If ABC was trying to put a band-aid on the failed cultural experiment that was their first Latino bachelor, then it’s not being too covert about it.
In a live event that lasted three hours, “The Bachelor” premiered on Monday night, introducing Chris Soules to audiences as the “traditional, classic, all-American” antithesis to last season’s Juan Pablo Galavis.
After having been dumped by Andi Dorfman on the last season of “The Bachelorette,” Soules, a pedigreed farmer from the small town of Arlington, Iowa, got a sizable consolation prize, with 30 women publicly vying for his heart in the grand opener of the show’s 19th season (most bachelors only get 25 women to start).
But as much as the show tries to position “Prince Farming” — as fans are calling him — as squeaky clean, Soules may have a naughtier side (not unlike his predecessor) that will come to light as the season progresses. Although hopefully it comes without the questionable behavior that drew harsh criticism for Galavis (homophobia, outright disrespect for women, to name a couple of examples).
In a teaser for what’s next on the season, Soules engages in some steamy make-out sessions with different women, and hints at being torn between three of them. “I wish I was a polygamist right now,” said Soules, before narrowing his choices down to 22, though earlier in the show he reiterated how much he truly intends to find his wife here.
Not a bad position to be in at all.
As part of the premiere, host Chris Harrison interviewed several former “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” fan favorites, including Dorfman and Galavis’ ex Nikki Ferrell.
“It’s not from a lack of trying on either side…we real-life tried, not just TV-tried,” said Ferrell when asked why she and Galavis ultimately broke up, referencing their stint on VH1’s “Couples Therapy.” She went on to note their “different lifestyles” — she’s a nurse in Kansas City and he works in the entertainment industry (read: club promoter) out of Miami.
Harrison tried persistently to get Ferrell to trash Galavis, at one point asking, “What did you see in Juan Pablo that we all didn’t because a lot of people thought that this whole thing was set for failure. We were all trying to save you…” To which she responded, with class, “He’s so caring. He cares so much about his family and so much about his friends, he cares about people that he trusts… I don’t have anything bad to say. It’s just a difference of lifestyles. He cared so much about me and he’s a good person, he really is,” added Ferrell of her former flame.
Ferrell spoke about the vitriol she received after deciding to, in her words, “stand by my man.” “Nothing prepares you for that,” she said. And we believe her. The Internet is clearly not a kind place, especially in the sordid world of reality TV.
Harrison’s tone while interviewing Ferrell raised the question — as the ad campaign leading up to this season’s premiere did — what is ABC trying to say or prove by juxtaposing the two seemingly disparate bachelors? And what were the real intentions behind choosing Galavis as the show’s first-ever Latino lead, besides the obvious attempt to reach a coveted demographic? It’s difficult to imagine that there weren’t more fitting, positive portrayals of handsome, successful, bilingual Latinos in America to choose from.
Questionable ethics are hardly new when it comes to this format, and some would argue that when you sign up for these shows, you automatically invite the public scrutiny and, to a certain extent, the ridicule that often follows. And it seems this season will be filled with plenty of ridiculous scenarios, particularly for the women, which raises another, equally important question of how shows like “The Bachelor” deal with gender.
Among the bizarre (yet tame by reality TV standards) female characters we met Monday night were Tara, a fishing enthusiast who wore daisy dukes and cowboy boots but then got drunk before the rose ceremony even started; Reegan, a donor tissue specialist who showed up with a cooler, joking that a human heart was inside (it was fake, but still, gross!); Kaitlyn, a dancing instructor who tried to teach Soules some breakdancing moves and infamously remarked that he can “plow the f–k out of my field any day;” and Alissa, a flight attendant who literally strapped Soules in an airplane seat belt, preparing him for “the bumpy ride.” But it was 27-year-old waitress Britt who got the coveted first-impression rose, along with the season’s first kiss, ensuring the target on her back, at least until the next episode.
So what can we expect this season? Oh, just some tractor races in bikinis, a Cinderella-style ball, zombie paintball shootouts, a date featuring Jimmy Kimmel and a greased pig, pool parties, and mud runs in wedding gowns, to name a few scenarios.
Hey, at least there’s a seductive vacation in Bali for the overnight dates portion of the spectacle.
Sounds great, if you’re into that sort of thing. And plenty of people are.