No, really. Executives of the long-running franchise couldn’t appear more pleased that their latest gimmick has been deemed extremely controversial. After all, that means people are talking about it. And a dating show in its 30th season needs all the buzz it can get.
In case you missed it, instead of one woman getting her pick of 25 single men who will compete to win her affection, this season has a special plan: Two women (former “Bachelor” contestants Britt Nilsson and Kaitlyn Bristowe) are potential bachelorettes. And the 25 men will vote on which one they would like to compete for this season.
Naturally, the whole “give women power, but only after the men decide who they’re most physically attracted to” idea has repulsed many viewers. That includes former “Bachelor” Sean Lowe, who slammed the twist in an angry blog post. “This move transfers the power back to the men on the show specifically designed for the women,” Lowe wrote, adding his wife Catherine (whom he met on the show) called the move “disgusting.”
Host Chris Harrison, meanwhile, doesn’t really care.
“I love that some people are upset about it, because obviously we’ve hit a chord and we’ve hit something personal in the people that are upset. It’s probably an issue that you have with yourself or you have with women,” Harrison mansplained on HuffPost Live. “I found that Britt and Kaitlyn empowered each other and they took control of the situation.”
“I think you’ll be very proud of how the women act tonight,” he continued, promising that people would forget all about the “two bachelorettes” thing after the chosen one is revealed and it turns into a normal season. “If you have an issue with it, it’s probably within you.”
Got that? If you thought Monday’s premiere was sexist, you’re clearly the one with issues and you should probably figure that out. In light of that analysis, we present the seven most degrading moments of the episode. (Part two, in which Harrison reveals which bachelorette “won” the vote, airs Tuesday night):
1) Chris Harrison’s explanation about why they decided to go with two women.
“How did this happen? Well, when we were interviewing the men who wanted to come on the show, they were truly divided as to which girl they thought they could fall in love with,” Harrison said. “Since the feelings were so strongly split, it seemed unfair to make that decision for the men. Instead, we thought it would be best to have the men meet both women, and then have them decide whether Britt and Kaitlyn should ultimately become the bachelorette.”
Well, good. We wouldn’t want this to be unfair to the men. “Will this be awkward and probably a bit painful? Sure!” Harrison continued cheerfully. “But hopefully it will lead to a better chance for true love to blossom.” Remember: “The Bachelor” will always tell you it does everything for love. Record-low ratings last season had nothing to do with it.
2) Kaitlyn and Britt’s introductions.
Normally, as the star of the show, the bachelor or bachelorette gets a long, thoughtful introduction in which they discuss their journey for a soulmate. Viewers occasionally meet their family and get to know a little about their background. No time for that this season. Instead, the show just showed a few clips from when Kaitlyn and Britt competed on last season of “The Bachelor.”
Kaitlyn, the Canadian dancer, was deemed “funny, sexy and sometimes completely inappropriate,” as the camera showed that time she stripped off her bikini bottoms and jumped in a lake in front of bachelor Chris Soules. Britt, the California model, was described as “sincere, emotional and very loving,” including clips of her getting dumped by Chris.
3) The fact that Kaitlyn and Britt were obviously told to act excited.
Ever since the twist was announced, Kaitlyn has not seemed… enthused. “It’s just going to be very awkward and uncomfortable being compared to somebody, and guys are supposed to choose,” she said flatly. “That doesn’t sit well with me.” Still, she quickly qualified that with, “I’m so grateful and I appreciate that I’m even here.”
Britt, clearly the better actress with the confidence of someone certain she was going to win, took a different approach.
“That makes it more organic I think. It’s a different way of doing this,” she gushed. “This process works and it’s just adding this little experiment… I think it’s cool.”
4) This quote from Chris Harrison.
“Obviously, you two are here hopeful for love,” Harrison told Kaitlyn and Britt. “But the men will have a little bit of power tonight and a little bit of say in what’s going to happen.”
Translation: The men will actually decide everything that’s going to happen. But let’s downplay it to not seem as gross.
5) Making it immediately all about looks.
There were many ways to edit the first sequence where the guys get out of the limo to greet Kaitlyn and Britt, standing a few feet apart. The producers decided to go with a first scene that saw every single man practically speechless when they caught sight of Britt, the model, and barely paid Kaitlyn any attention.
“That smile!” exclaimed one bachelor named Ben as he fell all over Britt. Later, he confessed his feelings to the camera: “Kaitlyn is extremely confident, but with Britt, I lost my words. If I could be around that smile, I’d be lucky.”
Cue a sequence of Kaitlyn watching as a string of men emerged to just flirt with Britt. “Well, this is awkward,” she remarked as one guy greeted Britt with “Hi, Disney princess.”
“If I see a guy get out of that limo and I’m, like ‘Whoa!’ and he goes over to Britt — I’m a human,” Kaitlyn said. “I’m going to have feelings of ‘Well, hey guys…'”
The camera cut to Kaitlyn looking angry as the parade of Britt admirers continued. “I just hope the guys will give me the chance,” she sighed. “I know that I am worth it.”
Meanwhile, we got a string of soundbites from the guys: “I went to Britt first — she is something special.” “You lose what you’re about to say cause she’s so good looking.” “I would rather have competition with you for Britt than Kaitlyn.” “First impression? I have to say Britt.”
6) When the tables turn.
“Now that I’m here at the mansion, I feel like I’m the bachelorette and there are men driving here to talk to me,” Britt exclaimed. “I almost feel bad being so excited because Kaitlyn is so nervous — she doesn’t seem quite herself right now.”
Of course, then the producers started showing viewers all the guys who were there just for Kaitlyn: Britt wasn’t pleased when some arrived with specialized presents just for her. Britt also initally liked a guy named Tony who offered the following opening line: “I’ve been waiting for this moment for awhile. I believe in love, the real kind of love and hope that the universe provides.”
Britt beamed… until Tony walked over and delivered the exact same speech, verbatim, to Kaitlyn.
7) The voting booth/extreme objectification.
As if the whole procedure couldn’t get more objectifying, the men literally cast ballots for which woman they preferred. They entered a creepy, darkened room with candles and pictures of Britt and Kaitlyn on the wall, and put a rose in a wooden box assigned to each bachelorette.
“The voting booth is open,” Chris Harrison announced solemnly.
This sparked lots of debate about which candidate to vote for. “Britt is more of your trophy wife. Kaitlyn is more of your wife,” one guy theorized.
Britt and Kaitlyn were understandably weirded out. “My future is kind of in all of your hands, which is a little bit unsettling,” Britt remarked.
Kaitlyn agreed that this twist meant that this time, she was the one desperately grasping for control when usually the star of the show has all the power. “It feels like a total mad scramble where I’m trying to get my time with the guys,” she said. “Usually, it’s them trying to get time with the girl.”
Britt echoed this: “I almost feel like I have to go and in 30 seconds prove myself as wife material,” she admitted. “It’s very bizarre.”
Yet, Chris Harrison is sticking with the whole “empowerment” theme. Naturally, the show left on a cliffhanger: Either Britt or Kaitlyn will be revealed as the bachelorette on Tuesday’s episode.