Feminists, as well as fans of generally entertaining television, would like to thank Arie Luyendyk Jr. for two more hours of productivity each week. To be frank, his season makes many previously devoted fans cringe, and many of us just can’t watch “The Bachelor” anymore.
This season is unequivocally the most boring season in the franchise’s recent history. The show is heading for a crash with Luyendyk, the newest bachelor, in the driver’s seat. (Get it? Because he’s a race-car driver, which is arguably the only moderately exciting thing about him.)
The biggest problem with Luyendyk isn’t that almost all of what he says is some version of “this process is difficult, but it will be worth it if my wife is in this room.” It’s not that he speaks exclusively in clichés, or that when asked what excites him, he replies with “excitement.” It would have been fine that he is just a mild-mannered, run-of-the-mill 36-year-old — but the operative phrase here is “would have.” As in, it would have been fine before the show gave us Rachel Lindsay as its Bachelorette.
The franchise has taken a step backward with Luyendyk. In the last season, Lindsay brought the show, and the role of Bachelorette, to a new level. She was open-minded but straightforward. She was kind but outspoken. She let viewers in on her decisions to send home certain men, many of whom were crowd favorites. She had no tolerance for immaturity or unnecessary drama between the contenders, and she often left the instigators without a rose for that reason. Despite the stigma, she spoke openly about her struggles with mental health after a difficult break-up.
Most importantly, she handled the immense pressure the franchise put on her as the first black Bachelorette. When it was revealed that one of the contestants had espoused racist and hateful views on Twitter, Lindsay shut him down, later saying it was an “opportunity to to be a spokesperson for African Americans, for women.”
Fresh off the high of watching the genuine, dimensional Lindsay find love, we are now forced to watch her polar opposite, Luyendyk, attempt do the same. He’s the typical Bachelor: a good-looking guy searching for a wife who will uproot her life and follow him around the country for his career.
That’s why when Jacqueline Trumbull, a contestant this season, brought up the fact that she was planning on getting her Ph.D. in chemical psychology, Arie implied that their relationship might not work out.
“I don’t really see her ambitions and dreams as a hindrance,” he told the camera later. “It would just be another obstacle that we have to get through together.” She still got a rose — this time.
Feminist viewers never used to watch “The Bachelor,” wine in hand, our Twitter apps open, every Monday night to see real people find real love. We never expected to see mental health discussed with nuance or microaggressions called out. In fact, for many, the show was happily hate-watched. We expected to be disappointed with outdated ideas about gender roles and a woman’s place in a marriage. But then came Lindsay, and for the first time, we stopped hate-watching and we just watched, cheering her on the entire time.
In a post-Lindsay world, it’s tough to justify spending two hours watching Luyendyk fumble every opportunity to show he’s anything more than a pretty face with antiquated ideas. Why did the show regress instead of feeding off of Lindsay’s season? Simply put: ratings.
The show’s creator, Mike Fleiss, said Lindsay’s season saw a ratings drop that was “incredibly disturbing in a Trumpish kind of way.” That is as if to say that a strong-minded, feminist black woman was not appealing to the franchise’s usual audience. If that is the case, Fleiss’s choice of Luyendyk was one that ran from the problem to appease viewers who tuned out for Lindsay’s season.
Of course, “The Bachelor” is a business, and ratings are a measure of its success. But after 22 seasons on air, it’s acquired a cult following, and it has the power to showcase diverse people who stand up for what is right. Until the show starts using that power for the right reasons, it will not receive my final rose.
Carly Breit is a UF journalism senior. Her column focuses on feminism.