. Female empowerment is not about women refusing to make toxic males go away, I hope.

Worse than Hannah’s role in this, Luke P became a broadcast TV star. His “punishment” for being a toxic male douchebag was an unprecedented amount of screen time. The entire first hour of Monday night’s Men Tell All was all about Luke P. Is that the message we want to send? Be terrible and you’ll be rewarded? You can bet a pretty penny that Luke P will be making money off his performance, in some form or fashion, for years to come.

Other Countries Don’t Do This

As a connoisseur of reality television with a strong Internet connection, I watch reality shows from other parts of the world. My wife and I are currently obsessed with Love Island (the real UK version, not whatever CBS is airing every night). Our global reality binge began in Australia, with their version of the Bachelor franchise.

australia bachelor in paradise 2019
From the jump, it was clear it was a different type of show. It wasn’t about forced dramas or fights. It was about real people trying to find love. Most strikingly, there is not a contractually obligated marriage proposal to end the show. Instead, they just pick who they want to date and see if it could work. Not so shockingly, those shows have been far more successful in producing couples that last.

But that’s not why I’m bringing up Australian reality television. I reference it because the Australian version of Bachelor in Paradise had their own “Luke P” situation in the form of Ivan, a classically toxic male, who became horrifically obsessed with Tenille, after they found an initial connection.

For several episodes, Ivan bordered on the psychotic in his obsession and how he handled other men talking to her. It was nearly disturbing to watch. I say “nearly” because the producers stepped in. Literally.

While the American Bachelorette producers seem to revel in Luke P’s misogyny, the Australian version put a stop to it. During one particularly nasty exchange with a castmate, the producer started talking to Ivan on-camera, explaining to him what he was doing was wrong, and why it was wrong.

Ivan, of course, didn’t immediately take kindly to the advice, but he knew that they were right. Instead of toxic masculinity being rewarded, it was punished. Ivan was summarily booted from the show during the next elimination.

It’s a painful reminder that we don’t have to watch the car crash, and we certainly don’t need to add to it. We can right these wrongs. In America, that means we can change the channel.

I did for this season’s Bachelorette. I wish more had.

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  1. Wow. I saw the title and thought it was going to be about Jed.


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