At the beginning of The Bachelor season 25, rising villain Victoria Larson seemed like a garden variety pot stirrer. Between her crown, omnipresent Champagne flute, and boozy hostility towards fellow contestants, she came off as the most annoying — but ultimately harmless — woman at a party; a sister to one of Cecily Strong’s best Saturday Night Live creations. This persona continues at the start of Monday night’s “Week 2,” which marks the true kickoff of the Bachelor 2021 games.
Then, Victoria’s “clash” with Marylynn Sienna takes shape, revealing Victoria to be a much more insidious Bachelor Nation character. Victoria, an apparent supporter of long-time fascist and white supremacist Donald Trump, isn’t simply creating drama in the Bachelor cast — she’s unleashing age-old racist tactics against her enemies. Understanding this fact is the only way to make sense of the nonsensical, fact-less rumor mill attack Victoria inflicts on Marylynn, who is Asian-American and described as “not quality” by Victoria.
White woman pain is Victoria’s weapon, and it’s working.
If you watch “Week 2” carefully, you will notice Victoria’s immediate distaste for the women of color on the cast. When Bri Springs — who is a biracial Black and Persian woman — leaves for her one-on-one date with Matt via ATV, Victoria snickers, “She’s not very good at it.” Directly afterwards, Victoria criticizes Jessenia Cruz, who is Puerto Rican, for supporting Bri as the first solo dater, saying, “First of all, I didn’t even talk to Bri. So I don’t even have that little friendship that you have.” Marylynn is sitting next to Jessenia for this belittling conversation. Later, during the group date, Victoria walks in front of the photo shoot of Mari Pepin, another Puerto Rican woman.
“Las diosas,” photographer Franco Lacosta, a Latinx man, says to Mari, comparing her to a goddess in Spanish. “Las royal wedding,” Victoria says, cutting him off with purposefully incorrect Spanish. When Franco attempts to slot in Pieper James, who is Black, next, Victoria makes it seem like Franco is bad at his job. “The royal wedding. You forgot?,” Victoria asks. She is allowed to go next.
Separately, it would be easy for someone uninterested in recognizing racist manipulations to downplay these incidents and label them as reality TV antics. Together, however, it’s an unmistakable pattern. Especially since Victoria does not treat white contestants in a similarly destructive manner. When Victoria complains to a producer — the sole authority figure in sight — about the cast, she points directly to Jessenia and says, “She’s one of the ones that was like, ‘You should be more positive.’” Her intention is to punish Jessenia for a perceived slight.
Then, Victoria tells the producer, “One of them was like, ‘Don’t you feel like this is gonna be your downward spiral?’ I’m like, ‘No! Do you not know me?’” Noticeably, she does not say the woman’s name or identify her to the producer. The contestant in question is Anna Redman, a white woman. Anna is the only white person Victoria even slightly disagrees with over “Week 2,” and she never seems to argue with her again over the “tail spin” comment.
Victoria’s racist scheming boils over with Marylynn. The pair first disagrees in the initial group conversation following Bri’s exit for her solo date. “Trust me, we’re all jealous,” Marylynn tells Victoria, who is her roommate, attempting to empathize with her. “I don’t feel jealous. I’m not jealous. I’m literally so sick of you guys. I want to hang out with Matt,” Victoria responds.
Later that evening, Victoria accuses Marylynn of being “rude” to her and “insulting her character.” In a confessional, Victoria describes Marylynn as “psychologically disurbed.” When Marylynn attempts to defend herself by calmly repeating her true, harmless, words, Victoria leaves the conversation, saddling Marylynn with negative, unresolved emotions. Victoria accidentally reveals why she is so fixated on Marylynn, saying in a confessional, “I literally am a queen, and I can’t wait for Matt to send her home so I have my own room, as a queen should.”
Victoria wants a bedroom to herself and an Asian woman is standing in her way. When Marylynn gets an orchid from Bachelor Matt James, Victoria seemingly decides that is the final straw. In a confessional, she admits her plan saying, “I think Marylynn should go home. At this point I do feel like I need to fill him in on the antics to, like, pull him out of that toxic environment that Marylynn did create.” She also tells the camera, “Marylynn definitely needs to go home because I hate her.”
To create this outcome, Victoria tells Matt that Marylynn is “straight-up toxic” and “cries to, like, manipulate situations.” She gives no evidence to support these claims, but Matt instantly believes wet-eyed Victoria. He agrees it will be impossible for Victoria to “have a good time” with the darkness of Marylynn “weighing on her.” Within seconds, the comfort of a white woman is put ahead of the reputation of a woman of color on a Black Bachelor’s season. As Victoria peddles her story to the other contestants — and Matt confronts Marylynn — it becomes clear there is not a single specific incident of “bullying,” as Matt says. It’s all shapeless conjecture.
Still, Marylynn must defend herself. It is painful to watch a woman of color on a show famous for its structural problems with racial inclusion try to protect her herself against baseless, senseless accusations of misconduct. Her conversation with Matt is defined by suspicion; Victoria undermines Marylynn's every attempt at reconciliation, while calling her “too much” and questioning her reality, in their subsequent meeting. It’s a clear depiction of the ways women like Marylynn must move through a white world where government leaders urge “unity” after a nationalist riot.
At least Marylynn is trying to remain unbothered in the present day. As she told followers in an Instagram story video as “Week 2” aired, “Thank you so much for the love and encouragement — it means a lot to me.”