Today is a bonus for all of you. One of my favorite writers is guest blogging here. Chad Kultgen is the author of some classic work that everyone should read and be slightly terrified in the best possible way. When I read The Average American Male, the people on the plane thought I was nuts, I was laughing and feeling ashamed at the same time hungover on a flight from Vegas.
While I knew he lives near where I used to in Beverly Hills and that he went to USC film school like I did, I recently discovered he watched this train wreck show. So I solicited him to write a post for Women Tell All.
Read below and follow him on TWITTER. Chad owns. Zack out.
Women Tell All – Chad Kultgen
The Women Tell All Episode is without a doubt the most useless episode of any season. It promises an opportunity for the women to have some long held questions answered by the bachelor himself and for us, the viewers, to get some answers from the women about certain moments in the show that left us curious or confused or angry or empty. And much like Juan Pablo himself the episode was not honest in this promise.
Chris Harrison opens the show by telling us that this Women Tell All Episode will feature, “The most memorable women from the most controversial season in bachelor history,” a hyperbole that is mimicked, if not outright stated verbatim, in virtually every season of the bachelor to open this episode. What follows, regrettably, is a tame recounting of the most mundane events of the season up to this point with only minimal attention paid to the culturally significant events from the show and from Juan Pablo’s statements outside the show.
But before the audience can even get to the disappointment of avoiding any meaningful discourse from the main cast of this season, we’re made to sit through Sean, the born again virgin bachelor from the prior season of the show, being emasculated by his new bride who claims that he ejaculated far too quickly on his wedding night. Then Chris Harrison does his best to emasculate himself and, by proxy, the entire male gender by saying “Welcome to the club buddy,” only to have Sean top it all off by telling a story about a sting ray attacking his genitals. I’m unsure if this was a move by the producers to make men seem less threatening after the season they’ve had with Juan Pablo or if Chris and Sean are truly that bad at being men. Either way, within the first two minutes of the show my seething rage is already full to capacity.
At this point it would be reasonable to think that we might get to the actual show. It would be within the realm of probability that on the Women Tell All Episode, one of the women might now tell at least one thing of the “All” that I’ve been led to believe they will eventually tell. Instead, we’re treated to the Muppets demeaning both the show and themselves by appearing with Juan Pablo, a publicly identified homophobe, as their new movie is promoted in an awkward scene that ends with Kermit and his evil twin performing what appears to be cunnilingus on Ms. Piggy simultaneously. And this, it turns out, will be the closest to any discourse about sex we’ll have all night aside from Sean’s open admission that he’s terrible at sex.
Finally, after returning from a commercial break in which every commercial is forced to play out within a Bachelor rose frame graphic lest we forget what we’ve tuned in to see, we see that every contestant is there. They are each seated and smiling, happy to be back in the spotlight for a brief encore in which they’re given just enough screen time to be further distilled into a the shallow stereotypes of themselves that we came to know on the show.
One of the chief complaints of several of the girls throughout this episode was that Juan Pablo didn’t get to know them, that he didn’t ask enough questions about them, that he didn’t get beyond the surface. But they fail to realize that this is the very nature of the show. It promises a chance to find deep and meaningful love, yet it only gives the contestants a series of weeks in which to do it. It claims support of the idea that the Bachelor is there to get to know these women and yet the show itself reduces the girls to titles like “Free Spirit” and “Dog Lover.”
And then the first question asked of the panel of failed daters is “What did you like about JP?” Their unanimous answer : “He’s super handsome.” In this moment we’re shown that they’re obviously just as shallow as he is, just as shallow as the show itself is. Not one, after being asked this question, mentioned anything about his personality. They each claimed that they enjoyed kissing him or seeing him play soccer or do some other physical activity. They fail to see that the very thing they most despise in Juan Pablo guides their own attraction to him. And again, this exact same lack of depth and substance is what drives the show itself.
