I’ve just come from a taping of Us Weekly’s The Bachelor Breakdown, where Michael G and I recapped last night’s Women Tell All with Us Weekly’s Christina Garibaldi and Jamie Blynn. The reviews were a little mixed; some of us thought it was a great WTA, some thought it was a bit of a snoozefest. If you’ve been reading my recaps for long, you know I’m a diehard WTA (and MTA!) fan, so just by virtue of last night’s episode being standard WTA fare, I was into it.
One thing I’d like to point out is the constantly shifting landscape of what being on reality television means. There was once a time where, when the women from early in the season who had gotten little airtime suddenly spoke up a lot at WTA, it could be summed up to them simply wanting a little limelight. Producers always rile the ladies up before filming WTA, so those harbouring grudges and wanting airtime have always been willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty.
Nowadays, however, there are two major factors which change everything. The first is obviously social media. The ability to build your “brand” and make money based on your following is powerful, but only as powerful as your airtime will allow. The second is Bachelor in Paradise, which can potentially provide that valuable airtime, which in turn (you guessed it), results in a greater following. Yes, there was once my long-lost love, Bachelor Pad, but even with that $250K cash prize, without social media—in 2010, Instagram had yet to go mainstream and it wasn’t possible to make six figures through endorsements and sponsorships—it was never nearly as enticing an option as Bachelor in Paradise is for many today.
Sure, it’s entirely possible that some of the ladies from this season are genuinely interested in “finding love” in Paradise. But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: once you’re in the Bachelor family, it’s not exactly difficult to meet other family members and test the dating waters. If you really wanted to meet that tall, dark, handsome guy from three seasons ago, you probably could. Women Tell All is an audition of sorts. Producers promise girls a spot on Paradise if they “perform” and show their ability to wreak drama. Long story short: some of those ladies you saw acting up last night or fighting battles that weren’t theirs to be fought… let’s just say you might see them this summer.
In keeping with my tradition of singling out my top three most memorable moments:
3. Quiet Caila
Caila was a class act. She never butted into other battles, played victim, nor did she attack—or defend—anyone. But she was also very quiet, and there was a somberness to her all night that perturbed me. In her hot-seat time there was definitely an emphasis on how in love she had been, how Ben had made her feel understood and how she’d never felt that way before. I get feeling heartbroken. I do. But from Caila in particular—who was so sunny throughout the season and sort of marched to the beat of her own drum—I would have liked to have seen her more moved on. After all, Ben dumped her on national television; what they shared couldn’t really have been what she thought it was at the time. There have been several months since it all filmed, and her perspective on their relationship had to have changed as she watched everything back.
I suppose what I don’t get is the mourning of a love that was never reciprocated, especially a love that was most likely circumstantial at best. What she did or didn’t do didn’t have any bearing on whether or not Ben was going to pick her. In a sense, their relationship was a mirage—something that existed only in that bubble and is therefore dubious. It’s not, nor was it ever what she thought it was, and therefore not worth spending more precious time grieving over. Of course, part of me thinks last night was meant to paint her as a sympathetic, relatable character, ultimately priming her for Bachelorette. But, and maybe my inner feminist is showing, under these unique circumstances, a tougher, “screw that” attitude would have resonated with me better. I would have preferred to see a less wounded Caila and instead more proud, “over it” Caila who had dusted herself off, emerged more resilient, and not lost a wink of sleep over the whole thing.
2. Villain or Victim?
I’m the first to admit that it’s hard for me to talk about Olivia without any bias whatsoever. I’ve been in touch with Olivia throughout the season and we met this past weekend. Part of me wasn’t sure what to expect based on her edit, but honestly, I really adore her. She’s goofy and full of self-effacing humour, something you’d never expect from a girl as beautiful as she is. That said, I didn’t live with her for a month and a half, cut off from the outside world. As I said in today’s Us Weekly Breakdown, the process brings out everyone’s worst self. Your jealous, insecure, moody, bitchy, cliquey sides all thrive in that world, certainly not the traits of which you are most proud.
