The Bachelor is not about finding love. We know this because the show has a horrible track record when it comes to producing lasting relationships. Any sane human being understands that dating 25 women at the same time and choosing one of them to marry after a handful of dates is not a great formula for a committed relationship. More accurately, The Bachelor is a show about romance that, for posterity, must maintain a veneer of love. In Monday’s season finale, Juan Pablo Galavis and this year’s winner, Nikki Ferrel, helpfully invited us all to look beneath the veil.
While there are many things that Juan Pablo did wrong, refusing to propose to Nikki wasn’t one of them.Let’s be clear: Juan Pablo is a jerk. In his time on The Bachelor, he spoke down to the contestants and never really showed any deep interest in their lives and personalities, and constantly said shallow and offensive things. Most damningly, he told the show’s runner-up that she was great in bed but that he didn’t actually know her all that well. And yet, Juan Pablo’s painful post-finale live interview with Chris Harrison provided one of the most helpful moments in Bachelor history.
Monday’s show was the most uncomfortable finale ever. I’d like to think that this was due to Juan Pablo’s shortcomings being exposed. If I’m honest, however, I believe the finale was uncomfortable because it forced us to acknowledge the show’s shallow view of love and our own hypocrisy. Before the finale aired, the producers had turned on Juan Pablo. This could be because he said some offensive things about gay people or because of how abrasive and misogynistic he was. As “After the Final Rose” continued, however, it became clear that The Bachelor turned on Juan Pablo because he rebelled against what Harrison and others refer to as “the process.”
Each year, it seems that The Bachelor puts increasing pressure on its contestants to get engaged. Juan Pablo not only refused to propose, but also refused to say “I love you” to Nikki, which Harrison practically begged him to do. Harrison responded to this by awkwardly shifting in his seat and saying, “uh … ok … well …” as if the idea of someone being in a relationship without being able to commit to spending the rest of their lives together was unheard of. Harrison went on to passive-aggressively chastise Juan Pablo for not buying into “the process.”
“But how do you feel about her?” Harrison pressed.
“Chris!” Juan Pablo said lightly, a tinge of annoyance in his voice. “I feel great, like I said. So I’m very honest to her and I keep things to ourselves, and I show her how I feel about her and she’s happy with that. And we’re starting our lives now together.”
“Do you love her?” Harrison asked bluntly.
“I’m not going to answer that question to you,” Juan Pablo snapped. He attempted to explain that they wanted their privacy. “We’re very happy, we’re starting our relationship right now… but we’re done with this show, we are so done. And very happy that we had the opportunity to be a part of it and we met each other.”
At every possible juncture, the cameras turned to Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici, the last Bachelor couple who ended the show with a proposal and who recently married on live television. The producers wanted to make clear that Juan Pablo was doing it wrong.
While there are many things that Juan Pablo did wrong, refusing to propose to Nikki wasn’t one of them. The show constantly labeled Juan Pablo as inarticulate and not comfortable enough with the English language to make his true intentions known, and yet with regard to his relationship with Nikki, Juan Pablo was clear. He said several times that he was excited about getting to have a real relationship with Nikki now that the show was over. He also said that he wanted to honor Nikki’s father who asked Juan Pablo not to propose unless he was absolutely certain that Nikki was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Juan Pablo may be a sexist jerk, but at least he wasn’t making a commitment to Nikki that he wasn’t ready to keep.
When my wife and I were dating, I told her I wanted to marry her long before she was comfortable with the idea. I also told her I loved her before she was ready to say those words back to me. Of course I wanted her to parrot those words back to me, but I’m glad she didn’t. Her reluctance forced us to slow down and get to know each other better. Thus when she was ready to say those words, I was confident that she wasn’t just telling me what I wanted to hear. It gave me confidence that she was not just “in love” with me, but was striving to commit herself faithfully to me. The Bachelor doesn’t understand such conversations — or at least it doesn’t want us to think they’re normal.
The apostle Paul described marriage as a great mystery that refers to Christ and the Church and called husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-32). This type of love requires men to be thoughtful, honorable, and committed — qualities that make for a great marriage but boring reality television.
At one point, Harrison lost it and snapped at Juan Pablo, “I don’t know what I’m looking at! I would like to say you guys are in love, but it’s so awkward because it’s like we can’t have a conversation.” This time Nikki came to Juan Pablo’s defense, noting that previous Bachelor contestants professed their undying love, many of them with rings on their fingers, on “After the Final Rose” and those relationships didn’t last. “We are taking this very seriously… this is a real relationship to us,” Ferrel said.
Unfortunately, real relationships aren’t allowed on The Bachelor. Harrison admitted as much when the show returned from commercial break:
Nikki’s in love, Juan Pablo is in love, he won’t say it but they are. And so we’re happy. That’s the main thing. You guys are happy, the end result is what’s important. That’s what we’re going to take home tonight.
Like my wife, I secretly hope that the contestants will find true love when I watch The Bachelor. I sympathize with the audience who eyes Juan Pablo angrily and scoffs at Nikki for being in a relationship with someone who won’t prematurely commit to her. It’s so much easier when the show ends with a ring. Like Chris Harrison, we’re ready to move on to The Bachelorette. It’s more comfortable behind the veil.