Monday, February 1, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 4

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Virgins and Sex Panthers

In week four of his tenure as The Bachelor, Ben Higgins started off the week with a one-on-one date with JoJo. The only interesting part of this date was the first 5-10 minutes, that is, everything that happened on the rooftop helipad.

The prevalence of helicopter dates on The Bachelor is one of my least favorite tropes for a few reasons, all of which come down to the fact that I don’t really understand why it’s considered romantic. Extravagant, maybe, but romantic? First of all, you have to wear those headset things, so they can’t really carry on an ordinary conversation. Second of all, at least half the women go on a helicopter date every season. There’s nothing creative or thoughtful about the gesture of a helicopter date when you know Ben goes on one every single week. The bar is set so low for romance on this shows, guys. (So low in fact that the women went crazy when they arrived in Las Vegas, over a sign that was addressed to all of them, and probably wasn’t even Ben’s idea. Romance? Really?)

All of this to say that Helicopter Date Gone Wrong is one of my favorite moments so far this season. Picture it: Ben and JoJo stand on the rooftop and raise a glass of breakfast champagne. JoJo pretends she doesn’t know a helicopter is coming. They smile, they repeat how excited they are to spend the day together, and turn as the sweet sound of their chopper chariot draws near.

And then -- the table with the champagne blows over, into them, unable to withstand the power of the helicopter’s giant propellers. Nothing like a healthy dose of reality with your “reality” television. But oh, it gets better. When your romantic helicopter date gets off to a rough start, there’s not much else to do besides kneel next to a toppled table and make out, obviously. That’s how I like to start my first dates whenever possible, especially if there are a bunch of other women watching from the windows above.

Here we have a revelation. Olivia apparently has never seen an episode of The Bachelor before, and is shocked -- shocked! -- to see Ben kissing another woman. It seems she really believed that she was the only one Ben had been kissing. Now, no one likes to see her boyfriend kissing someone else, so fair enough, but it’s what they signed up for in this case, it’s how the show works. It’s the entire premise of the show, in fact. Man dates and makes out with twenty five women, gradually narrowing it down to three he wants to spend the night with, and then he proposes to one. That is The Bachelor. Olivia’s reaction to this new knowledge was a foretaste of things to come in week four.

In truth, I don’t have much to say about the Talent Show group date. It falls into the category of Dates Designed to Humiliate Women Whose Only Goal is to Get Married -- ergo, for the most part they don’t, apparently, have any “talents” because they’ve been focused on becoming Wife Material -- and it fulfilled its purpose with flying colors. Given the way these women throw around the phrase Wife Material (uhg), I just want to know what in God’s name Olivia was thinking. As much as I dislike the way the show, and these women, characterize what does or doesn’t make a woman someone Ben would consider building a life with, who really thinks popping out of a cake and all that implies screams “Marry me!” to the Nice Guy from Indiana? Olivia is starting to crack.

Moving on to Ben’s one-on-one wedding date with Becca, who wants to know if Ben got ordained online in order to conduct those ceremonies? Some of us spent years in seminary to earn that right, Ben. In any case, it what sort of endearing how awkward yet serious he was about the whole thing. I think Ben really does want to get married at the end of this, and in the framework of the show Becca definitely qualifies as Wife Material (sorry, I gag every time I write that).

The most interesting part of this date was the surprisingly frank conversation they had about sex. I still can’t make up my mind what to even think of it. On one hand, since both of them on previous seasons had to discuss their sexual history, and since Becca’s virginity has been a point dragged out again and again in both positive and negative ways, it makes sense that Ben decided to bring it up himself. He must know the other women in the house are gossiping about it, and that Becca knows he knows, and no doubt wonders if he has an opinion on the matter. It’s in keeping with Ben’s character to try to keep drama to a minimum by discussing things openly.

Now, this could have gone badly in so many ways. The virgin/whore dichotomy plays out on this show over and over again. The women who admit they’ve never had sex are mocked by most people and put on a pedestal by a few, and women who are open about their sexual desire and activity, like Kaitlyn Bristowe last season, are slut shamed ruthlessly. Women can’t win in The Bachelor universe when it comes to sex. They’ve always had too many or not enough partners. And yet, no one called Nick a slut for sleeping with Kaitlyn on The Bachelorette, while Kaitlyn meanwhile was dragged through the mud. The double standard is so obvious I feel cliche even writing about it, and yet it’s prevalent enough that it bears pointing out once again. Here’s the thing: whether these women have slept with no one or many people or somewhere in between is ultimately their own choice. If Becca wants to wait until she’s married, well, good luck to her. And if Kaitlyn needed to test things out before getting engaged, well, that too is her decision as a grown woman.

So, when Ben brought it up I wasn’t sure what to expect. On one level, he made it clear that it isn’t an “issue” for him -- which, I mean, if it was he’d be a super duper a-hole so, good work not being a jerk, Ben? -- but also wanted to know if it bothered her that he has a different sexual history. This is in keeping with Ben’s two-way-street approach, and was weirdly refreshing, even if the way he tried to push a religious narrative onto Becca’s choice felt strange. Becca never said (on camera at least) that her commitment had to do with faith -- in fact, when she talks about it to me it always sounds more like a romantic notion of only being with one man, the person she’ll spend forever with, in a Happily Ever After kind of way. But faith is a factor for Ben, and he wanted her to know that he respects that, but that also -- as a person who shares this vague faith -- he has chosen a different approach to sexuality. (e.g. he might respect Becca, but he also respects Caila the Sex Panther.)

It was a weird exchange, but compared to how badly the show usually handles such things it was surprisingly non-cringeworthy. Plus we got a chance to hear Ben use the phrase “jump their bones” in reference to sex.

The last thing I want to tackle this week is the two-on-one date with Emily and Haley, aka “The Twins.” Ben tells us how dating sisters has been difficult, and then decides to do something that makes it even more difficult: he takes them out together. Ben is playing into the twin trope. The best thing to do if you really want to get to know them as individuals is to treat them as individuals and take them out separately, a fact that Haley points out to him during their one-on-one time. She basically says, “Dude, we’re not the same person.”

“I wish there was a playbook for dating sisters,” Ben sighs.

Here’s the playbook: DON’T DO IT.

Even commentary on Twitter played into the trope ABC was so clearly playing with in having twins on the show, as people made jokes about how they still couldn’t tell them apart, and asked if Ben really even knew who he was sending home. In reality, if you were paying attention, it’s been pretty clear where this was headed. Emily has had way more camera time, and she’s the more outgoing twin, thus her personality is more conducive to the fast paced reality show form of dating than the more reserved Haley. I was 0% surprised he chose to let Haley go this week, and if you didn’t see it coming, well, perhaps you made the mistake of assuming they’re the same person, and that’s on you, dear readers.

The final cocktail party of the week was the typical montage of kissing and checking in with the women, with the notable highlight of Ben reassuring Jubilee, who noted again that she’s “complicated” and not confident in her status on the show, to which Ben responded, “But do you know that that’s a good thing to be?” Swoon. But despite what he says, I’m not sure Ben is as ready for complicated as he thinks he is.

Going into the rose ceremony I know we all hoped Olivia was going to be heading home, especially when she informed us that she “reads a lot of romance novels where everything comes together.” It wasn’t really surprising that she stuck around though. This week was awkward, but most of Olivia’s worst side Ben has yet to see. But next week! Oh, the teasers for next week are so promising. The time has nearly come for us to say goodbye, Olivia.