All of my life I have had many guilty pleasures– cheesy romance novels, bad rom coms and, above all, trashy reality TV. Most recently, these loves have materialized into a new obsession: The Bachelor. What started as a way to bond with my college roommates has turned into a fascination that I cannot quite explain.
Each Monday of the spring semester was spent sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for another catfight, snarky remark, or romantic kiss to grace my screen. Even though I saw immediate problems with the series, I could not bring myself to stop watching. However, the problem I was never quite able to get over was the clear lack of queer representation on the show. Now don’t get me wrong, I could write a whole essay about all of the various body types, identities and races that are neglected by the series, but I’ve found the lack of queer representation is the elephant in the room no one seems to want to address.
As a cisgender straight woman, I am often told this is not my fight to pick, but as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, I cannot sit by and watch such a large group of people be denied representation on one of the most-watched reality TV shows of all time. The Bachelor’s 24th season just wrapped up in March and its sister show, The Bachelorette, has aired an equally impressive 13 seasons. All the contestants, except one, have identified as heterosexual.
If you have managed to avoid the massive phenomenon that is The Bachelor franchise and its iron hands of temptation, I applaud you. The show functions on fairly simple premises. Each season, around 30 contestants compete through a series of one-on-one dates, cocktail parties and group activities for the heart of a member of the opposite sex. By the end, one contestant ends up affianced and, coincidentally, more popular on social media.
This also happens within eight weeks of filming, so as you can imagine, these relationships aren’t often successful long term.
Perhaps it made sense that in a pre-Obergefell v. Hodges world, there would only be heterosexual couples on The Bachelor. What would be the end-goal for same-sex ones if not marriage? A civil union? A participation trophy and a goody bag? However, the legalization of gay marriage in all 50 states was crucial to the expansion of rights among members of the LGBTQ+ community everywhere, and it means that there are no stipulations as to who can and cannot enjoy the end goal of The Bachelor: marriage.
I don’t know about the other members of Bachelor Nation, but I think that I would almost be more excited to watch a show centered around a gay man or woman looking for love. Especially after Peter’s disaster of a season, I am ready for something new, exciting and more representative of all the different ways love can look in the world.
Having a queer identity displayed on ABC, one of the most influential and broadcasted television networks to date, would not only be a huge step forward for the expansion of the networks audience diversity, but it would also be a large step for queer rights, acceptance and representation in modern media.
This change probably won’t happen next season, or even five seasons from now, but I can say confidently that if this elephant isn’t acknowledged soon, it will stay in the room forever. Perhaps one day The Bachelor will break free of its exclusionary heteronormativity and finally show love in all ways, not just the ones that seem better for ratings.