Monday night's Bachelor special, The Women Tell All, was not the two-hour cat fight I expected to be tuning into. Yes, they milked the rest of the ratings draw from the Corinne and Taylor feud, one that, unsurprisingly, was not settled by their onstage squabbling. (We may never know if Corinne called Taylor a swamp monster bitch or not.) But The Bachelor also broke character last night with its positive messaging and serious subject matter. And viewers sat up and took notice.
First, The Women Tell All managed to veer away from the easy route of slut-shaming Liz. Honestly, I never liked her and found her timing with appearing on the show untrustworthy — but hearing her side of the story did give me a bit more respect for her, and I commend the producers for giving her that opportunity instead of letting people pile on her. The reunion also avoided the pitfall of demonizing Corinne (who wisely used her time in the hot seat to win everyone over.)
The most mature — or, dare I say, emotionally intelligent — aspect of the reunion, though, came during Kristina's teary segment. She opened up about immigrating from Russia, where she lived in an orphanage, at age 16 — choosing a "life in color" in America over a black-and-white future in Russia that, she noted, could've involved turning to prostitution to survive. She talked about how grateful she was to live in the U.S., where she has made something of herself. "We live in a place where we have a voice, we have an opportunity, and in other places like Russia, you don’t get that," she said, evoking tears and praise from the women.
“People here don’t understand how we are born into such privilege," Liz volunteered. "You know, the fact we’re up here arguing? As women we should be building each other up, especially in these times, not tearing each other down."
Whoa! Did The Bachelor women just bring up how privileged they are... and call themselves out on how inane their self-involved bickering can seem in comparison to, you know, real problems? Are they really talking about the importance of female unity and empowerment in the current political atmosphere? And recognizing how fortunate they are to live in America, where, unlike in Russia and many other countries in the world, you can pretty much say what you like without persecution? Is this actually a topic being broached by a reality dating show as ridiculous and ridiculed as The Bachelor? Yes.
And Twitter was pleased.
"#TheBachelor #WomenTellAll just got so real. #privilege Empower women. This is so out of character I don't know what to think," wrote one viewer. "One can see how different (& oppressive) Russia is from the US by just watching Kristina on a guilty pleasure show like #TheBachelor," noted someone else. "Ok real talk #TheBachelor , that exchange about privilege was profound," tweeted another fan, while a fellow viewer stated, "friggen Liz just nailed that, women should support one and other, not bringing each other down." And my favorite: "Oh, snap, #TheBachelor laying the smackdown on Russia in The Women Tell All."
All of this is to say that last night, The Bachelor proved it can be a more socially conscious, intelligent, and nuanced show when it wants to be. Here's hoping that the episode was indicative of how the franchise will handle the prescient topics of race and interracial dating on Rachel Lindsay's upcoming season of The Bachelorette.