Can We Talk About How Terrible That SNL Bachelor Skit Was?

Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
ABC's The Bachelor gives us a lot to laugh about. Blame it on the ridiculous premise: Twenty-five (or more) women gather to compete, tournament-style, for one (often very boring) man's heart. The goal of the show is ostensibly love and marriage, which is a stupid goal. (Love is stupid!) Thus, the journey is absurd. And the show knows it's absurd. This makes making fun of The Bachelor difficult.
Take Saturday Night Live's take on it, a sketch titled "Car Hunk" that aired this weekend. They previously aired a similar sketch titled "Bland Man" and one titled "Farm Hunk" and yet another called "Beard Hunk." You might see where this is going: SNL has a formula for its Bachelor sketches. These sketches usually involve the Bachelor and a parade of women, all of them crazy. Therein lies the issue. That's, erm, exactly how The Bachelor operates. Like it or not, The Bachelor finds its humor in a predictable place: women being crazy! That's why the show traps 25 women in a California mansion. If we're lucky, someone will drink their own pee, right? (No, that would not be good! Just to clarify.)
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In the sketch aired Saturday night, Heidi Gardner played a woman named Lauren B. who was literally crazy.
"I'm a psychiatric nurse's patient," she said in a high-pitched squeal. "I bet you can tell from my voice that I don't have a dad." There's actually no joke there at all. It just amounts to the same strategy that The Bachelor employs: Bitches be crazy!
I don't have the time or the energy to dissect the fun "women are crazy" joke structure — although Whitney Cummings did it quite well in an episode of her short-lived show Whitney — but I hope we can all agree it's lazy. At its worst, The Bachelor preys on women by forcing them into uncomfortable situations and hoping something "crazy" arises. Olivia Caridi, the villain from Ben Higgins' season of The Bachelor, later revealed that she felt she'd been edited to look "crazy."
"I think my sarcasm and my dry humor was interpreted sometimes [as] 'I’m crazy' or something," she told Us Weekly. Caridi now has a podcast called Mouthing Off with Olivia Caridi. She doesn't typically do Bachelor-related interviews.
Next up, Cecily Strong played Lauren C., a woman from Labia, Alabama (a direct reference to Tia B. on Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season, who is from Weiner, Arkansas). Lauren C. apologized for being 30. Next, Jessica Chastain played a woman who cried too much and ate Tide Pods. More crazy!
Though the sketch had its finer moments — Kate McKinnon owning her malevolence is a glorious way to flip the script; Luke Nell subbing in for Alex Moffat without consequence is also hilarious — the joke largely rested on women being crazy.
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This is the same way the Bachelor-style sketches have operated in the past. In "Farm Hunk," Strong played a nurse who dabbled in pornography. Vanessa Bayer played a third grade teacher who was also a porn performer. McKinnon played a "veteran of the porn industry." Sasheer Zamata played the lone Black contestant and Aidy Bryant played a contestant who couldn't stop crying because — yup! — her dad died.
In "Beard Hunk," a sketch from 2017, Bayer played a woman who was ostensibly so dumb that she didn't know the voting age. Felicity Jones (the host) played a woman who was "born in an alley." Bryant played a young mother who had no idea where her daughter was. ("I think she's at, like, a neighbor's or something?") McKinnon played a "judgmental bitch," as per her own admission, and Jones' character came back to admit that she had "five STDs."
"Bland Man," the sketch that aired in 2016 during Ben Higgins' season, followed the same formula. Taran Killam was the bland man, Bayer was a girl with daddy issues, McKinnon was a woman who'd recently escaped a cult, Strong played an aggressive virgin who described herself as "insane," and Bryant played a young mother with one giant toe.
The sketches, which now seem to be a yearly recurring segment, always take aim at the women of the show. This is adding insult to injury. The show itself takes aim at the women of the show. Perhaps that's why we're so interested in it; we want to see women get skewered on national television. Call it female schadenfreude — I certainly would never want to wear a bikini on national television, but hey, it's fun to watch others be subjected to it.
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So when it comes to making fun of the show, the slingshot should be pointing elsewhere. The highest points of the SNL Bachelor sketches occur when the sketch is making fun of the show itself — or how the show presents itself. In "Car Hunk," one girl admits to the Bachelor that she has curly hair, and he asks her to leave. (The Bachelor almost never shows women with their natural curly hair.) In "Bland Man," Zamata earns an extra week on the show by sharing that her family died. ("You can stay another week," says Killam begrudgingly.) Similarly, Felicity Jones is asked to leave when she reveals that she didn't bring a bikini. In another bikini-related joke, Bryant confesses that she has a yeast infection from wearing a wet bikini all week. (The women of The Bachelor rarely wear anything besides bathing suits.)
If we're operating under the "punching up" versus "punching down" rules of comedy, SNL is best at making fun of The Bachelor when it's punching up — at the producers, at the production company, at the Bachelor himself, or even at ABC for airing the whole shebang. In this show, the women have virtually no power. To make fun of them is to dismantle something that's already limp. Moreover, it's sexist. And it's 2018, so sexism is supposed to be dead, right?
Making fun of The Bachelor is difficult in part because the show relies on traditional gender roles and tired female tropes. (The crazy woman, the sexually aggressive virgin, the one who cries too much, etc.) The Bachelorette is far easier to mock, because at least on that show you don't get the sense that anyone is being humiliated. Except, of course, the Bachelorette, who suddenly becomes TV's most coveted object.
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When Rachel Lindsay starred as the Bachelorette, SNL aired their first Bachelorette parody. Lindsay was the first Black Bachelorette, and SNL lampooned ABC in a sketch titled "New Bachelorette." Zamata, one of SNL's few performers of color, played a beleaguered Bachelorette, exhausted by a stream of oblivious white men. ("Have I said the word? Yes. But only when I sing along to rap music," says one of her suitors.) It didn't mock Lindsay or even really specific suitors; it mainly prodded at ABC for allowing fifteen (yes, fifteen) years to pass without a Black lead. The sketch was cut for time. Zamata, who also wrote the sketch, departed the show in May of 2017 without explanation.
I don't think there should be a moratorium on jokes about The Bachelor — the show is too delicious for that. I just hope in the future SNL hands these Bachelor-aimed sketches to people who have the time and energy to write a sketch slightly more intelligent than the show itself.
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