The Bachelorette begins again tonight, which means we’re mere hours away from experiencing one of my favorite phenomena in reality television — the fall from grace. We all think we like Andi Dorfman now, but give her a few weeks as the star of the show she used to only feature on, and watch how the tides will go a-changing.
Not because Andi isn’t great, but because we’ve seen this so many times before. We start a season of The Bachelorette or The Bachelor with a beloved underdog from the season before, praised by all and eager to find love. And as the weeks go by, we watch them gradually chip away at their own positive perception until they become the villain themselves, inevitably sending home a crowd favorite and thereby kicking off a whole new cycle. It’s gone down that way years, but you won’t find a better example than Juan Pablo Galavis.
Juan Pablo came to fame as a contestant on Desiree Hartsock‘s season, one who was sent home without ever going on a one-on-one date. And my god, was there an outcry. I should know, I was trumpeting about it as loudly as anyone — how could she do that? oh my god has she seen him? and he’s a single father! Basically, I said a lot of stuff that’s especially embarrassing now that he’s been revealed to be an enormous jackass.
Every time he cut a contestant down or revealed he wasn’t listening or made a flippant comment to one of the final two women, we felt more and more foolish, because it was obvious that we’d been misled. But before you get too far up on your high horse there, I should let you know that it’s gonna happen again. No matter how much you think you like the show’s star at the beginning, you’re gonna end the season being either ‘meh’ or ‘ugh’ about them, and I can tell you why.
There are luxuries you have when you’re just featured on the show that you don’t have when you’re starring on it. When you’re a contestant, you live in a big house of people like you, and there are very few requirements on your time. Unless you’re going on a date that particular day, you’re mostly free to do whatever you want, with no cameras around. You can be yourself at home and save the good stuff for the producers.
But when you’re in Andi’s position or Juan Pablo’s or Desirees, you’re in every shot. No one ever goes on a date without you, so you don’t have that crucial off-camera down time. And even when you do have a moment to yourself, it’s in isolation from everyone but the producers, whose brains are deeply immersed in the show and want to squeeze as much drama out of you as possible. Which isn’t hard to do when you’re dating twenty-plus strangers.
It’s also important to remember that we see the show in a much more extended version than it’s filmed. Footage that takes days to film is split into episodes a full week apart. So when we feel like we’ve ‘known’ a contestant for weeks or months, that probably only measures out to an hour and a half or so of film. It’s way easier to be ‘on’ and self-aware-seeming for fifteen vignettes than it is for fifteen episodes, but we tend to give both situations the same weight, which is not a great way to judge character traits.
It’s possible (and even probable) for a cast member to come off as quiet, confident, sweet, and sensitive when they’re competing, only to have those traits be revealed as dull, aggressive, simple, and overdramatic when they get their chance in the spotlight as a the show’s star. It happened with Jason Resnick, it happened with Desiree, it happened with DeAnna Pappas, it happened with Jake Pavelka, it happened with Sean Lowe...it happens with everyone.
Even if you do end up still liking the person, which is how I felt about Jillian Harris in season five, I was disappointed in her for choosing Ed Swiderski, someone I didn’t think was a good match. Essentially, I blamed Jillian for not having the objective perspective that I did, as a result of watching the show, and I have a feeling we’re all guilty of that. In short, it’s a lot of scrutiny to be under, and a highly stressful situation before you even factor the romance aspect into it. Once that becomes a part of it as well, it’s so we really shouldn’t be surprised anymore when people crumble under the pressure and revert back to their non-sparkling selves halfway through the show.
What the show really needs is another Emily Maynard – she’s the total package for them. Her beauty makes her desirable and her daughter makes her relatable, but the most important thing is her acting skills. More so than anyone else I’ve ever seen, Emily was able to be ‘on’ pretty much non-stop. Even when she seemed to ‘slip’, like when she went off on Kalon for referring to her daughter Ricki as ‘baggage’, everything was still perfectly under control. That was her telling us that she was sweet, but she wasn’t stupid, and she wasn’t gonna put up with bullshit for any longer than she needed to in order to keep it good television.
She was essentially thinking and acting like a producer on the show, which is what you have to do if you want to leave with your reputation and likability intact. So unless Andi turns out to be Emily 2.0, prepare to be over her in three…two…one…
The premiere of The Bachelorette airs tonight at 9:00 EST on ABC.