In a Good Morning America interview on Wednesday, former Bachelor lead Colton Underwood revealed that he's gay to host Robin Roberts, and detailed his struggles coming to terms with his sexuality while growing up in a conservative, Catholic community.
During the interview, Underwood made a public apology to Cassie Randolph, his ex-girlfriend and former Bachelor contestant. The pair split back in May 2020, but their amicable separation ultimately turned sour. In September 2020, a restraining order was granted to Randolph, at which time the public learned that Underwood had been sending Randolph and her family "unsettling" text messages, showing up to her and her parents' homes uninvited, and that he had even put a tracking device on her car. The restraining order was dropped a month later, after Underwood and Randolph reached a "private agreement."
Although it's good that Underwood can live authentically now, fans of the franchise have taken to Twitter to point out the fact that he's getting a good ol' fashioned Bachelor edit in this situation — and his former behaviour is at risk of being swept under the rug.
Shortly after the interview aired, for instance, executive producers of The Bachelor publicly expressed support for Underwood in a statement that read, "We are so inspired by Colton Underwood’s courage to embrace and pursue his authentic self. As firm believers in the power of love, we celebrate Colton’s journey in the LGBTQIA+ community every step of the way.”
Underwood’s apology seemed heartfelt, and he may continue to demonstrate that he’s changed. But to award Underwood a glowing redemption arc right now could signal to Randolph and other people who may have lived through similar events that their experiences were unimportant. "[Underwood] and his struggle with his sexuality is going to be the highlight, as opposed to an examination of the character that leads to mistreating others," Veronique Valliere, PsyD, a psychologist who counsels sexual assault perpetrators and victims, tells Refinery29.
The Bachelor executives’ statement is also notable due to the fact that the famously straight dating show hasn’t exactly done their part in supporting (or even representing) members of the queer community. They may say they’re celebrating Underwood’s journey, but there has been virtually no LGBTQIA+ representation on the ABC show, with the exception of a handful of bisexual women. The Bachelor grasping at the opportunity Underwood has given them to be “allies” is empty, and ultimately disappointing.
Underwood's inner struggles and turmoil were undoubtedly painful for him to go through, and caused him great harm — he even opened up to Roberts about experiencing suicidal ideation. But his actions also led to his former partner fearing for her safety, which is inexcusable. "The phrase 'Hurt people hurt people' comes to mind," tweeted Bachelor fan Brett S. Vergara, "and while context sheds light on the situation, it does not excuse, change, or even minimize that hurt and pain caused by those actions. I'm hoping Cassie feels supported by those close to her today."
Dr. Valliere points out that we tend to treat situations like this as either/or: Underwood can either be a victim of his own oppressive upbringing and our unaccepting culture; or he’s a bad guy for his past actions. But he can be both. "He needs to address his turmoil and come to peace with himself and his sexuality," Dr. Valliere says, "but he also needs to deal with the piece of himself that felt entitled to mistreat somebody else."
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please visit the Ending Violence Association of Canada to find a local hotline. In the event of an emergency, call 911.