During college, I got into watching ABC’s Bachelor shows, and the fun of critiquing everything wrong with them. It’s one of my bad feminist indulgences, but my friends and I also use it as a vehicle to discuss sexism, racism, and everything else terrible that underlies this famous dating show.
This summer, ABC is going fathoms too far. Bringing Chad Johnson and Josh Murray on their summer fling show, Bachelor in Paradise (BiP), ABC and Bachelor are giving abusive men an enormous audience.
This spring’s Bachelorette Jojo Fletcher kicked Chad off her season for violently threatening other contestants. Bachelorette producers played up Chad’s erratic behavior with funny music behind his scenes (dun dun duuuun) and many interviews where he explained that beating people up was the answer to conflict resolution. Hilarious! On the day he was axed, they’d put him on a hiking date, and given him a knife for cutting down trails. Because all of this was funny. Until Jojo said it wasn’t, and he went home.
[bctt tweet=”It would be highly inappropriate to give Chad more air-time, but ratings!!” username=”wearethetempest”]
Maybe I could’ve handled that. It was gross, but at least we were shown a violent guy being told his behavior was unacceptable. Once he was gone, I could breathe and enjoy Jojo making men learn swing dancing.
But why was he brought back?
Chad was just featured on Bachelor’s summer dating spectacular Bachelor in Paradise, which takes past contestants and throws them together on a beach in Mexico. It’s usually an amusing mess of a show. Chad shows up (dun dun duuuun) and immediately forms a connection with Lace Morris, and the two drink a lot and get out of control quickly — they insult each other, hit each other “playfully,” and follow each other around yelling. When Lace tells him she’s had enough, Chad can’t stop. He begins verbally abusing his castmates, gets physically aggressive with a few of the guys, and then finally passes out.
The next morning, Chris Harrison, the host, shows up like a white knight, and explains that Chad was given a chance to “redeem” himself, failed, and now he needed to go. Chad throws a tantrum, swearing and breaking things, but makes his exit. And again, I felt relieved, assuming that really had to be the end.
[bctt tweet=”It’s one of my bad feminist indulgences.” username=”wearethetempest”]
A recent article in The Atlantic highlights that it was good that Chad was sent home, that the show’s treatment of Chad’s “antics” was “powerful.” But a powerful stance on abuse, or even just a bare-minimum stance, would not include having the abuser back and back again on their programs. Is ABC’s policy really ratings above all else? Above physical and emotional safety? Above condoning violence and abuse?
One episode later, the awkward, strange show After Paradise premiered. This is when ABC has the contestants come on a talk show and reflect on the latest episode. It would be highly inappropriate to give Chad more air-time, but ratings!! The hosts for this season of After Paradise are Michelle Collins and Sean Lowe, a previous Bachelor, and they immediately announce, laughing giddily, that Chad will be joining them. Michelle says she wants to be afraid of him because that “does it” for her, and Sean says he “can’t wait to meet him!”
[bctt tweet=”Is ABC’s policy really ratings above all else? Above physical and emotional safety?” username=”wearethetempest”]
Throughout the episode of After Paradise, various contestants are asked to talk about Chad’s behavior. First, Jubilee Sharpe, who throughout the episode is a voice of reason. At first she replies, “Who’s Chad? He’s old news.” When pressed, she calmly explains that Chad’s behavior “wasn’t very funny at all.” She tries to shut down the Chad discussion, and that’s smart: it feels like ABC is trying to talk about Chad more to make more jokes, to normalize him, to justify keeping him around.
Then Lace comes on, and says she doesn’t think Chad should ever be on a Bachelor show again (and here she is, sitting across from him on another Bachelor show). Chad responds by saying that Lace egged him on, and he wouldn’t have done the “pushing and shoving” thing if she hadn’t liked it. When Lace told him stop, that should’ve been an indicator to him that she didn’t like it.
Lastly, Sarah Herron comes on the show, the woman who Chad called a “one-armed bitch” and told to “suck a dick.” Chad offers an apology full of “buts,” and when Sarah tries to point out that he could’ve apologized in person before this, the After Paradise hosts cut in, and tell her not to ruin a beautiful moment.
After Chad’s exit, BiP brings back former contestant Josh Murray to fill his place. Josh is muscular and “charming,” and aggressively goes after Amanda Stanton. Unfortunately for Josh, his ex-fiancee, Andi Dorfman, former Bachelorette, released a book in May (“It’s Not Okay”) which chronicles her time with the franchise and shares the details of her “fucked up” relationship with Josh. He’s described as emotionally abusive, manipulative, controlling, and threatening.
A few contestants confront Josh about this book, which came out just a few weeks before BiP season 3 started filming. His rebuttal is that she made it all up, it’s a fictitious account. One contestant, Evan Bass, actually nails him on this, and asks Josh, if this is all made-up, why he hasn’t sued Andi for libel. Josh has no real answer.
[bctt tweet=”He’s described as emotionally abusive, manipulative, controlling, and threatening.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Writer Ella Dawson recently posted an open letter to the Bachelor in Paradise producers, imploring them to step it up:
“Do better for the millions of viewers whose trust you have earned over decades of broadcasts. Do better for the women who are sick of defending our choice to watch as you degrade and endanger your casts. Do better for the survivors of domestic violence and for the future victims who you are turning your back on.”
Watching Chad and Josh on screen makes my stomach churn, but it’s not just them that’s making me sick. ABC is choosing to give these abusive men an audience, over and over. But they’re all about dramatic television, and to them, violent behavior makes great drama. All Bachelor shows end each episode with a cliffhanger: can you even imagine what might happen next?
At this point, the only thing I can’t imagine is ABC taking responsibility for their terrible choices and kicking these guys off for good. Breaking news — you’ll be able to catch Chad this fall on the new spinoff ABC/Freeform show, Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?