The Bachelor: When a “character” goes too far…

If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re well aware of my…erm….dedication…to the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. I am an active member of BachelorNation, and I voraciously live-tweet the show as I watch it (which usually isn’t on the day it airs; I often watch it Tuesdays on Hulu).

I watched the Women Tell All (WTA) episode this week, and it was intriguing, entertaining, and frustrating all at the same time. Sharleen Joynt’s recap in Flare Magazine captured most of my thoughts on the episode and has a great segment on Corinne v. Taylor, so I want to spend a little time further unpacking my thoughts on this whole fascination with Corinne, and the whole Corinne v. Taylor drama.

So, I actually have been warming up to Corinne in recent episodes, and I do find her incredibly entertaining. Her ITM comments, for the most part, are quite funny (when they’re not straight up mean). She has some sweet moments with the other women in the house, and I think that after a while, she did get close and form friendships with some of the other women. She was definitely, at times, all of us–either when eating comfort food in the hotel suite, or complaining about being bloated, needing champagne, and not wanting to participate in cleaning up cow poop (seriously, in what universe is that a fun date??). Honestly, had Corinne actually displayed some empathy towards Taylor during WTA, that would have really brought Corinne’s story full-circle. Audiences love stories of redemption and personal growth (I mean, that’s basically Nick’s story arc on Bachelor in Paradise, and it won him the Bachelor gig), and for Corinne to go from villain to someone who still retains her personality but has matured some since filming…that is even better television. That’s a story that sticks. And most of all, it takes Corinne’s persona from that of some kind of reality TV caricature to actual human being with a personality and full spectrum of emotions.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what played out, and I am honestly disappointed in the show producers for portraying Corinne v. Taylor in the way that they did. I can see how some people may find Taylor and/or her comments as condescending, but I honestly did not see it that way. I found Taylor quite well-spoken and mature during her time on the Bachelor, save for a few instances that I’m sure she regrets (she did, actually, apologize for those moments during WTA). During WTA, Taylor chose her words thoughtfully in order to say exactly why she was bothered and exactly why she was hurt and affected by this entire experience.

In my experience, I find that when people say someone sounds “pretentious” or “condescending,” said person just speaks eloquently or sounds “scholarly.” And I get it–there’s definitely a connotation of people who use big words just for the sake of sounding “smart” or who over-explain things as though the listener is dumb. (I myself have been on the receiving end of this assumption.) But it’s important to know the difference between being pretentious and just being well-spoken. And being well-spoken isn’t a bad thing. It really does bother me that mainstream culture seems to favor personalities like Corinne’s over personalities like Taylor’s. It reminded me a bit of the 2014 awards season, where J.Law and Anne Hathaway were sort of pitted against each other, and people loved J.Law’s “realness” and hated Anne Hathaway’s eloquence and “put-togetherness”, saying that it was fake or pretentious. Why does mainstream culture hate on people who obviously show care in the way they communicate and the way they carry themselves? Why doesn’t mainstream culture equally value those personalities? The producers, and a good portion of the WTA audience, sided with a woman who, on the show, was immature, was a bully, was manipulative, who regularly got wasted, and who acted as though her actions bore no consequences–over a woman who was younger than her, yet was mature beyond her years, well-spoken, calm, and empathetic. This is kind of disturbing. We can all recognize Corinne for her entertainment value, but in the context of her feud with Taylor, it should have been so obvious who was in the wrong, that it’s sad that this is a thing that needs to be discussed.

I don’t think it’s bad for us to recognize and acknowledge that Corinne is a great television character and did add a lot of funny moments to this season of The Bachelor. But I don’t think it’s ok for audiences and producers to encourage the parts of Corinne’s personality that are just mean or manipulative. By laughing off those comments or actions, we’re allowing those comments and actions to continue to happen because there are no real consequences. And I find this to be a problem because it shows a deeper issue within mainstream culture, which pervades so many aspects of people’s lives. We can laugh with Corinne’s character on television, but we can’t glorify the parts of her personality that aren’t good. And, we do need to stop portraying people who are well-spoken or introspective as people who just aren’t cool enough or people who are pretentious. As someone who has more in common, in terms of personality, with Taylor than with Corinne, it was hard to watch Taylor doing a great job of articulating her feelings, but being met with Corinne (and several other women) dismissing all of that, twisting her words, and making Taylor question herself. We should recognize that these more docile personality traits aren’t “pretentious.” There’s nothing wrong with caring about how you come across and caring about how you word your thoughts and caring about what people think of you. Trust me, even those people who are “real” and “refreshing” are simply crafting a character that you are buying into, hook, line, and sinker. We all secretly do care about our image. We all do care about how we come across–because it’s important. So let’s stop hating on the people who are honest about it.

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