I am starting to feel bad for Rachel. She may not be the most woke (“Ellen is my spirit animal” much?) or have the best friends— if you can call former castmates ‘friends’—but she does deserve better than some of the childish options she is being presented with.
It’s a reality TV show so ridiculousness is central to the premise. Which is why a random woman in a bar shouting “show us your butt” at a mud-wrestling event seems, well, normal. Of course, it’s contrived but in the direction of fun— though what mud-wrestling has to do with marriage, I cannot say. Each preposterous scene seems designed to reveal how shameless each man is willing to be in the service of more time with Rachel.
And though this is a television show, some aspects are not that far off from reality. The main difference between dirty dancing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and asking someone to match your Halloween costume is that one is cheaper and easier to do. A certain amount of dating involves seeing what sorts of embarrassing nonsense your partner (prospective, part-time, sexual) is willing to do.
But these guys aren’t just willing to be shameless, they’re also childish. Luckily, Rachel dispensed the least potty-trained of the toddlers early on. DeMario’s cliffhanger return was dispatched with right quick. And in the ensuing rose ceremony, she got rid of Blake and Whaboom (a.k.a. Lucas), the Joan Crawford and Bette Davis of male feuds. They took their Ls with grace, by which I mean, the grace to continue their fight in front of cameras while exiting.
Rachel was then presented with yet another child in Fred, who she literally met when he was a child. Now, for Rachel, his infantile behaviour was framed in the fact that she couldn’t see past her vision of him as a kid from summer camp, where she was his counsellor. That only got worse when Fred asked for permission to kiss her. Those are both valid reasons, but she’s missing one key thing: he only felt a sudden need to kiss her after finding out that other men had. Only children need for others not to touch their toys.
But she got rid of Fred. Phew.
OH BUT WAIT THERE ARE MORE.
Eric is in the house popping off and everyone else is feeling their feelings about Eric. They are also sharing said feelings with Rachel as if their intra-man beef is any of her business or concern. Why are grown men spending their time talking about other grown men?
In a way, it’s nice to see men—large, buff ones too—being as petty and trifling as we’ve been conditioned to see women on television being. We’re used to tense brunches on the Real Housewives franchise and sniping phone calls on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But male-centric reality TV shows aren’t known for this kind of internecine drama without actual physical fights. It’s in the essence of what they do on shows like The Ultimate Fighter and Ice Road Truckers, but the gossip and feuding is dressed up in masculinity.
On The Bachelorette, the men are catty and gossipy—and I am living for it. Rachel, however, should not have to. She seems earnest in her determination to find a grown man. It’s unfair to her that the show doesn’t seem to feel that meaningful interactions with adult men would be entertaining.
Just because Rachel wants men without shame doesn’t mean she wants children throwing tantrums.