‘The Bachelorette’ and the politics of happily ever after

The Bachelorette
August 6, 2018

So the end of this infernal thing is taking place in the Maldives, a group of islands in the smack middle of nowhere (and which I only know about thanks to missing Malaysian flight 370 and all the related theories about what happened to it) (and of course the answer to that is:


Becca wanders around one of these minuscule islands for a while, musing about how much she loves both Cowboy and Chris Farley. Cowboy, she explains, has been the most consistent, and their “hearts recognize each other…”

… and with Chris Farley, it’s been a slower process, finally culminating in the Fantasy Suites Thailand where she “saw there was more too him” and how he could “fit into [her] life,” and that it just has been “growing and growing” and other thinly-veiled sexual innuendoes.

And now I get it: though she liked Cowboy better from the getgo, either he was … disappointing in some capacity in the Fantasy Suites or Chris Farley was exceptional in the Fantasy Suites or some combination of both. By the way, this is not me casting judgment at all: you need to make sure ahead of your wedding that whoever you choose to marry can take care of Fantasy Suite business. IT IMPORTANT.

Becca also informs us that she has not told either man she is in love with them, planning to save that for whomever wins this thing so it will be special, even though it was only five months ago she was telling a weak-chinned one-time-race-car-driver-turned-real-estate-agent that she loved him so it’s not like it’s all that special, right?

Becca’s mother, sister and two uncles are in the Maldives to meet the two remaining men and pass their judgment and enjoy some well-deserved beach time, and it occurs to me that this is an argument for The Bachelor‘s habit of pulling the next Bachelor/Bachelorette from the pool of people who made it to hometowns — because after going through two seasons of this nonsense and the ordeal of having your home tromped all over by camera crews and to be made to look like you hate “love” just because you try to advise your adult child to be careful on a reality dating show, the least you deserve is an all-expense paid trip to some exotic island.

ANYWAY, Becca explains to them that she is in love with both men …

The entire family:

She then explains that they are about to meet Chris Farley, and warns them that he has been married before for a whopping two months. Someone asks if he has children, and when she tells them no, you can almost hear the sigh of relief. At this point, if you’re her family, you take what you can get.

Becca then retrieves Chris Farley and introduces him to the family, who explains to them that he is in love with her and has been since the hometown date when he saw her with his family. At dinner, Chris Farley subtly turns the knife by toasting everyone, including those “who are here in spirit looking down from above.” Because Becca’s dad = dead. Something that Chris Farley reminds everyone — particularly Becca — about multiple times in the episode.

After dinner, Becca chats with her mother, and asks her what she thinks her father would think about Chris Farley, and Mom is like, “I mean, I dunno? I mean, there’s just a whole lot to unpack here. How would he react to you being a contestant on a dating show, for starters? And then how would he react to you being dumped on national television for sport? And then how would he react to you going back to your tormentors for another round of this nonsense? So it’s hard to say what he would think about a particular man you met on a TV show under these wildly weird circumstances? He’d like the fact that Chris Farley said he loves you? I guess?”

Meanwhile, Chris Farley Chats with Uncle Balding who asks why his marriage ended after only two months. Chris Farley explains that it was because she was a TOTAL BITCH to his family which is definitely a good reason to end a marriage after roughly 60 days. Uncle Balding asks Chris Farley what he learned from this experience, and Chris Farley babbles something about leaning on his family more, which, I mean, OK? but maybe a little self-examination and reflection in what you did wrong or could have done to be a better husband would be a good idea, too?

Uncle Balding then reminds Chris Farley that Becca lost her dad — YEAH WE KNOW — and asks how he’ll react during the bad times. Chris Farley starts talking about how his mother had breast cancer and that he lost his grandfather to cancer and then he begins crying and he does not stop for the remainder of the episode.

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Chris Farley then chats with Becca’s sister, Emily, and her impressive pile of hair, and manages to touch on all the things that she wants to hear: that he is a 50/50 person, he’s looking for a teammate, that Becca is “[his] person,” he wants to make her feel safe. Also: crying. So much crying.

