Can I talk to you for a second?
I don’t mean to interrupt, but I have something important I need to talk to you about. It’s just, I feel like we have such an amazing connection, and I really want to open up to you about my feelings so you know what I think.
Now that I have you. ABC’s long-running reality series “The Bachelor” has entered its 23rd season, with former contestant, and former pro football player, Colton Underwood now on the other side as he chooses a wife from among 30 young women vying for his love. Oh — by the way, did you know he’s a virgin?
While the season is not yet over, viewers have already seen plenty of dramatic moments unfold, though the season as whole has been somewhat disappointing to long-time fans.
If you made it past the first episode, which referenced Colton’s virginity at least 18 times over the three-hour premiere, then you know that who has and hasn’t had sex continues to be the most important discussion this season. The amount of virginity talk reminds me of my high school graduation party, which even at 18 seemed only slightly more juvenile than Caitlin C. “popping” a red balloon upon exiting the limo night one. Yet it remains a constant theme – so much so that it’s often hard to focus on anything else. Their obsession with a social construct, the outdated idea that having sex for the first time drastically changes a person and his or her identity, sometimes makes it seem that they’re just trying to find someone for Colton to sleep with, and has ultimately become a distraction from the rest of the show.
While we’re on the (ever present) subject of Colton’s virginity, is it just me or are the group dates this season seemingly designed to remind us that, while he’s a virgin, he’s still a man? Group dates are notoriously ridiculous – from performing as backup dancers with Juan Pablo to literally smelling each other’s armpits with Ben Higgins, viewers have seen more than their share of cringeworthy group date situations.
So far – this season we have seen Colton watch, and participate, as the women compete to see who’s the strongest, practice survival techniques in the wild, fight each other in Vietnam, and pretend to be swashbuckling pirates in a show. Because, you know, nothing says that Colton is choosing to be a virgin like having him wear tights and a deep-V blouse while jousting with a play sword. Again, the producers’ fascination with who has and hasn’t had sex has turned the season into an overdone joke, with each group date becoming more ridiculous than the next.
Season 23 has shown that “The Bachelor” has just about run out of gimmicks, though it’s obvious that the producers can, and will, stir up as much drama as they can. Previously, every season has had a “villain” — someone who causes the most drama in the house. On night one, most viewers pegged contestant Catherine as the resident villain of the season, but she was quickly forgotten and eliminated in episode three. Caelynn and Hannah, the two beauty pageant rivals, finally made up on a previous episode. Onyeka was eliminated, and therefore can’t tattle tale on the other contestants anymore. And Demi’s hilarious attitude towards the show and blunt honesty with the other contestants has made her a fan favorite. Not having a designated villain? Maybe they really are doing something they’ve never done before.
“The Bachelor” frequently comes under fire for its lack of diversity, and rarely does it take the opportunity to speak about a larger cultural issue. One of the most meaningful moments of the season thus far came when Caelynn, a 23 year-old from North Carolina, opened up to Colton about being sexual assaulted in college. While the show has had its share of more progressive moments, this one was handled particularly well both by Colton and ABC, and was one of the few conversations of the season to spark any kind of genuine emotion from the viewers.
If this season could have left the obsession with virginity on night one, and perhaps made someone in the house actually villainous instead of just unapologetically herself, it would have been much better off. While the season has had a few memorable moments and twists and turns, like Heather getting her first kiss while fireworks conveniently go off in the background (don’t even get me started on that), ultimately the season has had a rather slow first few weeks.
There are the women who aren’t there to make friends, and the women who seem like they have never watched the show before (I’m looking at you, Elise), but the last two episodes have all of us wondering which women aren’t there for the right reasons. Despite its slow beginning, the most recent episode and the teaser for the next have both helped to pick up the pace a bit, but personally, I won’t be satisfied until I see Colton finally jump that fence.
“The Bachelor” airs on Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.