If the point weren’t crystal clear, Chris Harrison asks the contestants, “You were attracted to him. Why wasn’t that enough?” And because the show has already established for us that Andi is something of a voice of reason, an unprecedented truth-teller where contestants are concerned she is allowed to say, “Looks can fade, ” which gets a few shots of knowing nods from older ladies in the audience. This is an obvious fact that most human beings are well aware of. But in this case, in the context of the show, any small piece of truth is dangled in front of the audience as though it were a precious gem so rare and beautiful that we should marvel at it.
Renee then reveals that she and Juan Pablo only ever really talked about their children. I’ve long held that each season of this show harbors at least one sociopath. Statistically one in twenty-five people is a sociopath or at least exhibits sociopathic tendencies. I theorize that this season’s sociopath is actually Juan Pablo and Renee’s revelation corroborates my theory. He’s incapable of talking about anything of substance where his own character is concerned because he has no substance. He’s only a manufactured version of what he thinks the public would consider a good parent. So in this case, he talks with another parent exclusively about his own child reasoning that this is what a good parent would do when, in fact, a good parent would more likely be spending time with their child instead of having sexual encounters with multiple women on national television.
Next the contestants have a brief conversation about Claire’s ocean rendezvous with Juan Pablo. Phrases like, “She goes swimming,” and “they go swimming in the ocean,” are used but no one ever says that they had sex. This is simply one more way the show forces not only the contestants, but the audience itself into a false frame of mind in which honesty can’t surface. Even in the context of this specific episode in which all questions are to be answered, the scenario cannot even be properly discussed. The show aims to uphold antiquated views on sex, relationships, gender roles and marriage even in the face of facts that everyone knows to be obvious.
What’s worse, though, is that although a few of the contestants claim that what Juan Palo did to Claire by shaming her the following morning was terrible and using his daughter as the method by which he shamed her was just as terrible, none of them speak about Claire’s reaction to it. Claire took the initiative to ask Juan Pablo to have sex with her. He willingly participated. Clearly his shaming of her the following morning was deplorable. What’s more deplorable to me is that the show and Claire’s fellow contestants seem to see nothing wrong with how she handled the situation. Claire never stood up for herself. She never told Juan Pablo that he was arrogant or wrong. She never even said that he was just as much to blame as she was if there was any blame at all. Maybe she reacted as she did to stay in the competition for one more round. Maybe she actually was shamed enough by Juan Pablo to accept the blame. In either case, it remains disgusting on a basic level to me that not one girl said anything about the fact that Claire didn’t stand up for herself.
As Sharleen takes her spot on the hot seat Chris Harrison declares, “You’re the most intriguing person we’ve had. Your relationship with our bachelor, I’ve never seen anything like it.” To which Sharleen replies, “I was honest the entire time.” This what Chris Harrison has never seen – honesty from a contestant from the beginning. And I have to agree with him. In every prior season it seems that all of the contestants will do anything to prove that as soon as they meet the bachelor or bachelorette they can’t think of spending their life with anyone else despite knowing them for less than a day. Sharleen truly was the first contestant to view the situation logically and react honestly.
Chris goes on to quote Sharleen on the show as she said things like, “No cerebral connection,” and, “I wish I was dumber.” Then he asks, “What do those things mean?” We know what these things mean, Chris. They mean that Juan Pablo is very, very stupid. But similar to the way in which Claire is made to accept the blame placed on her by Juan Pablo, we see Sharleen accept the blame implied in Chris’s question, “What do these things mean?” Sharleen says, “I think too much. I can’t shut it off,” instead of using her self-professed honesty and saying that Juan Pablo is too stupid to have a meaningful conversation. There is some inherent tone on the show that I think all contestants feel, certainly more with women contestants on the Bachelor than with men on the Bachelorette. They feel as though they have to prove their value or their worth and any misstep is their fault. It’s made clear in Sharleen’s answer. The fault clearly lies in Juan Pablo’s stupidity but she accepts the blame by telling us that she thinks too much, which is obviously absurd.
