I'm tired of The Bachelor. My friends are tired of hearing me complain about The Bachelor. This week, I was prepared to sit down and prepare a statement of conscious uncoupling. ("Rebecca Farley and The Bachelor have decided to part ways. The split is amicable, although Farley is asking for restitution in the form of free limo rides.")
But last night, RuPaul's Drag Race put a mirror under The Bachelor's nose and — hey! — there's fog. There might just be life in it yet.
RuPaul's version of The Bachelor is called The Bitchelor, and it features an actually very handsome (and interesting-seeming!) Bachelor at its centre. UnREAL's Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is the Bachelor — sorry, Bitchelor — and Drag Race's contestants are his hungry suitors. A couple of the traditional Bachelor archetypes are there. There's a virgin, played by Bebe as a fastidious African princess; there's a needy girl, played by Aja; there's a fake girl, played by Trixie; and there's an oddly flirtatious host, played by RuPaul himself. RuPaul hands out eggplants instead of roses, and Bower-Chapman does a spot-on impression of a bemused and slightly sleep-deprived man.
But what elevates Drag Race's parody is that it's very different from The Bachelor. The archetypes — assigned as a part of the maxi challenge to each contestant — go beyond the traditional Bachelor girls. There's a stalker, played by the erstwhile contestant Milk. (He got kicked off later in the episode, inviting a host of dairy puns from all of Twitter and entertainment media.) There's a bawdy cougar, a party girl, and a polyamorous pair, all of whom don't fit The Bachelor's narrow, boring mould. First of all, cougars aren't allowed on The Bachelor. They're too old. The Bachelor has yet to feature a woman over the age of 35. Party girls make their way onto the show, sometimes stealing it, as Lace Morris did on Ben Higgins' season, but none are as nonchalant as Kennedy's delicious mess. (Usually, party girls get drunk and morph into needy girls, or crying girls, or just girls who talk too much about onions.)
The polyamorous couple, played by Chi Chi and Shangela, aren't Bachelor-esque at all. I somehow doubt Chris Harrison has ever read The Ethical Slut. But the show might benefit from a playful poly couple — that's way lower commitment than, say, marriage on live national television.
The Bachelor is at the brink of irrelevance. As Arie Luyendyk Jr. fights for viewers, and my Bachelor discussion group dissipates, the show is officially at risk of no longer existing. Or, of no longer being culturally relevant. What keeps it relevant and interesting, though, is content like Drag Race. Maybe there is a future for The Bachelor. Maybe that future isn't on ABC, and maybe that future isn't heteronormative, homogenous, and hokey.
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