Did The Bachelor Make Arie Likable In The Worst Way?

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Monday night’s Bachelor installment will mark nine long weeks with Arie Luyendyk Jr. at the head of the ABC reality staple. At this point viewers should have some pretty strong opinions on ol' Pillow Lips, whether those feelings are positive (as we could all assume would have been the case with a Pete Kraus-led run) or negative (as was the case with Juan Pablo Galavis). But, Arie soldiers on as a pretty meh choice defined by his overt physicality, cardigans, and anxieties over making the wrong decisions. Sunday night’s “Women Tell All” special proved The Bachelor is aware of its Arie Problem, as they tried to spice up the Arizona real estate agent with a fiery appearance at the laundry-airing event.
The only problem is Arie’s feisty side came out in the most cringeworthy, unattractive way possible: dragging a woman we’ve all been told is The Villain. Of course, we’re talking the Bachelor’s showdown with Krystal Nielson.
Before the world starts screaming about Krystal deserving everything coming to her, let me confirm I agree… to a very specific point. The fitness expert said some truly awful things about her fellow contestants, from calling them “desperate” and “not on her level” to the C-word, as “Women Tell All” breakout Caroline Lunny claims Krystal used during her expletive-filled post bowling date screed. On the other side, Caroline and friends mocked Krystal’s voice, which constantly forced the Montana native to sound as though she was moments away from recreating Marilyn Monroe’s infamous “Happy Birthday” rendition.
These are all the kind of reality TV high crimes necessary to power a reunion episode. That’s why it’s so cathartic to watch elegant fan-favorite Sienne Fleming call Krystal out for attempting to connect with her competitors off camera while simultaneously dragging them during talking head interviews with “nasty” comments. Or having Bekah Martinez repeatedly urge Krystal to be real about herself and recognize her wrongdoing. And, yes, even Krystal and Caroline yelling about their shared, honest dislike of one another. After trapping all of these women in a house together, this entire loud spectacle feels like the only real way to move on from the cast’s litany of grievances in a reality TV-friendly way. In essence, it’s the same type of tension that has fueled Real Housewives reunions for over a decade.
Speaking of the Bravo staple, Arie’s subsequent verbal joust with Krystal smacks of pettiness in the same way any man’s appearance on a Real Housewives reunion does. When the Bachelor appears in the “Women Tell All” “hot seat,” as host Chris Harrison keeps calling it, Krystal is the only contestant who ends up sitting onstage next to him. After Arie tosses one sassy barb his ex’s way — explaining their “cold” breakup was “warranted” considering her behind-the-scenes behavior — and everyone claps, it becomes pretty obvious his following mean comments are actually the Bachelor playing to the crowd.
One major jab proves Arie is trying to give the people what they want, even if what they want is emotional blood. During their conversation, Krystal blames her bowling date meltdown on the fact Arie spent the “majority” of his time with other women. “This is The Bachelor,” he shadily shoots back. The audience roars with approval, much to Arie’s appreciation. This is a side of Arie we've never seen in nearly 20 hours of Bachelor television. Soon enough everyone is chanting “Play the clip,” so Arie could witness Krystal calling him a “needle dick” in the Bowling Date rant, and then likely further eviscerate her.
Is this the only way to get people to actually root for Arie? Apparently so, despite the fact the “race car driver” should automatically be a compelling figure thanks to his status as a Bachelor lead. Yet Arie never gets even close to the kind of love he does while taking shots at Krystal during any other time in “Women Tell All,” including the much-needed moment he assures Jacqueline Trumbull her education isn’t an “obstacle” or explains his rejection of the beloved Bekah. Those two moments are met with tepid applause or silence, as is the rest of his mostly apologetic-flavored appearance.
Even his tweet bashing Krystal got an over-size response, with nearly 11,000 likes and counting. The tweets below and above it have fewer than 400.
We shouldn’t be surprised The Bachelor is reveling in Arie being mean to Krystal, as this tendency has become a bit of a trend. Her “Week 6” rejection was one of the most drawn-out, over-the-top moments in a fairly bland season (a season so bland even the contestants expected a snoozefest). Following a Parisian two on one date, Arie banishes Krystal back to America and hands a rose to charming, lovable weirdo Kendall Patrice. What follows is a full two-minute saga of Krystal abandoned in a dark, candle-lit room sobbing and talking about how she yearns for love and acceptance. The unexpectedly emotional unraveling is purposefully intercut with footage of Arie and Kendall making out at the Eiffel Tower.
“I’m so happy here with you,” Arie pointedly tells Kendall from the world’s most romantic monument. At the same time, editing suggests, Krystal stands in her bizarre reject room staring at the tower, crying.
Pop culture has long felt the need to aggressively excise a villainous woman from the story, from Fatal Attraction to Obsessed. But, both those narratives prove fellow ladies have to do the dirty work. When a man is swinging the (in this case, verbal) axe, everything simply comes off mean.
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