Renee’s hot seat was as boring a hot seat as maybe I’ve ever seen. When asked, “What was that connection?” she essentially claims that it was them both having kids, which means that she could have the same connection with any single dad. When pressed on the issue she says, “I don’t know. I don’t know,” which is followed up by Chris Harrison saying, “It’s hard to define.” This exact exchange can almost fully describe my reaction to people when they ask me why I watch the show.
Despite everyone defending the process and claiming that it is not a competition, that it is not a game, Renee goes on to explain that she was “behind,” that her relationship with Juan Pablo was slow paced, that she was the last one to kiss him. This, of course, gives more credence to the idea that it is a game, that it is a very regimented series of events that must occur in a specific sequence and at certain specific times if a contestant is to have any chance to win in the end. A contestant must kiss by a certain date or show. A contestant must say “I love you” by a certain date or show, etc. Renee knew she wasn’t playing the game at the same speed as the other girls and because of this I think she didn’t get as emotionally invested which is what allowed her to walk away from the experience having learned something other than how to cry on camera.
Andi’s hot seat was terrible. She gave no new information about the most controversial night in bachelor history, as Chris Harrison would have us believe. She failed to enlighten us at all about any new details related to her decision to leave. She only really mentioned Juan Pablo’s negativity and that he wasn’t grateful for his opportunity. Once again, there’s no actual talk of sex but it is implied a few times when Andi describes Juan Pablo telling her about his prior overnight date with Claire. I don’t know why I get outraged by this after having seen as many seasons as I have, but there’s something so basically absurd about prohibiting the discussion of sex where relationships are concerned that I’m still offended every time it happens on this show.
And then Chris Harrison proceeds to make one of the strangest comments that he might have ever made by saying, “Everyone’s had that date where you pretend to be asleep.” It’s obviously strange but it’s interesting in a few ways. The first is that one of Andi’s main complaints is that Juan Pablo was his dishonesty with her and yet she chose to fake sleep rather than talk to him on her last night there, an act that’s clearly dishonest. It’s also interesting in that it reflects the basic idea of the show that you must be dishonest with yourself and with everyone else on the show in order to win. If Andi knew in that moment in the fantasy suite that Juan Pablo wasn’t the guy for her, why did she stay and why did she pretend to be asleep? Why didn’t she just leave or at least talk to Juan Pablo, or even really sleep like a normal person. Instead she faked unconsciousness for some inexplicable reason and that reason is seemingly that dishonesty in that situation was the best thing she could come up with. It’s just one more way the show itself upholds outdated ideas of what a relationship should be and of what a woman should be in the presence of a man – silent, avoiding conflict, pretending to be asleep.
Andi then invalidates any forward progress she might have made the following morning when she opens her eyes that she apparently kept shut all night without ever entering unconsciousness by saying, “The things he said were entirely inappropriate and rude but he wasn’t mean to me. That should be clear, like he wasn’t mean to me,” and then one sentence later saying, “In no way was that funny to me. It was mean and it was hurtful towards me.” It’s as though she feels obligated to remove blame from Juan Pablo, just as every other woman has so far but Andi can’t quite help invalidating her own false defense that he wasn’t mean by contradicting herself a few words later.
And she wraps up her hot seat appearance by saying, “Everything was under this guise of honesty and that really frustrated me.” This describes the entire show sweet Andi.
And then we come to Juan Pablo himself – El Bachelor. In much the same way it seemed like the women felt obligated to do some damage control on his behalf, he attempts to finish the job by insisting that, “We can be friends,” which raises very little if any objection from the contestants and even gets some sincere and hopeful smiles from the live audience. Of all the lies told on the show this season, this one may be the most egregious. Even Juan Pablo seems to not believe this as he’s saying it. He shoots a forced smile to the audience giving us proof of a phenomenon known as “Duper’s Delight,” which is one of the rare emotions exhibited by a sociopath. It’s extreme and momentary elation felt when the sociopath becomes aware of a lie in progress that seems to be working. In many cases the sociopath will be unable to withhold an actual smile or smirk with this awareness of success.
