Monday, January 25, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 3

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The Winner's Edit

When Episode 3 began I thought I would end up focusing this week’s column on Lauren B., because there was such clear chemistry between her and Ben on their one-on-one date, and because she definitely seemed to be getting the Winner’s Edit here. If you’re new to “reality” television, Winner’s Edit refers to the way certain characters get more camera time and/or are only shown in a positive light, rather than exhibiting more complicated or potentially negative personality traits. So, for example, in Episode 2 we saw Ben sit down with Lauren B. at a cocktail party and give her a photo of the two of them as a small sign of his affection, whereas later that night, during Bachelor Live, we saw a deleted scene of Jubilee sweetly bestowing a gift on Ben. Winner’s Edit, meet Loser’s Edit. The producers are telling a story, and they cut and keep based on what will help them tell the story they want, maintaining just enough suspense and drama to keep us watching. Lauren B. might not be the winner, but they at least want us to think she might be, for now.

In any case, they had a pretty solid date. Ben seemed truly smitten, right down to the speech he gave after “dinner” (if you can call it that when they don’t eat), before giving Lauren B. the rose. Those little monologues tend to all sound the same, and after making some generic statements most of the men basically always say, “with that said,” a phrase I would be happy never to hear again, before offering the rose. Ben not only skipped that bit of Bachelor Lingo, he seemed to really be speaking from the heart.

(GAG, did I just write that? YES, YES I DID.)

So. Lauren B. is front runner.

Moving on to this week’s group date, can we begin with a collective acknowledgement that The Bachelor finally had an AWESOME group date, but that it was totally lost on all of these women, who knew anything about soccer? They got to hang out with ALEX MORGAN and KELLEY O’HARA and they were more focused on Ben and their cute uniforms. I’m pretty sure they had never even heard of  the World Cup.

Basically, if Ben ever wants to go on another soccer date he needs to take me, obviously. Emily might have been a surprisingly good goalkeeper, but I’m better. Let me save you, Ben -- from yourself, and from a lifetime with someone whose idea of athletics is going to SoulCycle.

Seriously though, I don’t understand what kind of bubble someone lives in to not at least know that goalkeepers can use their hands. Didn’t any of these women have to take a PE class at some point? Or try to date a guy on the soccer team in high school or college, at least, even if they didn’t play themselves? In truth, I think Emily had played before and was just playing it cool -- teehee I’m blond and can’t sportz, also I’m not that smart. What if it turns out she’s actually brilliant and we’re just getting to see the lame moments? The Ditzy Blond Edit?

In sum:. Please, play sports with your daughters so that someday they don’t end up on reality television because they can’t figure out anything more interesting to do with their lives.

As for the evening portion of the date, all I’m going to say about Olivia’s toes and cankles is: even freakishly good looking women are insecure about their bodies. She should probably take a page from Lace’s book, and go home to “work on herself,” before this goes any further.

The biggest topic for the week was Jubilee and her one-on-one date with Ben. Jubilee, right from the time her name was read off that card, became my new favorite. After listening to Olivia be like “YES, OBVIOUSLY Ben adores me and every date card will go to me etc etc etc” there was something lovely about Jubilee’s genuine enthusiasm. She didn’t think she’d get a date, because Ben has thus far chosen the tiny, sweet stereotypical “girly girls” for one-on-ones, and that’s not how she understands herself at all.

As much as possible in such a situation Jubilee seems like she’s being herself. So, when she’s excited she shows it, and when she’s scared she shows that, too. Hence the drama when the helicopter landed, and she jokingly asked if someone else wanted to go on her date. It is so utterly ridiculous that anyone who was in the room when she got her date card could have taken that tiny side comment seriously, and yet what followed makes it clear just how eager these other women are for a reason to tear her up. Never mind that a person who is afraid of heights has every right to say NO to flying in a helicopter, and instead ask Ben to drive her in that hot blue convertible. Nonetheless, we got a foretaste of things to come when the other women launched into enraged monologues about how, “She should be grateful for what she’s been given.”

When a bunch of white women start telling a black women to “be grateful for what she’s been given” that is some textbook racial microaggression right there, not to mention the way that she was repeatedly called “aggressive,” when in fact many of the other women have been far more aggressive. Olivia can go around like she’s owns the place and no one confronts her, but Jubilee cracks a little joke or gives Ben a hard time for being 20 minutes late (I’d have given him a hard time too, as anyone would on a real date) and she’s basically told she should consider herself lucky she’s even allowed to be here.

“Here,” I guess meaning making it past the third episode on a show where few women of color are ever cast, and rarely do they make it beyond the first couple of weeks. The women were making it pretty clear that Jubilee doesn’t belong here in their eyes, and that if she’s not willing to sit down and shut up and play by their rules, there will be consequences. This includes Amber, who’s making a serious effort to prove that she can play the part of nice (white) reality show girl on this, her third Bachelor show, and make it past week three. Who knows whether this is a conscious choice, but it doesn’t have to be to make the point that white femininity is the norm on the show, and that women who don’t perform it properly are punished. The fact that Amber is the one who confronts Jubilee at the cocktail party doesn’t, in my mind, erase the racialized tone of the whole thing -- it cements it. After all, being confrontational isn’t attractive or “polite,” so why not send Amber to do the dirty work, since she already has a rose?

Let’s be clear here: When a white woman (Lauren H.) says, flat out, that Jubilee isn’t right for Ben because, “He wants a woman who will be friends with all the other soccer moms” that is racially coded language. “Soccer moms” means white women. They are saying that this isn’t Jubilee’s world, and that she should go back to where she belongs.

Add to this the fact that, prior to the women confronting Jubilee over nothing, we witness a date with Ben that was both really awkward and gorgeously intense, and the whole hot mess makes for some wild television. That date was arguably the closest to a real date I’ve seen on the show -- both  the awkwardness, and the fact that Jubilee isn’t so much starry eyed as she is really trying to figure out what Ben’s like and what he wants, and whether or not he’s looking for someone like her and could make her happy. Ben also asked serious questions over dinner, and got real answers. Of course the producers love to be able to play up a tragic backstory, but in this case Jubilee didn’t appear to play her story like a trump card in a game. She shared it as herself, whoever that may turn out to be in the end.

When Amber finally “confronted” Jubilee, Ben sat with them, and then made very clear, in front of Amber and the cameras, why he likes Jubilee and why he gave her the rose, and basically shut the whole petty thing down. That was solid. Ben won me over with that, even if that “I’m responsible for the emotions in this house” line revealed a bit too much benevolent masculinity for my tastes. Still, I appreciate that he wanted to intervene and be frank about what the women were saying and what he thought about it, rather than leaving it all to gossip.

If you jump back to “she should be grateful for what she’s been given” conflict, and contrast it with the intensity of Jubilee sharing that her whole family died, the writing is on the wall for some of the other women. Olivia and her worry about her cankles can’t compare to a woman Ben praised for strength, depth, and of course, beauty.

I think Jubilee is going to go far. But I don’t think she’s going to be the one standing next to him in the end. She’s not getting the Winner’s Edit by any stretch -- the awkward moments, the drama, even the tragic backstory, are actually the stuff that in a reality television narrative usually set up a dramatic, heartbreaking exit. And I predict that’s what we’ll get, one way or another, a few weeks from now. Who knows, ABC might even leverage that story arc into the opportunity to cast a woman of color as Bachelorette for the first time, and while I don’t think they’d be doing it for The Right Reasons, it’s about damn time, so I almost hope I’m right.

Then again, when I like a character there’s always a tiny part of me yelling, “Get out! Get out while you still can!”