The Bachelor has a bullying problem. It's always had a bullying problem. Actually, you might accurately summarize the show as "This show is just bullying and some snogging." But this season, it feels particularly egregious, if only because the woman at the heart of the bullying doesn't seem that criminal. The contestant, Krystal, a fitness coach from San Diego, is both villain and patsy this season, seemingly only because she has a high-pitched voice and she's been deemed "fake" by the other women. The rest of the women in the house actively loathe Krystal. They complain about her to each other, although most of the time, it's not clear what they're talking about when they talk about Krystal.
"Krystal was being a sore winner," Bekah M., a fellow contestant declared during the group date. Krystal was gloating over a bowling win that would grant her more time with Arie Luyendyk, Jr., this season's half-awake Bachelor. "Then, she's trying to give everyone kisses and hugs after, like, love, love, love — it's like, she's fake!"
Mark that down as one crime: Krystal is fake. Later, when Arie reverses his decision to send the losing bowling team home, Krystal sulks. She gets upset and has an (alleged) conniption on the bus home. Then, Krystal withdraws from the cocktail party, hurt that Arie decided to invite the losing team despite his promise to send them home.
"The reason why I was so upset was that I felt like we weren't good enough," Krystal said on the YouTube show Will You Accept This Ride? "We weren't enough for him! We weren't what he wanted." This is a valid point — the pink team, which was supposed to head home, included Lauren B., Sienne, and Bekah M., all leading competitors. Arie likely wanted to spend time with them at the cocktail party, so he switched the rules to match his needs. That's his prerogative — he's the Bachelor!
But Krystal's fury marked another misdemeanor in Bachelor Nation. You don't question the king of Bachelor nation. And you certainly don't call him a liar, which Krystal admitted to doing.
The episode's final cocktail party was very Krystal-focussed. Bekah M., a declared enemy of the fitness coach, ranted about Krystal at the cocktail party, once again invoking the word "fake." Krystal then had private conferences with the remaining women in the house. In her conference, Bekah K. asked, simply, "Why are you still here?" (That's a veiled accusation of being fake.)
Then, there's the small — or tinny — matter of Krystal's voice. She has a high-pitched baby voice riddled with vocal fry. This is not criminal in Bachelor Nation; most women in Bachelor Nation fry their voices. But, it is a violation of arbitrary heteronormative rules in the real world. Writing for Slate, Amanda Hess pointed out that there's no evidence that vocal fry is, well, bad.
"Only when young women employ it is the speech pattern so vilified," Hess argues.
Now, Krystal is a 29-year-old reality television star who is swiftly on her way to some nice Instagram endorsements. (She's in the middle of a 30-day abs challenge! Join her if you dare.) She's surrounded by other women around the same age and type, all of whom should know better than to employ internalized misogyny. Unfortunately, this franchise thrives on misogyny, and a large part of the Krystal debate on the show features contestants imitating Krystal's voice.
There is some debate as to whether her voice is an affect. On Will You Accept This Ride? Krystal's voice is markedly lower, but it's still fried.
"I worked with what I had," Krystal told host Lisa Ryan. This might be the origin of the "fake" accusations — Krystal uses a speech affection when she's on camera. But, this is a habit most of us have, especially when it comes to being recorded or trying to fall in love on national television.
Bekah M., a heavy user of the Instagram story, already seems to have regrets about her comments on last night's episode.
"I agree it was not cool of me to mock her and be catty. Not proud of that," Bekah wrote in a comment on one of her Instagram posts. (It was a reply to a critical commenter.) On the same post, she defended her maturity in the proceedings. "I don't think it has anything to do with age. It has to do with me making unnecessarily rude comments, which I do regret."
In the midst of this scuffle, it's hard to tell who's villain and who's victim. Krystal is clearly the show's decided villain. But in going for the jugular — making fun of her voice, which is largely outside of her control — the girls in the house look like the villain. Bekah's even apologetic about it. All of it, from the voice mockery to the confrontations, was uncomfortable. There are days that, as a devoted Bachelor fan, I feel like the stray from Mean Girls who says, "I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy." I wish everyone on this show just wanted to fall in love and be happy. It might be time to get rid of the Bachelor villain.
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