If you're not in the mood to read all the reasons (it's Friday, after all), let me just answer my own question upfront:
Yes. Yes, I believe that this is the worst season of The Bachelorette
(or The Bachelor!)
And from all the comments, water cooler talk and actual conversations I've seen since Ashley Hebert started her Bachelorette
adventure six weeks ago, I get the strong sense that I'm not alone.
"Ashley is so annoying!" seems to be the most common complaint. Just last night, a friend who knows that I blog about the show wrote on my Facebook wall that "this Bachelorette has to be the most desperate of them all ... and
that is saying something."
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My friend is right: that is
saying something. Because most of us understand that part of The Bachelor(ette)
's appeal lies in the unappealing qualities of the people on the show. We love it because we loathe them. Typically, the more _____ ("desperate," or substitute any character flaw) a Bachelor
, the better the season is going to be, because it means more drama, more fighting, more crying. More over-the-top, Soup
moments, basically. Who wants a reality star without any delusions,
problems or emotional hot buttons? Who wants to watch a completely
stable, secure person go on a bunch of first dates on TV? That would be
dull. That would be a little too real for reality TV.
But, as is happening this season on The Bachelorette
someone who's so
insecure and so
desperate is worse than
dull -- it's infuriating, annoying, and, as we've seen at excruciating length, a recipe for an unbalanced show in every possible regard.
The irony is that of all the Bachelorettes, Ashley has a lot going for her. She's beautiful, impossibly thin and a soon-to-be doctor.
She's sweet (too sweet, probably), intelligent and driven. But she's not strong. Not nearly as strong as she should be, as a woman with so much to offer. From the first minute, she's acted more like a contestant than the star of the show, fixating on every reason the men might not like her (even before the Bentley blow-up) and expressing self-doubt and weakness at every turn. I wish I'd kept count of every time she's said "I don't know" or cried
because she was sad, overwhelmed or hurt by something going on inside her own head
I'd guess we've hit the hundreds by now.
Ashley is the one who's supposed to be in charge, handing out and
withholding roses at will, and yet she's paralyzed by her own fear of
rejection. She's insecure because she thinks the men wanted Emily. She's insecure because she thinks they'll leave her, so they leave her because she's insecure. It's like riding a bus with a driver who refuses to take the wheel. A crash was bound to
happen. That crash just happened to be named Bentley Williams.
Part of the reason this Bachelorette
season is so infuriating isn't because Bentley is the worst villain in the show's history, but because Ashley is the worst-equipped Bachelorette to handle his, for lack of a better word, bullsh*t. Bentley isn't the first to be more invested in the "game" than the woman. Nor is he the first to cop-out, name an excuse and leave the show before the Bachelorette was done with him. But he is
the first to turn a three-week stint on the show into a season-long presence, so thoroughly was he able to mess with our fragile Bachelorette's psyche just with a couple dishonest sweet-nothings in her ear. He is the show's first absent villain -- all the more infuriating because he's not even there for us to yell at -- because Ashley
can't let him go.
Jillian and Ali (both strong, both spunky, both of whom I loved as Bachelorette
) dealt with much worse as Bachelorettes. Wes Hayden and Justin Rego stayed longer, told more lies and had girlfriends back home. Sure, Jill and Ali kept those guys around longer than they should have, but neither woman crumbled after his betrayal was exposed. (Remember when Ali told "Rated R" to "stay and talk like a man" when he ran away? I can't imagine Ashley saying something so self-respectful, can you?) And I'd like to think that neither Jill nor Ali would have put up with Bentley's detached, smug, all-too-obvious crap to begin with. Especially if they'd been warned about him before he even arrived. Especially if even Chris Harrison
was telling them to cut him loose. The only reason I can think of that Ashley would ignore so many obvious red flags is that, deep down, she doesn't think she deserves any better than Bentley. And if she doesn't think so, why should we?
All this focus on Ashley's emotional problems and Bentley's ability to exploit them means the one thing that might have saved this season -- the personalities of the other 24 people on this show -- have been almost completely eclipsed. In the beginning, Drunk Tim, Jeff the Mask and William the "Ding Dong" were entertaining distractions. But now we're down to Ashley's final six, and I still get Ben F. and Constantine confused. Not just because they look almost identical, but because we know almost nothing about them.
We've seen 12 hours of footage (that's like 6 movies' worth!) and every guy, besides JP, is still two-dimensional. Ames is rich and thoughtful. Ryan is enthusiastic and possibly psychotic. Ben and Constantine are relaxed. Lucas is a big, Southern lug. I'm no more attached to any of them than I was in the first episode, because I've never been given the opportunity to get to know them. This is the point in the season when the silly drama and antics should give way to the real emotional turmoil of picking out a potential husband, yet it feels like, seven weeks in, Ashley is still going on first dates with relative strangers.
(It occurs to me now that I might be so upset because Ashley is making my job as a recapper that much more difficult by ignoring most of the men. I can only make so many jokes about Ames looking like an Oompa Loompa. I need more material.
When it comes to my relationship with the rest of this season of The Bachelorette,
I feel the same way Lucas does about Ashley:
I'm still here, but "I just don't see us making up ground." When everyone but JP gets
systematically dumped, I won't care, because the show
spent all its time making me care about Bentley instead.
And when Ashley gets that ring on her finger, I won't care, because I'll
have no idea what she could bring to a healthy relationship, let
alone a magical marriage.
Still, the rumor that Ashley gets engaged to JP in the end must
be true. It just has to be. Not only is he the only contestant getting an overwhelmingly positive edit -- he's the only one getting a real edit at all. He's the one we're rooting for, not just because he's the only choice, but because he's a genuinely great
choice. So, if all goes as planned, he'll get the girl, and Ashley will get to prove that she does not, in fact, enjoy making everyone (especially herself) miserable.
Not exactly what I'd call a fairy tale ending. Not even an ending I'd say I can completely enjoy in a sincere or
snarky sense, given the exhausting mess that came before it. But at least it's an ending.
(Image courtesy of ABC)