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‘The Bachelor’ reveals ‘graphic,’ ‘explicit,’ ‘shocking’ messages sent to contestants, begs viewers to stop online cruelty

“The Bachelor: Women Tell All” episode. (Kelsey McNeal/ABC)
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On Monday night, ABC’s “The Bachelor: The Women Tell All” episode took a break from a recap of the season’s drama with a plea aimed at viewers: Please stop sending horrific social media messages to our contestants.

“There is so much passion out there in Bachelor Nation, and it’s not always positive. There’s some negative criticism. I completely understand that,” host Chris Harrison explained. “But unfortunately, there is a line that has been crossed, and so it is time to address that.”

The seven-minute segment was anchored by Rachel Lindsay, the former Bachelorette who now co-hosts the show’s official podcast. Rachel, who made history as the franchise’s first black star, wound up in tears as she read racist and profanity-laced messages that were sent to cast members this season, which she described as “graphic,” “explicit” and “shocking.”

“By not talking about it, I think people feel empowered that they can continue to say certain things to us,” Rachel said. “If we’re ever going to fix this problem, we have to acknowledge the problem.”

The producers projected the messages on a big screen, which were so vulgar that we can’t repeat them in a family newspaper. “I’m shaking as I read this. … I know it’s uncomfortable for you to see,” Rachel told the audience. “Just imagine how uncomfortable it is to get this in your comments and your DMs every day, every week, every month. And you guys, that’s just a tip of the iceberg.”

It’s a common problem with reality TV these days: People sign up for shows thinking they will be able to handle the online hate and brutal comments, but it’s generally much, much worse than they expect.

These reality TV newcomers thought they were ready for fame. Then social media turned vicious.

“I was so afraid to even pick up my phone, because people were saying such nasty things to me,” said Tammy, a house flipper who was the season’s villain and frequently fought with other contestants. She got death threats and said people sent her emails at work pretending they were interested in buying a house — but a paragraph down, would tell her she should kill herself.

Meanwhile, on social media during the episode, multiple viewers called out “The Bachelor” producers’ hypocrisy for featuring a bullying public service announcement minutes after the “Women Tell All” reunion featured the cast members yelling at one another and making comments from “All you do is dance like a buffoon in front of the camera” to “You’re a dermatologist” (said in a condescending tone when one woman offered a medical opinion). Plus, there were flashbacks to the questionable behavior of some of the women themselves, such as when Tammy accused Kelsey of being emotionally unstable with alcoholic tendencies; or the time Sydney asked Alayah, “Do you, like, work at all?”

However, that’s quite different from sending a total stranger an Instagram DM telling them to end their own life, or a variety of other horrible things. Even contestants who weren’t labeled as villains experienced cruelty: “You have to set your DMs to have filters for certain words so you don’t see them,” said Shiann, who was eliminated halfway through the season. “It’s literally that bad to where you have to try to figure out a way to block it out so you don’t see it on a day-to-day.”

The online abuse can be especially dire for women of color, and the “Bachelor” franchise has had a serious lack of diversity over the years. Sydney, who is biracial and grew up in Alabama, became emotional as she talked about the difficulty of seeing hateful comments.

“The things that I’ve had to go through in my life because of the color of my skin and because of where I’m from, I’ve had to be really strong … but when these things are said about you and those wounds from your past are never fully closed, and when people attack you that way, and the way it makes my mother feel — ” she trailed off, in tears. “None of us are perfect, but none of us deserve this,” she added.

Rachel ultimately thanked the women for having the “courage it takes to put yourself out there to tell your story” and reminded them that they are not alone. “These people who hide behind their phones and their computers and these smart devices, they don’t have even a fraction of the guts that you have to stand up here today and face these people,” she said.

With that, the show abruptly switched to a preview of next week’s season finale — “Bachelor” star Peter Weber’s final two are Hannah Ann and Madison, the latter of whom seemed very unsure about accepting a rose after Peter admitted that he had slept with other finalists.

At the beginning of the episode, Peter also finally eliminated Victoria F., who caused much controversy this season, particularly after it was revealed she once appeared in a ‘white lives matter’ ad. But during the two-hour “Women Tell All,” that topic didn’t come up once.


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