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Emily, won over by all the tears, tells Becca that Chris Farley is “incredible” and informs Becca that he was a huge crybaby the entire time, to which Becca is all, “AWWWWWWW.”

Next up: Cowboy, who Becca worries is going to have to put on the performance of his life to win over her family.

Becca brings him inside as her family whispers that he “looks like a movie star …”

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Once on the hot seat, Cowboy talks about the fact that he had the first one-on-one date (the smashy one where Lil’ John joined in for some inexplicable reason) and how hard it was to see her go on dates with other men, but that something clearly changed in the Bahamas, which is where he told her he loved her for the first time.

Cowboy chats with Sister Emily, where he explains that the reason he’s attracted to Becca is that she is a strong woman, and that he’s always gravitated to strong women because he’s been surrounded by them his entire life. Cowboy also talks about how they “work well as a team” whatever that means in a relationship that has consisted of maybe four dates, and that they have had some “challenging moments.” They haven’t, unless he means he became jealous and unhinged when he watched her give someone else a one-on-one date before him this one time, BUT WHATEVER.

Emily reports to Becca that both men are amazing and very different and anyways, good luck figuring out who you’re going to choose. And then Becca begins crying because she knows she’s going to dump Cowboy but doesn’t want to hurt his feelings HOW IS SHE GOING TO CHOOOOOOOSE?

Meanwhile, Cowboy chats with the rest of the family and it doesn’t go … well. Mom asks how he’ll feel if Becca doesn’t choose him; Uncle Balding asks what he asked Chris Farley: what Cowboy will do in the bad times; and Uncle Mustache asks what Cowboy thinks of Chris Farley.

Cowboy proceeds to FREAK OUT that something is wrong, which isn’t helped when Becca — who is going through her own shit, namely that she is going to dump his ass in a matter of days — is a little distant and cold as she says goodbye to him. “SOMETHING IS WRONG,” he panics, “I CAN FEEL THAT SOMETHING IS VERY VERY WRONG.”

ron swanson parks and rec yep yes

And then Becca’s family tells her what they really think of each man: Cowboy is her “equal” and “on [her] level” and they “complement each other” and they are “like bookends, a matched pair.”

But on the other hand, Chris Farley has “the soul of a poet.”

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Then we have the final dates. First is Chris Farley who gets the requisite boat date. They’re on a boat. There are dolphins. Becca squeals that she’s never seen dolphins before. They swim at the equator which we know is the equator because there is a buoy that says “EQUATOR.”

That evening, they hang out in his hotel room where Chris Farley woos her by talking about envisioning changing diapers and grocery shopping with her. It’s really not as glamorous as you seem to think, dude. Becca asks if they got into a fight if he’d go sleep on the couch or insist on staying in the bed with her, and he answers stay in the bed, which leads to her telling him that he’s a snorer.

bethenny get out while you can rhony

But in Chris Farley’s favor, he does tell her that if she doesn’t choose him, while he’ll be devastated, he just wants her to be happy. Which is either a very good, healthy and adult way to respond or he’s just not that into her. Who knows!

Becca tells him, again, that he reminds her of her dead father, and in response, Chris Farley tells her that she makes it feel like “the Fourth of July” and “eagles” in his chest.

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And then he’s crying again, who knows why.

As for Cowboy’s final date, they go for a bike ride. They ride bikes and then they sit in the ocean and that’s it.

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That night in his hotel room, Cowboy presents to her a “time capsule” that he made for her with all of their dates and she’s like “… cool?” while clearly wondering what the hell she’s supposed to do with this giant-ass box, like, how is she supposed to even get it home? Does she check it? Does she drag it as a carry-on to all 16 flights back home? Does she “accidentally” “forget” it in her hotel room? Decisions.

And then as she leaves, Cowboy gives an interview in which he yammers about how he feels much better now, thanks, and that the highs tomorrow when he proposes to her and she says yes will be “insane.”

bless your heart real housewives of dallas

The next morning we go through our “PEOPLE THINKING THINGS” montages: the men pretend to get out of bed, the men take showers, the men slowly button their shirts, the men meet with Neil Lane to pick out their complimentary engagement rings, and voice-over what will happen if Becca doesn’t choose them (Chris Farley would be happy for her; it would “break” Cowboy). Meanwhile, Becca stands around her hotel room in a bathrobe, alternately staring out at the beach or into a mirror or at a letter her sister wrote to her. THOUGHTS. BIG THINKING THOUGHTS.

