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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

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‘The Bachelor’ returns

While there is the expected messiness, the cast of this season of "The Bachelor" have demonstrated a far more compelling vulnerability

Much to my anticipation, “The Bachelor” is back. As of the last three episodes, and for the first time since I have joined Bachelor Nation, I am truly rooting for the Bachelor in question. Joey Graziadei first appeared in the latest season of “The Bachelorette”, since then becoming the newest trending sweetheart. Admittedly, I had a hard time keeping up with Charity Lawson’s season, though audience reactions, especially that of my family’s, indicated that Joey’s reception was quite positive. Thus, he, the much-loved runner-up, quite naturally secured his spot as the next Bachelor. If you are not caught up with the first three episodes of this season, beware of the spoilers ahead.

I vowed to make time for “The Bachelor” this semester. As the first frame shows Joey in tears, crying as a van — with what we can infer must have held one of the women — drives away, I was reminded of why these weekly moments are so sacred. Billie Eilish’s “when the party’s over” sounds, and he, seemingly heartbroken, walks away from the beautifully staged seaside proposal toward the producers and camera crew off-screen. Again, they pan back to the van then to the rose, where Eilish’s soft, somber voice made the season’s first few minutes feel especially gripping. However, this may just be my routine falling for the producers’ predictable tactics, even as I laughed at how ridiculously they had framed the introduction.

This season, we had sisters Lauren and Allison Hollinger both vying for Joey’s heart, a strange and inarguably uncomfortable scenario. As of Monday, Lauren expressed growing frustrations about the challenge of getting time with Joey and voluntary self-eliminated, leaving him to her sister and sparing us of any further discomfort. Most recently, we have witnessed the emergence of this season’s first — and hopefully only — villain. Toward the end of the second episode, contestant Madina Alam expressed a concern over her age, where Maria Georgas jumped to her defense in solidarity as she too is older than the Bachelor, trying to empower Madina to “own it” because “Joey probably loves it!” Yet, it seemed like her comments, ones that many of the girls simply thought of as honest and straightforward, were actually interpreted by another contestant as badmouthing Madina. Sydney Gordon began to spearhead an anti-Maria campaign, claiming that she “could not let the mean girl win” long after Maria and Madina cleared the air. Sydney ran to Joey with her side of the story, arguably playing the victim, while Maria was left to plead her case, which many of the other women’s conversations seem to support. As of the next episodes’ previews, it seems like the “dumbest fight in Bachelor history”, as Maria puts it, rages on, with a dreadful two-on-one date on the horizon. Maria’s lovable authenticity and charm shall prevail.

Usual drama aside, this season seems to spotlight a lot of important, and necessary, representation. We are finally seeing the special moments where Joey’s connections are growing, shown as genuine, touching conversations where the women share real, human experiences that are not often depicted on screen. For example, Daisy Kent has shared her experiences with a cochlear implant as she began to lose her hearing in her late teens (though, I must note that in this context, her one-on-one date on a helicopter to a music festival felt a bit problematic), and Edwina Dorbor described her hardships as a first girl child growing up in an African household in Liberia. While the drama does keep us around, these are the moments and the stories that I want to see and hear more.