On The Bachelor Winter Games last night, contestant Ally Thompson ended up speaking on a taboo reality TV topic: her weight. Thompson, 24, is one of two contestants from New Zealand. She competed in NZ's version of The Bachelor, then made her way to the ski slopes of Vermont for Winter Games. On the first episode, fellow contestant Josiah Graham told her she had a "big booty," adding that he appreciated her body.
"I was worried I had too much ba-donka-donk," she confessed. "Cause all these girls are so slim."
Later, when the women compete in the biathlon — a combination of cross-country skiing and marksmanship — ABC made the questionable decision to share the weights of the contestants on placards. On Bachelor Winter Games, it seems, weight is not a fraught topic.
It's not as if weight was a fraught topic before, actually. Weight simply wasn't a topic at all. The Bachelor is not known for its body diversity. Nor are its compatriots The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise. The show is homogenous to a fault — this year, The Bachelor featured three separate blonde Laurens and one Lauren of color. All Laurens had the same loose, blown-out waves and would fall under Ally's definition of "slim." The cast photos for last summer's season of Bachelor in Paradise look like a roster for SoulCycle instructors, a backwards look for a show that's meant to represent "reality." Two-thirds of women in America are above a size 14, a statistic Refinery29's 67% project seeks to promote, and yet almost none of the people on The Bachelor represent this number. Incidentally, Ally doesn't even number in the invisible majority. She just thinks she does because the women who typically appear on the show are even smaller.
In a 2014 interview, Chris Harrison, our automatonic host, told the New York Times Magazine that the show would never feature a "chubby" Bachelor.
"Because that’s not attractive, and television is a very visual medium, and I know that sounds horrible to say, but I know that at 42, in the eyes of television, I’m old and unattractive," he explained. "Sure, I can put a suit and tie on, but I have hair on my chest and I don’t have a 12-pack. I live a healthy life, but I don’t do eight hours in the gym, nor do I want to. And I don’t eat 50,000 egg whites."
The assumption is: only those who eat egg whites and have a 12-pack may enter The Bachelor's the hallowed halls. By the transitive property, only women under a size 6 may enter as well.
Bachelor Winter Games is by no means a lush demonstration of diversity, despite its international additions. For the most part, the women are blonde, the men are tight parcels of muscle, and there's all of one person of color to be found. (Eric Bigger and Lauren Griffin, two of three contestants of color, were both eliminated Tuesday night. The remaining contestant is Josiah Graham.) But Ally demonstrated a diversity of values, perhaps on behalf of The Bachelor but, more importantly, on behalf of the contestants. She seemed comfortable talking about her weight, despite the awkwardness of the conversation — hey Josiah, FYI, not a great idea to comment on a woman's weight, ever — and she's emerged as one of the more important contestants on the show. Winter Games is barely body diverse, but the tiny slice of progressiveness it gave us feels like a glimmer of hope.
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