Ardent Bachelor Nation fans will likely never forget the day the promotional materials for Colton Underwood’s 2019 season were released. The images didn’t show him in a finely tailored suit handing out roses, which is traditional for the rising Bachelor (Matt James’ photos conjured the memory of James Bond himself). Producers had Colton appear in a too-tight striped polo, sporting a faraway and slightly dopey smile. It was a near-exact copy of the 40-Year-Old Virgin poster. Because Colton, as the world knew by then, was a virgin.
It’s possible Bachelorette 2021 contestant Mike Planeta — who was eliminated during Monday night’s “Week 7” — assumed he would receive similar manipulative treatment over Katie Thurston’s season. Mike is a proud Christian adult male virgin and former athlete, which fits into a similar mold as the anodyne Colton we knew during his Bachelorette run. Unlike Colton, who has become a far more controversial figure in the years since competing for Becca Kufrin’s heart, Mike isn’t waiting for “the right person,” as Colton said back then. Mike is staunchly abstaining from sex until marriage, as he has repeatedly said over season 17. Mike, who was crowned The Greatest Lover of All Time in “Week 2,” also got the supportive and respectful The Bachelorette edit that Colton likely would have dreamed of receiving.
All the thoughtful characterization in the world couldn’t save Mike from the presentation of his elimination date in “Week 7.” At face value, Mike’s final outing with Katie is meme fuel until next week's sure-to-be haywire “Men Tell All” special. But, beyond all the funny tweets, The Bachelorette’s implicit support of Mike has promoted some very limited ideas about a woman’s role as a romantic partner.
“You remind me of my mom.” That was, to many viewers, likely the final nail in Mike’s coffin on The Bachelorette (Katie has not confirmed this). Mike says those words during his “cuddle date” with Katie, which opens to a poor start. The pair can’t stop laughing; their instructor, Cuddle Queen Jean, suspects the giggling is due to “awkwardness.” This theory is proven likely as Mike’s honest confessional thoughts are interspersed between his more sexual cuddling with the Bachelorette. “My mom’s the best woman I know,” Mike, 31, says as we see Katie straddling him. “But Katie’s a better cuddler. There’s no question about it. My mom’s gonna hate me for saying that, but at some point, every boy has to move on.”
While Mike’s words — which mash up fairly chaste sexual contact and filial devotion — may have led to many a confused tweet, it’s clear The Bachelorette was not exploiting Mike’s perspective. Firstly, he has shared nothing by glowing praise about his depiction on the show, including in his post-show farewell video on Instagram. Then, there is the fact that Mike brought his mom up directly to Katie during their cuddling. After telling Katie she “reminds him” of his mother, he elaborates on what that means, saying, “You take on people’s feelings.” This isn’t the first time Mike lauds Katie for her ability to monitor other’s emotions — earlier in the chat he says she “calmed him.” Mike admits that taking on other people’s emotions, as Katie does, would be his “worst nightmare.”
Over the season, Katie has shown herself to be the kind of Bachelorette who asks pointed questions. She interrogated suspected villain Thomas Jacobs about his motives for an entire episode. Katie has never shied away from diving into frontrunner Greg Grippo's complicated feelings over a season plagued by uncomfortable (and understandable) romantic jealousy. Yet, we never see Katie ask Mike why it’s important that she remind him of his mother or whether he genuinely believes women should spend their time processing other people’s emotions. Considering Mike’s repeated assertion that whenever he thinks of his future wife he wonders “what kind of mother she’ll be,” as he says in “Week 2,” this connection between wifedom, motherhood, and empath seems to be integral to him. In a season as “sex-positive” as Katie’s the necessity of this assumed trajectory — and whether Mike’s future wife even wants to have children or expects her spouse to remain celibate before marriage— should be probed.
Bachelor Nation’s inability to examine Mike’s thoughts on sex has since bled into his post-show existence. The gym owner appeared on Mike Johnson and Bryan Abasolo’s Talking It Out podcast directly after “Week 7” aired. During the conversation, he repeatedly called previously having oral sex “slipping up” and admitted, “I just have to be extremely careful with who I am. Because naturally, if I didn’t have my faith, I would take.” Heterosexual sex between two consenting parties, as Mike is describing, isn’t a man “taking” from a woman — it’s something shared between two people.
Considering the fact that The Bachelorette is clearly enamored with Mike — a man who has managed to recognize his own intense sexual urges while sharing his deep faith — it’s possible he’ll get into these thorny topics during next week’s “Men Tell All.” Or, the show will just find a way to let his now-famous mom, Margaret Planeta, give Barb Weber a run for her money.