The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise has always loved a good sob story.
Had a rough childhood? Had a loved one die in a fiery crash? The producers want to hear about it.
The franchise has always been notorious for milking contestants’ pasts but this season has gone way too far.
Tayshia Adams and Clare Crawley‘s season of The Bachelorette has made it its mission to get every single contestant to break down, telling their most inner secrets. They even designed entire dates around it, like the recent art date Tayshia went on with some of the guys and the one-on-one Clare had with Blake where she required him to share his inner demons.
Even worse, The Bachelorette has made it clear that if you don’t make a big confession, you’ll be sent home. The whole thing has been done under the guise of “honesty” and “vulnerability.”
Of course, neither Clare nor Tayshia have been obligated to return the favor. Although Tayshia briefly discussed her divorce, and even got into a real conversation about racism in America with Ivan, most of the time, all she has to do is sit there and nod as the guys spill their guts out.
The Bachelor franchise has always been about expediting relationships as fast as possible but “encouraging” contestants to tell their stories of addiction, eating disorders, and incarcerated family members on national TV after only a few dates seems flat-out cruel.
You might think that this is par for the course for a show like The Bachelorette. But this season has taken it to a whole other level.
I look back at past seasons and remember one or two contestants who shared their difficult childhoods (like when Demi Burnett discussed her mother’s incarceration on Nick Viall‘s season of The Bachelor). But most of the contestants didn’t have to spill such intimate details of their lives on the show. For the most part, everything was kept relatively superficial.
And look at Hannah Brown‘s season: there wasn’t a single group date that required the guys to bare their souls. It really wasn’t until the finale four or five guys that the dates started getting even remotely deep, and even then, nothing too shocking was revealed.
Obviously, nobody is technically forcing these contestants to do anything. But we all know how aggressive the show’s producers can be. On top of that, it’s made clear to the contestants that they’ll be kicked off the show if they don’t become “vulnerable,” forcing them to make tough choices.
Case-in-point: Ben Smith.
After Ben missed the opportunity to talk to Tayshia on a group date, she chastised him and told him he needed to “prove” to her how much he wanted her and to open up. Since then, he’s gone above and beyond to do just that, even revealing his 15-year eating disorder.
It’s true that contestants know what they’re getting themselves into. Most, if not all, have seen the show before. They know they won’t have control over what happens and how they’ll be portrayed. But having the show essentially peer-pressuring them into revealing things they might not otherwise reveal on TV isn’t something that anyone can possibly prepare themselves for.
At the end of the day, the whole thing just feels plain icky. Hopefully, they’ll ditch this theme when it comes to Matt James’ season of The Bachelor in January.
The Bachelorette airs Tuesdays at 8 pm EST.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.