When asked if he has any regrets this season he claims to have none, which means the shaming of Claire for engaging in mutually consensual sex was as it should have been in Juan Pablo’s mind. Most of the rest of the first half of Juan Pablo’s time in the hot seat was spent discussing the merit and meaning of his designation of the two mother contestants as his “Special Ones,” which was pointless.
Juan Pablo’s second segment in the hot seat yielded nothing more of value. Andi gave a half-hearted attempt to catch him in an admission that he wasn’t really there for a wife which he avoided by stating basic truths about trying to make connections with the contestants. Sharleen defended him and her own image as the “most interesting” contestant by saying that she felt he did, in fact, get to know her and further offering that maybe they had a different relationship than the other girls. Lucy, the once proud free spirit, dirties her hands in the conversation with some forced outrage by exclaiming, “It’s not a game – this is a relationship!” as though any viewer or contestant could ever possibly believe that.
And finally it seems like we might get to something of value, some cultural commentary that is sorely needed when Kelly the “Dog Lover” bring ups the homophobic comments Juan Pablo made earlier this season. He apologizes and blames it on context saying, “I love gay people. I respect them because they were born that way,” unaware that the designation of being born “that way” and even feeling the need to say “I respect them,” invalidates the idea behind what he’s saying. Although it’s veiled, his statements are still homophobic and once again one of the contestants feels the need to defend him. This time it’s the “most interesting” contestant, Sharleen, whom claims that she found him to be open-minded even though no one else has been provided with any evidence of this.
And possibly the most disturbing thing Juan Pablo says about the matter, and easily the most evidentiary in favor of him being a homophobe comes when he tells Kelly that he’s not going to take four minutes of the show to explain to her why he’s not a homophobe, but he’d rather take an hour after the show to tell her in person. How would it ever take an hour to explain to anyone why you’re not a homophobe? It obviously wouldn’t. Furthermore if you ever need to explain to anyone why you’re not a homophobe (or a racist or a sexist) then you probably are.
Juan Pablo’s estimation that taking a long time to discuss a subject makes his intent more serious is simply an error on his part. Most sociopaths will try to mimic what they feel is the correct emotional reaction to any given situation without actually feeling the emotion. Here, he’s very obviously attempting to seem very concerned about the matter by allotting what he thinks is a serious amount of time, one hour, to the subject. Instead it reveals his true nature of deeply ingrained homophobia.
The obligatory bloopers reel brings us to a moment of levity on the heels of what could have been a decent public debate about how the show is harboring and supporting a deplorable homophobe but wasn’t.
As Chris Harrison moves us into the final phases of the Women Tell All Episode he asks the contestants how they think it will end up and Kat says literally, “It’s anyone’s game – I hate to use the word game because it’s not a game.” And yet it is. We know this so intrinsically, as does she and every contestant on this strange game show that she can’t even stop herself from literally using the word “game” to describe the situation.
And finally we arrive at the sneak peek for the final episode of this season. Phrases like, “ Every little girl dreams of their wedding,” “fairy tale,” “down on one knee,” “ring on my finger” not only reinforce all of the outdated ideas about gender and romance that the show rams down our throat every season but one of the final lines used in the sneak peek, “I can pick out all the negative things and dwell on them but I don’t want to lose this,” proves that even the final two contestants, the ones who should at this point be completely in love with Juan Pablo, view this as a game that must be won or lost. And the prize to be won is shown to us – a giant diamond ring. It’s a gleaming symbol of a woman’s value and it must be given to her by a man. One contestant will claim ultimate validation from the very man who abused her psychologically and the other will remain without value, broken and crushed on her way home alone and finally out of the spotlight where we assume she’ll pick up the pieces and move on with her life, unless she’s proclaimed the next bachelorette. Time will tell.