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The Bachelor Franchise Betrayed Chad

You may have watched this season of The Bachelorette and thought of villain Chad Johnson as a delightful troll in on the joke of being the worst. Well, as of Tuesday night’s premiere of Bachelor in Paradise, in which rejects from previous seasons of the franchise drink constantly and hook up on a beach for 18 days, he proved he actually is the worst. He is a man who called a disabled woman who dared to speak up to him a “one-armed bitch.” Who physically fought with his temporary love interest on the show, Lace; called her a “cunt” and a “fucking bitch”; and said he was going to “throw you under a truck and hold you down until you smell like peppermint.” Who got wasted and took a swing at his only friend for not being “murder-y” enough. Who told the Mexican resort staff to “suck a dick.” Who passed out on the sand with a crab crawling in his hair and then pooped his pants. Who did not shower after pooping his pants. And who, in a desperate rage after getting kicked off the show, uttered some very dark words that should forever color how you see the Chad Experience: “I’ve got nothing. I have nothing. I have nothing in my life.”

Whoa.

Chad is a raging asshole with zero social skills. He’s also a guy who lost his mother six months ago, after having spent the past seven years caring for her, and who is psychologically unfit to be in a volatile reality-TV environment. Granted, I’m a person who believes that everyone should be in therapy — but at the very least, if your drunk self is your truest self, it’s very clear that drunk Chad is angry, sad, and lonely. And if you think ABC and the franchise’s producers haven’t known that they’ve had a violent, wounded Chad Bear on their hands for months, then douse yourself in peppermint and get under a truck. Because the real villain of these shows isn’t the messed-up guy but the opportunists who let him dominate JoJo’s season of The Bachelorette, brought him back for BIP, and are now gleefully milking his meltdown.

This franchise has sunk pretty low in recent seasons — sticking a boom mike outside the door where Kaitlyn and Nick were having unsanctioned sex to record their heavy breathing, constantly trying to amp up the drama of contestant Jordan Rodgers’s feud with his famous quarterback brother, Aaron — but everything about the exploitation of Chad has been barrel-scraping stuff. And like Chad’s jokes, it’s no longer funny. Maybe it never was.

Now, Chad has not been an innocent party to this, and neither have we, the viewers. At first, his antics were fun! We reveled in the inherent douchiness of all Chads, and Chad’s often witty commentary, like his spot-on comparison of fellow contestant Evan Bass to “freakin’ Gary Oldman from The Fifth Element.” But by episode three, Chad was ripping maroon V-necks, shoving contestants in the throat, punching walls, and being murder-y enough for his roommate Derek to complain formally about feeling unsafe. The show responded with zero regard for either the psychopath or the people in his way, by having a security guard (a.k.a. a crew member in a polo shirt reading “security”) watch over him as he slept, and by Chris Harrison halfheartedly asking Chad to apologize for threats he’d made, like saying he was going to hunt Jordan down after he left the show.

Bringing contestants to their breaking points is the job of the show, and it’s why we watch, but I’m old enough to tell you that there was once a time in reality TV when crossing the line, physically, was simply not tolerated — when Chad’s punching a wall and especially shoving Evan would have been immediate grounds for expulsion. The precedent was set in 1993 on the Real World: Los Angeles, when comedian David Edwards became the first cast member to get kicked out of the house for pulling the covers off model Tami Roman while she was in her underwear. (Just imagine, for a moment, if Chad, like David, were black.) It became an implicit rule of the show that if you physically stepped to someone else on the show, you were gone — until, after the Jersey Shore–ification of MTV, producers realized the ratings potential of actual fights and stopped intervening, to the point where they let one cast member come after another with a blow dryer as a blunt weapon. But The Bachelor franchise isn’t The Real World. They’re actively trying not to be the real world! They have a thing called “Fantasy Suites” where sex becomes the Voldemort of bodily fluid exchanges and is had but never spoken of by name!

By not just sanctioning but celebrating Chad’s aggressive behavior, the franchise has lost all credibility of being a simple show about love, a line that host Chris Harrison often asserts. A show that cares about the welfare of the people on it does not allow a guy who shoved another guy in the throat to stay on the air, and indeed be the focal point, for two more episodes. It doesn’t allow him to come back to the house after he’s been eliminated and has threatened to stalk one of the contestants at home after the cameras are gone. And it doesn’t give him the floor for an hour of the two-hour “Men Tell All” special, especially knowing the kind of misogynistic, abusive behavior he exhibited in his 24 hours in Paradise.

This is important. Though it airs before the premiere of BIP, the “Men Tell All” episode of The Bachelorette was filmed on July 16, **after** Paradise had wrapped. And **after** Chad’s pants-shitting outburst of “I have nothing in my life.” That means ABC and the producers gave the floor to someone who’d already demonstrated that he’s in a deeply sad, deeply unstable, possibly dangerous emotional place. They allowed him to smirk and preen and parade and bask in attention before the cameras — and worse, allowed us to think we were laughing with him, to egg him on, to discuss him ad nauseum on podcasts, to wear “Chadelor” T-shirts, to feed the beast of his ego — while obscuring the gaping hole of self-worth and grief that Chad clearly went on the show in a misguided attempt to fill. And even worse, they let him come back on the “After the Final Rose” special and make a plug for himself to become the next Bachelor, again, **after** BIP went down, knowing full well both the extent of Chad’s bad behavior, and that when the high of attention is gone, he may have no floor when he falls.

It’s time to stop being mad at Chad and turn our attention to the real sadists in the mix: ABC and the Bachelor franchise producers.

The Bachelor Franchise Betrayed Chad