“Can I marry your daughter?”
Until recently, this question was as fundamental a part of The Bachelor and Bachelorette as rose ceremonies and jacuzzi make-out sessions — and the ensuing conversation was one of the reliably dramatic encounters of the whole show.
One one side sits a man who met a woman in the context of a massively popular dating show, and knew her for all of six weeks. On the other, her parent (usually her father), who is outside of the love bubble — and skeptical.
During the finale of this season of The Bachelorette, it appeared that Jed Wyatt and Tyler Cameron, Hannah Brown's two remaining suitors, were hurtling toward that question when talking to her father, Robert. Both frontrunners spoke to Robert privately in the finale. And yet that question – that stubborn and outdated remnant of marriage's patriarchal tradition — never came up. That's right: Neither Jed nor Tyler explicitly asked Hannah's dad if they could marry his daughter.
Though after their one-on-one chats, we could've guessed what Robert's answer to the question would've been. The Browns' approval for one man (Tyler!) and lack thereof for another (Jed!) was apparent. They expressed their feelings their daughter. After all, she was the one making the decision – not them.
In past seasons, that distinction wasn't so clear. The Bachelor's Colton Underwood was denied a blessing after he asked Matt Randolph if he could marry his daughter, Cassie. When Cassie finds out that her father gave a big ol' "no" to Colton, she's spirals into doubt. "The fact that they weren't sold on Colton and I together freaks me out, and makes me confused about if he's the right person," Cassie says to the camera.
Colton encounters more back luck during his three-stop hometown tour: Tayshia's father also denies Colton his blessing. Those tense hometown conversations put Cassie and Tayshia in terribly awkward positions. Should Colton propose, they'll be choosing between him and their parents.
This conversation — and the tough crossroads — simply never comes up in Hannah's season of The Bachelorette. But why? The explanation could be as simple as the conversation not making the final cut of a jam-packed finale. There's a chance both Tyler and Jed independently decided not to ask Hannah's father for permission. Or maybe producers encouraged skipping "the talk" entirely (Hannah thanked the producers in a heartfelt Instagram post).
No matter the reason, the result of getting rid of the, "Um, hey, can I marry your daughter I've known for six weeks" interlude is palpable: The Bachelorette became a more modern and empowering show about a woman making one of the most major decisions of her adult life. On the proposal day, Hannah doesn't have to worry if she's deliberately going against her parents' wishes. The decision between Jed and Tyler is hers alone — and it's agonizing enough. She chooses Jed, and Jed breaks her heart.
Hannah probably never intended to launch a Bachelorette revolution. She envisioned The Bachelorette as it was traditionally intended: a fast-track to marriage. And yet the show morphed into a dating show, not an experiment in arranged marriages, under her tenure.
As Refinery29's TV critic Ari Romero argued, 2019’s Bachelor and Bachelorette cycle officially killed the show's proposal rule. Earlier this year, Colton went off-script after his top choice, Cassie, said she wasn’t ready for engagement and left the show. Colton also quit the show early, and proposed dating, not marriage, to Cassie. That, she was willing to accept.
Hannah played by the show’s rules more than Colton, but the show’s rules betrayed her her. Isolated from the outside world, Hannah didn’t know that her final choice, Jed, had lied about his relationship circumstances preceding the show. Whereas contestant Luke Parker’s villainy was glaringly obvious, Jed’s only emerged in a damning People magazine interview with his recent ex-girlfriend, Haley Stevens. After finding out about the crooner's duplicity, Hannah ends the engagement.
As of last night's on-air reconciliation, Hannah has a second chance with her runner-up, Tyler. Maybe Tyler and Hannah will get engaged one day. Chances are, the religious and family-oriented Hannah will want Tyler (or whoever she marries) to get her parents' blessing first. There's nothing wrong with that. After all, marriage is the often union of families as well as individuals; this conversation can be considered a sign of respect.
But marriage is also about choice. By eliminating this particular conversation from The Bachelorette, the show gave the choice back to Hannah.