When we return to the studio after the commercial break, Chris Harrison greets us with a DIRE WARNING: What we are about to see, “no words can describe.” It will be “raw, powerful, real” and that the show has “never seen anything like this” before so PREPARE YOURSELVES FOR WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE.



~deep breath~

So Becca waits on her platform of vases and baskets as the men race to her via boat and shock surprise shock, Cowboy wins the race and arrives first. He gives her his whole spiel about what a beautiful person she is inside and out and how he wants to make her smile for the rest of her life. However, Becca is like, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” before “explaining” that their connection was so strong so early on — she cared about him so very much — that it prevented her from realizing that she was falling for other people.

blackish skeptical what come on

I don’t know how the math works on that one, frankly.

And anyway, she just thinks there are other people out there for both of them, and if he’d be so kind as to GTFO so that her other person can get here already and propose?

Cowboy, poor thing, did not see this coming and something inside him twists so hard that sweat begins gushing out of every pore.


Once he realizes what is happening he begins insisting that no one can make her as happy as he can (Becca begs to differ, thanks) and tells her that he loves her before wandering off into the jungle to cry (with whatever moisture he has left) that he has to “go through all of this alone,” and about how “happy she is going to be when Chris Farley proposes to her.” I mean, that’s the plan, yeah.

it's over go home ferris bueller


fuck you chris harrison

After 9,000 seasons, the Bachelor producers have finally realized that no one wants to watch their stupid “After the Final Rose” specials, so they baked the “After the Final Rose” special into the finale itself, because here we are in the studio with Chris Harrison and Cowboy looking glum on the couch, being forced to relive the most humiliating moment of his life, while Chris Harrison is talking about “tears flowing all across America.” OKAY, CHRIS HARRISON, CALM DOWN, THE ONLY ONE CRYING WAS MUMBLES OVER HERE.

Cowboy doesn’t actually reveal anything groundbreaking: he was confused, frustrated and hurt when Becca dumped him; he will always have love for Becca; he hopes she found happiness; watching the season was difficult and painful.

Then Becca is brought out to the couch to awkwardly hug Cowboy and awkwardly tell him there wasn’t one particular moment when things went wrong (~cough~ Fantasy Suites ~cough~). Although she does dig a knife in by telling him that she had a hard time imagining him handling a sick kid or a bad situation well — and who knows why, maybe it was the lack of emotional resiliency, maybe the mumbling? But she never meant to hurt him and she’s sorry if he was blindsided. OK! Goodbye forever, Cowboy!

And we’re back in the jungle where, after a quick makeup touchup, Becca heads back to her platform of vases and baskets and waits for Chris Farley to arrive. When he does, he burbles some half-thought-out nonsense about minivans and fly fishing and playing with sand. Regular Robert Frost this one.

Becca, unable to listen to this hoo-ha anymore, interrupts him and tells him that she’s in love with him, so he drops to one knee and proposes. She accepts, she offers him the final rose, he accepts, the end.

Except it’s not the end, because we have to return to the studio for the rest of the “After the Final Rose” special that no one wanted. There, the happy couple comes out and Becca is SCREAMING about how happy she is, to the point that even Chris Harrison is all, “Whoa, what is all the screaming about? Girl, chill.”

Things we learn: how unreal the whole thing is; how happy they are to not be in hiding anymore; Becca realized she loved him while eating an airport breakfast quesadilla; they are going to spend some time in Minnesota, Reno and then California; Becca wants to adopt four Corgis; she made Chris Farley where a mullet wig; Chris Farley snores; he still reminds her of her dead father; the first place they want to go is Costco; the rose bush is still alive.

We also get to the messy business of Chris Farley’s Instagram likes, but all that happens is that Chris Farley repeats his weak apology to anyone who was “offended” while repeating that he didn’t understand the power or meaning of the “double tap.”