So, while I can’t speak for the sides of Olivia that came out during filming, I can comment on how she behaved last night—in the present—having watched herself on television. She wasn’t obnoxious or bitchy, traits the other ladies accused her of possessing while on the show. She took responsibility for the fact that where there’s smoke, there’s usually some sort of fire, and never blamed her edit on, well, her edit. She took the time to sincerely apologize to Amanda for her disparaging ITM remark about running away from someone with kids. Best of all, she made it about something bigger. All those comments picking apart her body and her breath—how is that not bullying the very person claimed to be a bully? Two wrongs don’t make a right, and while I’m not excusing Olivia of her controversial behavior while filming, there sure was some hypocrisy in the twins’ arguments towards her. Overall, she’s dealt with a lot of crap in the last two months, both in person and online, but came out impressively strong, addressing everything in a matter-of-fact but sincere way.
With all that said, I think Olivia truly nailed Women Tell All. She utilized it for what it should be used for: not an audition, but a tool for redemption.
1. The Race to Talk Race
I sometimes find Women Tell All can get a little Jerry Springer-esque and I rarely get worked up about things when watching on my sofa at home. Last night’s argument with Jubilee about race, however, got me pretty fired up. Prepare yourself for a rant…
I am a mixed race person. I am half Asian and throughout my 31 years have learned that I appear Asian enough to be dubbed “Asian.’ I had a bit of an identity crisis in high school when a friend jokingly labeled me the “token Asian friend” as, up until that point, I truly hadn’t considered what ethnicity I looked like. When I visited Japan, my sister and I were regularly stared at for looking half-white. But here’s the thing: If I were to hang out with (or, for the sake of this argument, live in the Bachelor mansion with) a 100 percent Asian woman, I would NEVER take issue with her jokingly calling herself “the real Asian girl” or calling me “not Asian enough.” Frankly, I would laugh and find it pretty funny. Why? Because it’s true—I am indeed not full Asian, nor do I look it—and race is such a tender topic in this franchise, I’d be thrilled to talk about it at all. In fact, Danielle Ronco from my season is half black, and we bonded over and joked about how this show is so “white” that we sufficed as the token “ethnic” contestants. I know this can be a sensitive subject for some, but I’m very relaxed about race and have always been. After all, as I mentioned two weeks ago, my parents got stares back in the ’70s when they dated. My own (full Asian) cousin once told me he would “never date a white girl.” How could I not be relaxed about race?
It’s for that reason that I don’t buy Jami taking offense to Jubilee defining “full black” as being different from “half black.” What could possibly be offensive about that? It’s not insensitive or an insult. It’s just fact. If you’re half black, you’re half black. I’m half Asian, and when people ask me what I “am,” I tell them as much. They’re not asking me to to confirm whether or not I’m “mixed race;” they’re simply asking my ethnicity. I’m not obliged to answer if I don’t want to, but frankly, usually when people ask it’s just because they’re curious and complimentary. I imagine Jami is asked her ethnicity all the time—she’s gorgeous and obviously racially ambiguous. Hell, if outside of this franchise I had met Jami as a stranger on the street, I might have asked her what her ethnicity is. Would that question offend her? I don’t buy it. Again, I must stress that I’m very easygoing on the subject and I am aware not everyone feels the way I do. But I still have a hard time believing Jami, whose parents were evidently ahead of their time in defying what “normal” couples look like, is that sensitive about it, as I imagine it had to have been a commonplace topic growing up. Methinks Jami’s angling for a slot on Paradise this summer.
My only complaint with Jubilee is that she didn’t immediately just own up to her comments. Sure, she kept the peace by apologizing to Jami (and Amber, whose hilarious, “I’m the other biracial person! She’s talking about me!” made me laugh). But in my eyes, the apology should have been solely for hurting their feelings, not differentiating herself as full black versus their being half black. As Ben said in an ITM about Jubilee, “She’s willing to talk about the stuff in life most people aren’t willing to talk about.” I believe race is one of those things. Race isn’t some elephant in the room to be tiptoed around. And for the record, Ben didn’t get offended when she called him “white boy.”
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