Why do we watch The Bachelor? It's a question that drives non-Bachelor fans crazy, but an easy, if long, bulleted list for Bachelor Nation.
There are plenty of reasons that I adore this show. It's a way for me to engage with heteronormative courtship performances in a way that is so dissimilar from my own experience. I engage with it critically, to be sure, but I also am entertained by the more mundane aspects of it, which the show takes great pains to produce out into absurdity. Things like Arie and Kendall's picnic on dunes and Rachel (last season's Bachelorette) and Anthony riding giant horses down pedestrian walkways on Rodeo Drive. It's all so over-the-top, and so entertaining.
Still, I find myself cheering on the women on The Bachelor rather than the burgeoning romantic relationships. Speaking strictly about Arie's season, some of the purest reality TV moments came from the women supporting each other and forging lasting friendships. My heart soars with sisterhood love when one of them is sent home, and the others are heartbroken to say goodbye to their new friend — only to have their new Bachelor pal reappear on their Instagram feeds. I'm struck by how much fun the women have with each other. On group dates, they enjoy activities with each other just as much, if not more, than with the Bachelor; look at how rambunctious the women got on their bowling date when they split up into teams. They had a blast with each other; dating Arie felt secondary.
While only one out the 30 of the women will (maybe!) find true love, the other 29 contestants go home with pals for life. Bekah Martinez and Kendall Long have become BFFs, living their best lives in Los Angeles and snapping photos of each other on Instagram. They are total bestie goals who lucked out when they found each other — and dodged a huge, Arie-shaped bullet. I hope they are giggling about it over margaritas and taxidermy.
Jenny Delaney dropped the ultimate Arie burn when she sobbed after not receiving a rose. Her tears are real and true, but she wasn't crying over a broken heart. After walking right past Arie without saying goodbye, he stops her, but she says that she's not going to miss Arie, she's going to miss her friends.
Becca Kufrin, one of this season's two final women, and Caroline Lunny are also serious friendship goals. Becca has made it to hometowns and the fantasy suites; she is also reportedly close with Caroline. She revealed to Us Magazine that Becca told her that they listened to a playlist she made for Arie in their fantasy suite. "[Becca] was like, ‘Oh my God we listened to your thing,'" Caroline explained. “It’s fine because he knew that we were really close, but I was kind of, like, ‘That’s a little off-sides buddy, playing my fucking mixtape.'"
Which explains quite a bit about Caroline's unscripted, super-real moment at the Women Tell All Special. She was very distraught as she directly addressed a guilty, sheepish Arie, telling him that "I know what you did, and I don’t know how you could do that. I just really don’t understand. But I really hope you found what you’re looking for." Her words were both pained and pissed, a combination that comes from staring at the face of the man who broke your friend's heart. "I think everyone who has ever had a girlfriend crying on their couch eating Ben & Jerry’s has wanted to say that to the guy," she told Us.
We also saw a lot of empathy directed towards Krystal Nielson, who was the designated villain this season. Krystal tried her mightiest to antagonize the other contestants — and wow, she succeeded — but even through their frustration, Bekah M. and Kendall valiantly attempted to see her point of view after the bowling incident. During their two-on-one date, Kendall even told Krystal that she's a beautiful person, and hopes that her goodness can shine through her past traumas and insecurity. It was sincere, it was sweet, and it showed a level of empathy between two women that makes this show so enjoyable to watch.
The women on The Bachelor aren't competing for cash or a job, they're hoping to land a husband. The competitive stakes are lower: the show is more about emotion than a prize, which allows the women to become close friends in the process. Just the way we support our girlfriends as they navigate their love lives, the women on this show do the same thing. Those friendships have proven to be the most enduring relationships that the Bachelor franchise has produced, and it has a been a surprising model for bringing women together. The show pushes back against the notion that women will devolve into petty "catfights" when they are placed together. It shows that women will support each other, will see the best in one another, and will stay together through difficult situations. On The Bachelor, jealousy isn't a given — but friendships are, and that is doubly refreshing.
Long live Bachelor Nation besties.
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