On night one of the dramatic two-night Bachelor season finale, Colton broke up with both of the show’s remaining contestants, Hannah and Tayshia. He bid each of them a tearful but firm goodbye and asserted that his heart belonged to Cassie, a contestant who departed on her own terms last week. The episode culminated with Colton declaring that he was going to chase after Cassie and win her back.
The problem? Cassie already told Colton she was not in love with him and did not want to be with him.
The show is framing this “get the girl” narrative as a romantic one: a lovelorn Colton off to “fight for” his soulmate. But Colton convincing Cassie to date him isn’t actually a romantic gesture. It’s an antiquated narrative and a dangerous one at that.
Colton pursuing Cassie after she already explicitly ended their relationship implies that her feelings are up for negotiation. He has spent weeks turning down potential love interests. Once he isn’t feeling it, he has no qualms with showing them the door. When Colton says no, it’s a no. Yet, when Cassie says no, it’s taken as an opportunity to change her mind. Why isn’t Cassie afforded the same privilege as Colton?
Given that we had to spend a large part of last week watching Colton and Cassie’s father discuss “man to man” what’s best for Cassie, an adult woman, hearing Cassie’s wishes completely disregarded yet again is extremely disappointing.
For his part, Chris Harrison at least has enough sense to ask Colton, “What if Cassie just isn’t into you?” But there’s no dissuading Colton. Colton has suddenly decided he’s a good judge of character (despite what we’ve seen to the contrary these past several weeks) and he knows Cassie loves him, you guys, even if she’s too scared to say it. He knows what Cassie wants, and he knows what is best for Cassie, better than Cassie does herself. Just as her dad knew before him.
This certainly isn’t the first time The Bachelor portrayed inherently problematic storylines as collateral damage to a happy ending. We saw it when Nick Viall slut-shamed Andi Dorfman on national television for sleeping with him but not giving him the final rose. And we saw it again last season when bachelor Arie left his new fiancée Becca in the lurch while he pursued runner-up contestant Lauren.
And this narrative didn’t begin with the Bachelor-verse either. The Bachelor is simply following the trajectory of the many, many romantic comedies that laid the groundwork for it. The Notebook, Love Actually, and 10 Things I Hate About You, to name just a few, all depicted women who clearly expressed their wishes to stop being pursued by male counterparts, only for those wishes to go ignored. In each of these films, the male pursuer is ultimately rewarded for their manipulative and toxic behavior, whether it’s with a kiss (Love Actually), or a full-blown marriage (The Notebook).
This narrative is reflective of a larger problem plaguing our society, where a man’s perception of what a woman wants holds greater currency than what the woman actually says she wants. Any instance of “no” is considered malleable. As a result, this kind of attitude serves as a breeding ground for toxic masculinity and issues with consent.
The Bachelor certainly isn’t the beginning or the end of these issues, but it’s a shame that it continues to perpetuate such dangerous narratives and quantify them as romantic gestures.
The season’s final episode follows Colton as he knocks on Cassie’s hotel room door, asking her to give their relationship another try. To his credit, he assures Cassie that he doesn’t want to pressure her into a relationship (though having a camera crew in tow sends the opposite message) and would be willing to take things day by day. The two rekindle their romance in the big, sweeping happily-ever-after that we are taught is an earned result of the grand gesture. It’s difficult to tell whether Cassie has truly had a change of heart, or if she is simply too worn down to reject Colton’s advances yet again. She still doesn’t know what she’s ready for. She admits to Colton’s dad that she’s not “insanely in love with him.” But, she says, “I feel good right now.”
I hope that’s the truth and she hasn’t been pressured into the relationship, and I hope that Colton is finally listening.