Bring Back the Circus

I mean, WTH happened last night?

Actually, I will tell you what happened last night because it happened on television and some of you may have more balanced lives than I do. To recap: A fairly normal Bachelor season with below-normal ratings for the cause of boringness ended in the normal way, with a deeply conflicted bachelor finally choosing and proposing to one Poor Girl, and with the couple staggering giddily away powered by champagne and hormones. And then he broke up with her two months later. In front of an invited camera crew. And us. So that he could be with the other Poor Girl. This is the truth.

So, Bachelor fans, scale of 1-10, how greasy do you all feel this morning?

I awoke to this tweet from Mike Fleiss, an executive producer for The Bachelor:


Fortunately, the Twittersphere or Bachelor Nation or The Spirit of Human Decency unloaded on him. ARE YOU *#@&ing KIDDING ME? Let me get this straight: You spent weeks promoting and hyping a wrenching breakup, a blindside you facilitated, recorded, and broadcast for profit, and are now telling US to have sympathy? Suffice it to say that I was not alone in my reaction. Most of the replies echo the first:


…and you’ll have to scroll for a l-o-n-g time to get to the end of them.

So, all that is left for me is to apportion blame, because you’re darn right it needs to be assigned. Sympathy? No. Not for anyone responsible for this.

In case you’re not a BachelorFollower, traditionally the show finishes taping a few months before broadcast, so in the interest of preventing spoilers the couple coming out of it have to see each other secretly until the finale airs. On last night’s show, the two met (this was in January, I understand) at some chi-chi AirBnB in L.A. for what Becca (the affianced Poor Girl) thought was going to be another fun hideaway weekend. Why is the camera crew here? Oh, surely just to capture some footage of us being an adorable couple in the kitchen, wearing sweats, shoving each other playfully, and feeding each other bites of pancake. Instead, Arie (the Bachelor from Insecure Hell), sits her down to say that he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Poor Girl #2 (Lauren, whose quote bag is mostly full of “I know” and “that’s so pretty”). Turns out, he tells Becca, “this isn’t going to work.”

I dislike boxing, but at least in a boxing match people expect the person they’re with to hit them in the stomach. And the face. This was the emotional equivalent of saying, “Hey! How about you walk up to that lady in the grocery store, ask where the peas are, and then punch her? And let’s get it on tape! It’ll make for great television!”

Most Bachelor/Bachelorette relationships don’t work out. Most involve a breakup. And until now, most—no! wait! ALL of those breakups have happened in private. The resulting gossip, of course, has been splashed across tabloid covers, but the actual interactions between the two have been private. We even had a past bachelor propose, break up, and end up marrying another of the Poor Girls. PRIVATELY.

And then there’s this.

So what happened? Well, nobody’s laying it out for me so let me just apply some logic. According to what Insecure Bachelor freely said, he was having doubts all along. He also freely said he’d been talking to Poor Girl #2…while engaged to Poor Girl #1. And we can only know this because producers know this because HE TOLD THEM. Yup, he doubled down on skeeziness by not only failing to commit to someone to whom he said “I choose you every day,” but by working it through with television producers who would make all the arrangements for him to cold-cock her in front of cameras. Oh—and for bonus points, he kept sitting there, staring at her, after she repeatedly said “just leave,” waiting for her to tell him she was okay so he wouldn’t feel so bad about himself.

Do I hold the people who facilitated it—the producers—responsible? Yup. But only for their part of it. This was a two-party deal. The producers are circus barkers, whose moral code is well known to be flexible. I’m fine going to the circus…as long as I know I’m seeing people who are participating voluntarily, fully aware that they’re putting on a show for my entertainment. Which, of course, all the Poor Girls understand is the case for the duration of the taping. What happened last night, though, was that one of the performers said to the ringmaster, “Hey, you know that girl who left the circus a couple of months ago? I bet I can trick her into coming back for an encore performance. We’ll get her up on the high wire and then DROP HER! Into a pit of lions! And clowns! It’ll be awesome!”

No. Just…no. Arie, I wish you’d had the decency to be decent, rather than grasp at some perceived opportunity to explain yourself better on camera. (And BTW, it failed.) Producers, when you feel the urge to lecture us about the “real emotions” of the performers you’re exploiting, you lost track of their humanity long before we did. Me, I’m taking comfort in the backlash, the way it tells me that I’m in a society that cares about people, even through all the muddle and chaos and ugliness that can show up in social media.

So producers, and future bachelors and bachelorettes, take note: We’re here for the circus, not a peep show.

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