And … look. If anyone was expecting some sort of fulsome conversation about politics or how treating dangerous and offensive memes attacking trans people or calling school shooting survivors crisis actors as mere jokes degrades our culture and the national conversation, they were both woefully misguided and clearly have never seen this show before.

But the issue does belie the inherent lie at the heart of this franchise’s entire premise. When the show first debuted, critics rightly pointed out the lack of reality in this so-called “reality” show: the couples were whisked around the world on impossibly expensive and fantastical dates and so of course it was easy to “fall in love” when one is living in a fantasy removed from real life. Real life and marriage is, as Chris Farley touched upon in the episode, grocery shopping and changing diapers. Or, more accurately, offering to go grocery shopping for the other person even though you have already been to the goddamned store three times this week but you know they’ve had a shitty day at work and can’t deal with the parking lot so you’ll take the hit, or getting up to change a poopy diaper at 2 a.m. to let the other person sleep because you know they’ve had insomnia for the past week, or washing the dishes before they get up in the morning so they don’t have to look at the sink full of dirty plates and wonder where it all went so wrong. That’s real love and real marriage.

But chores are not the only part of real love and real marriage. Being in an adult relationship also means talking openly about adult things like religion and sex and expectations and, yes, politics. In this day and time, what grown-ass person gets engaged to someone without asking them who they voted for in November 2016? Honestly, if I were the Bachelorette, on night one, as each man came out of the limousine, I would greet them with, “What’s your name and who did you vote for in November 2016?” while a bus with its engine turned on waited just outside the gate for the men who answered incorrectly.

And look! I’m sure y’all know that I am … shall we say … not fond of our President. But I’m not saying this as an anti-Trump person, I am saying that as a person who believes that in our heightened political and partisan environment, a person’s political beliefs say something fundamental about who they are and how they understand and interact with the world. While Marlee Matlin and James Carville continue to be the exception to the rule, I just do not understand how people with wildly divergent political beliefs can sustain a healthy relationship. Just how likely is it that a woman who participated in the Women’s March could happily spend the rest of her life with a man who thinks that feminists are ugly and laughs at the idea of soldiers throwing immigrant children over the border wall?

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But in its primary goal to craft a romantic fairy tale, the show has no real incentive for its participants to be real about real things. The show lives and dies by that old adage that the three things you should never talk about in polite company are religion, politics, and sex.* And the fundamental problem with The Bachelor/Bachelorette is if you really want to get to the core of someone, to really understand their heart, those are the three things you absolutely have to discuss because it will shape the rest of your lives: those three things will determine where you will live, how you will raise children, how you will handle money, how you understand your role in the relationship, how you understand the basic concept of the relationship itself.

And so while it was cute that the show gave them the minivan that Chris Farley drove up in on that first night, complete with the car seat still strapped in, you’ll pardon me if I am skeptical that this particular fairy tale will end with that particular happily ever after.

Say goodbye to the men who have been eliminated:

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Finally, our winner:

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The Bachelorette aired on Mondays on ABC at 7/8 p.m. and will certainly return to ruin my summer next year.

*I wanted to note that there was one amazing exception to this rule during Juan Pablo’s season. Following the Fantasy Suites, Andi felt that Juan Pablo didn’t really demonstrate any interest in getting to know her as a person, and she challenged him to tell her what religion she was. He was unable to, and she left the show. Although she went on to become the Bachelorette (and to disappoint me a bit by not challenging her contestants enough), I always thought this was a fascinating moment when an intelligent contestant managed to pull back the curtain and reveal just how shallow this entire show really is.

4 thoughts on “‘The Bachelorette’ and the politics of happily ever after

  1. I agree with all of this. Also… remember how they took Lee (rightfully) to task about his racist online comments? They let Garrett off the hook extremely easily in comparison. PARTICULARLY given what Blake could have added to this conversation.

    Are you going to do Bachelor in Paradise? Please say yes!

    1. I am! I’ve watched last week’s episode and have my notes, so hopefully I’ll be able to get that written tomorrow and be caught up before this week’s four-hour onslaught.

      And your comparison to Lee is spot-on. Spot. On.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


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