If you’ve spent any time on Twitter while watching The Bachelor—which is all but compulsory to distract yourself from the misery that is watching The Bachelor—you may have seen someone joke that the contestants should unionize. The joke works because, as a group, the contestants are consistently treated abysmally by the show’s powers that be, and specialized labor unions have been making a mini-comeback in recent years (especially in digital media). But what if—stay with me here—it weren’t a joke? I’ve been thinking about it, and it’s time to say it: The ladies of The Bachelor should form a union and harness the power of collective bargaining against their producer-oppressors.
I am inspired by what has become my most-loathed Bachelor tradition: cut-in drama. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe this (cursed) phrase will ring a bell: “Can I steal him for a minute?” It’s what contestants say when the bachelor is having one-on-one time with one lady and another woman wants to break in to get some facetime of her own. It’s become such a cliché that the show itself has now parodied the routine, ending last week’s episode with a sequence that started with Colton, this season’s bachelor, sitting with contestant Elyse on a bench. They were on a date at an amusement park, accompanied by a bunch of rowdy kids, and one little girl came up to interrupt the couple: “Excuse me, can I steal Colton for a second?” Elyse vamoosed and the girl sat down to start a mock get-to-know-you chat with Colton. Then another little girl cut in. And then another. As skeevy as I found it to watch little girls acting out the show’s retrograde dating rituals, I was even more horrified by its cheeky acknowledgment of its own stupidity and temporal tedium.
It’s not just that the interruptions themselves are grating to watch: what’s worse is the hostilities they create. On last week’s episode, Demi interrupted Courtney’s one-on-one time, so naturally Courtney and Demi are enemies now. Courtney pulled Demi aside to chat about her tone, but it was clear that what really bothered her was getting cut off before she’d gotten a chance to spend sufficient time with Colton. This same scenario has played out so many times on this show that I’ve lost count. It happened a few weeks ago with Catherine, the girl who had the gall to interrupt Colton multiple times on Night 1, thus inspiring every other contestant to hate her. Why, why, why can’t the contestants break this doomed cycle? Why don’t they make a group decision to stand in an orderly line or draw up a schedule or something so they can avoid this whole stupid mess?! Why don’t they, essentially, unionize?
The basic pitch is this: Even if the contestants consider each other competition, it’s in all of their best interests for everyone to get the same amount of time with the bachelor, right? This protects against the possibility of a Courtney Robertson type emerging, aka a front-runner who everyone else hates but who sucks up all the bachelor’s attention. (Robertson won Ben Flajnik’s season.) Some of the women may be privately thinking, But the Courtney Robertson will be me, bitches. So it will be up to the labor organizers to disabuse all the naysayers of the notion that they’ll ever come out ahead in this scenario. The Bachelor is like a casino: The house always wins. The only way for the contestants to ever gain leverage on the producers is to unite. This is the power of collective bargaining, people.
Now you’re thinking, How would this actually work? How would anyone convince a bunch of young women who agreed to date on reality TV that they need to radically overthrow a system that they both believe in and signed up for? I’m not saying it would be easy. But all it would really take is one charismatic, labor-loving contestant to convince the rest of the women that they need to work together, an AOC type with a passion for workers’ rights but who also has shiny enough hair to infiltrate the casting process. There must be one out there somewhere. Hey, they do alliances on Survivor, why not this? Less feasible will be shutting down production for days or even weeks to work out the contract but, eh, details. Honestly, that’s just going to motivate production to get an agreement signed that much faster. The Bachelor franchise runs on a tight schedule.
A union could do way more than solve the one-on-one time problem. The women could band together and attempt to stop that evil producer trick of leaving one contestant out of a round’s dates all together, like they did to Hannah G. last week. Like, that’s just unfair—at least let her go on a group date! Right now, the women have no voice to speak out against such injustices. They could also try to negotiate the ability to pick their own professions to list on their chyrons, so that they don’t unwittingly get labeled “Chicken Enthusiast” or “Never Been Kissed,” like Heather this season. They could try to lock in several spots for their season’s outcasts on Bachelor in Paradise, which could be a nice consolation for some of the runners-up.
The women wouldn’t automatically get all their demands, and in negotiating with the producers, they would inevitably have to make some trade-offs. So they would have to decide what’s most important to them as a group. That means there could totally still be “Chicken Enthusiasts” on the show as a concession to the producers in the women’s effort to secure equal time for all contestants. Perhaps in exchange for getting a contract that stipulates “No visits from exes trying to win the bachelor back” (remember when Becca’s ex showed up on The Bachelorette? Ugh!), the women might have to live with the producers’ demand that they get to choose one woman per rose ceremony that must receive a rose even if the bachelor doesn’t want to keep her—the much talked about but never confirmed “producer pick.” This is the organized future.
(By the way, the male contestants on The Bachelorette should totally unionize too. But this franchise, like the rest of the world, has always been crueler to women than it is to men, so it would be especially welcome if women took the plunge first here. Sisters before misters!)
If right about now, you’re saying to yourself, Wait a minute, I like those silly chyrons, or It’s fun when the women constantly battle against each other and the nature of time, worry not. There will still be plenty of drama. Hello, you’re going to be watching a bunch of women topple Chris Harrison’s regime and take over a reality show institution—it’ll be riveting. The women will still fight, but now the fights will be political. They’ll have real stakes. They’ll call each other scabs and commies! But most important, the women will have to find something else to whine about other than “time,” which is really my main thing.