Another season of The Bachelor is in the books and, to adopt Peter’s plane metaphors here, it’s safe to say that this one crashed and burned.
While the entirety of the season finale was, as Chris Harrison gleefully put it, “brutal,” perhaps the most jaw-dropping moments came from Peter’s mother, Barbara, and her reprehensible treatment of Peter’s (belated and convoluted) final rose pick, Madison.
During the After the Final Rose segment, Barbara opened up to Chris Harrison about her own experiences this season, speaking candidly about her disdain for Madison. She revealed that she was initially put off when Madison delayed their meeting in Australia by three hours and didn’t offer an apology for making them wait. However, what really troubled Barbara was Madison’s tepid attitude toward Peter. Barbara explained,
“When I proceeded to ask her if she was madly in love with my son, she said no, and that she would not accept a proposal in four days. So how do you expect a mother who loves her son with all of her heart to take that? I couldn’t.”
While this is certainly understandable, Barbara didn’t stop there. She continued to place judgment on Peter and Madison’s relationship, asserting that they are two “completely two different people, one who is willing to compromise, the other one has not. And to me you need both to compromise.” And when Chris Harrison asked for Peter Sr.’s perspective on Madison, Barbara whispered to her husband in Spanish, “Di algo mal también, ayúdame,” which translates to, “Say something bad too, help me.”
To boot, anytime Madison spoke or was spoken about, a camera trained on Barbara captured her making a full spectrum of disrespectful and dismissive facial expressions – eye rolling, sneering, angrily muttering to her husband – and showing zero attempt to be cordial or receptive of the woman who her son has declared the love of his life.
Instead, Barbara believes that their relationship is as good as dead. She concluded that there is no need to accept a relationship that will inevitably end, and said of Peter, “He’s going to have to fail to succeed… All his friends, all his family, everyone that knows him knows that it’s not going to work.”
Certainly, it’s normal for a mother to want to vocalize her concerns about a child’s troubling relationship, and there’s nothing sinister about wanting to offer advice or provide perspective. This is especially warranted given Peter and Madison’s obvious fundamental incompatibilities: their conflicting religious views, their differing expectations of intimacy, and how Madison is reluctant to express her love for Peter.
However, Barbara’s behavior here is inexcusable. Barbara is essentially infantilizing her own son, discounting his ability to make sound decisions about his own relationships. Peter is a fully grown 28-year-old man. His relationships aren’t resigned to failure nor are their outcomes determined by his mother. Barbara should be respectful of his decisions and champion his desire to work through any challenges that arise. Instead, she places the full blame of Madison and Peter’s issues squarely on Madison’s shoulders. And not only is her villainization of Madison inherently sexist, it’s incredibly damaging to both parties.
Perhaps the troubling dynamic between Peter and his mother is at least partially due to a lack of boundaries. After all, while most men Peter’s age are building their own lives a safe distance away from their families, Peter still lives at home. (His mother full-on weeps when he returns from Australia even though it’s been a week, at most, since she saw him last, an indication that perhaps they need to spend more time apart.) He has no qualms discussing his sex life with his parents and even jokes with his brother, Jack (who also still lives at home), about bringing girls back to the house. Essentially, Peter still lives like a high school student. He has not been raised to make his own choices or to trust his own opinion, instead deferring to his parents for any sort of important decision. He has never had to hold himself accountable because his mother is always there to be accountable on his behalf.
Additionally, it seems that Peter’s parents, specifically Barbara, have placed him on a pedestal of sorts. In one particularly odd exchange, Peter describes Hannah Ann to his parents as “pure, beautiful innocence that combines so effortlessly with all the confidence in the world… the biggest sweetheart that you’ll ever meet.” In response, Peter’s dad says, “When you describe her, she sounds like you,” and Barbara chimes in, “I was just going to say that!” (This deification by Barbara also, weirdly, seems to extend to Hannah Ann, perhaps because she also blindly supports Peter rather than challenges him the way Madison does.)
Like any well-intentioned parent, Barbara (and Peter Sr., to a lesser extent) is quick to uplift her son and be his biggest defender. Where this becomes problematic, though, is when it means unequivocally denigrating Madison for daring to have her own set of values and expectations that may not perfectly align with Peter’s.
For her part, Madison tried to remain positive, saying in response to Barbara’s comments,
“I came into this journey and I said I was going to be unashamed of who I am and undeniably myself, and that is something I’ve done throughout this entire journey. I’m not a mom so I don’t know what it’s like to have a son, to have kids. I know that I have love and respect for Peter, therefore I have love and respect for Peter’s family, and I will never say a negative word about anyone or anything.”
And to his credit, Peter is standing by Madison. He said to his mother,
“I’m telling you that I love Madison, and that should be enough.”
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.