Despite how I constantly point out the puppeteer strings on this show, I do try to give producers and production the benefit of the doubt. I know they’re high quality, charismatic people who have a job to do, a job that is ever-evolving, increasingly challenging and cannot be done on autopilot. Sure, there is a distinct formula to each season and episode, but this show always needs a new pull. How many times have friends of ours (or we ourselves?) said they’re quitting, they’re not watching anymore, only to be pulled back in by something. Whether that something is the first Black Bachelorette or an edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger, they always have to one-up themselves, and for the most part they always succeed.
So, while I genuinely like many of the producers, I have a hard time believing Lee‘s presence on this show is a complete accident. If you’re the sort of involved and informed viewer who even reads these recaps, by now you have surely heard about the uncovering of his two years’ worth of offensive tweets, and Chris Harrison’s subsequent denial that production knew about them. And let me just reiterate that the casting process for this show is intense. The second round, long before you become one of the chosen few to be flown to L.A. to meet producers, is a massive, 30-page background check. I remember filling it out in my apartment in Germany and ticking boxes saying, no, I’d never done porn, and no, I’d never been arrested. I remember scratching my head trying to remember every past address, and which friend I’d entrust to be my high school reference. This stuck out to me as I was 28 at the time and had been out of high school for a decade, and I told almost no one that I was doing this since the odds of making the show at that point were still so low. In that final round in L.A., the questions you’re asked is in the ballpark of many hundreds, mostly in writing, but also in person by producers, the show’s psychiatrist, its doctor and a background check guy. My point is, the process is nothing short of exceedingly thorough, and combing through one’s social media is now a basic step in dating, hiring and yes, reality-TV casting. Even if, when he met producers, he was an Academy Award-deserving actor (which, based on what I’ve seen of him on the show, he isn’t), there is a zero percent chance they didn’t have at least an inkling of Lee’s disturbing points of the view.
While I get the appeal of such guaranteed drama in the form of a white, sexist, racist country singer living in a house full of black men, vying for the affections of a black woman, it makes me ill. It taints something groundbreaking and momentous that goes beyond reality television, and feels very two-steps-forward-one-step-back. And frankly, many of these guys’ personalities are so big, I have no doubt I’d be entertained nonetheless and that drama would unfold naturally by basic personality clashing. (Sad how that concept sounds so innocent now.) Worst of all, it’s not like Lee’s opinions are only his. The show has gotten flak for years for underrepresenting minorities, but trust me, it’s not production. The producers I’ve known are as openminded and forward-thinking as anyone. It’s that a substantial chunk of this franchise’s core viewership isn’t like that. They’ve finally made such a wonderful leap forward, yet infected it with a cancerous contestant who, right now especially, we know is not alone in his backwards beliefs. And even if they’re painting him badly, which they are and should be, they’re still putting him on our screens and giving him airtime with many millions of Americans, some of whom might actually agree with and support him. He doesn’t deserve to receive that, and they don’t deserve to see someone they relate to. Get him off my television.
Rant over. My Top 4 based on this episode are…
1. Peter, 31: It’s tough doing much in the frontrunner territory as the only development this week was with Dean. That said, we all remember Peter’s 1-on-1 from two weeks ago and how smitten she was. This week she said the flow with Peter felt organic and that he always surprises her. Their time together is always shown.
2. Bryan, 37: Again, not much development. However, Rachel called Bryan a “breath of fresh air” during the Rose Ceremony cocktail-party-from-hell, which is a pretty big compliment considering she really seemed to be at her wit’s end. I do think Bryan has massive frontrunner potential but I still need to see that 1-on-1…
3. Dean, 26: There’s nothing not to like about Dean. I love that, despite being uninvolved in the drama (which adds to his credibility), he condemned Lee for his behavior, both in a casual conversation with Brady and in an ITM. With Rachel he just seems really go-with-the-flow and they’ve got great chemistry (and kisses!). As I’ve said before, I’m still hesitant about his being “ready,” but he did nip that concern in the bud by saying his family life made him really eager to start his own. He also seems very mature for his age (he sure is more mature seeming than some of the other men there). Rachel is very into Dean—she kept saying she had a high bar set for him and he still managed to surpass her expectations—so it’s hard to imagine him not going very far.
4. Eric, 29: Despite the drama, Rachel always (rightfully, in my opinion) gives Eric the benefit of the doubt. She seems more herself (as opposed to merely polite) with him, is much more touchy-feely with him than most, and genuinely cares about how he’s doing. There’s a rapport here that I think I underestimated early on, but the jury’s still out whether it’s romantic or more platonic. I do hope Eric gets a 1-on-1 and we see that fleshed out.