If there’s one thing The Bachelor really wanted to get across Monday night, it’s that Matt James’s most frustrated prospective wife, Anna Redman, really has feelings about women “entertaining men for money.”
Promotional clips that ran ahead of (and during) this week’s episode made clear that a woman in the house—one of several new contestants dropped into the resort weeks into the production—would be accused of being an escort. The original cast members, these clips made clear, are out for blood.
When The Bachelor producers first introduced Matt James as their next leading man, some fans wondered how he would fare. After all, James has never appeared on television, much less a Bachelor show—making him the perfect mark for manipulation by producers. Bachelors and Bachelorettes who’ve experienced the show’s psychological experiment from the contestant side, it seems, have a better sense of agency upon re-entry.
Maybe that’s why Matt continues to keep handing roses to Victoria Larson, the season’s main villain who seems, at least from the edit she’s getting, to be genuinely cruel. But the problem extends past Victoria. Sarah Trott left the show last week citing both her father’s ailing health and the bullying she received from contestants including Victoria, Anna, and MJ as reasons for her tearful departure.
And this week, as five new women joined the mix, several of these women seemed to relish the chance to pile onto them as well. Katie, who took a moment to comfort Sarah after the circle of hatred she received last week, appeared to be the only person in the house concerned about healing the toxicity. And although the word “toxic” has now been used so broadly in this franchise as to lose all meaning, this does feel like the most toxic Bachelor season in recent memory.
Two of the newly-arrived women, Brittany and Michelle, appear to have caused the greatest stir. Matt chose Michelle for a one-on-one that seemed genuinely wonderful. Of all the women who’ve just landed in Pennsylvania for filming, Michelle seems like the one most likely to make it far in the season. Brittany, however, quickly got tangled in a pernicious rumor.
The core of this week’s “scandal” comes courtesy of Anna—one of the original contestants, who’ve apparently taken to calling themselves the “Varsity team” and “OGs” (As Anna helpfully explained, that stands for “original group.”) Like several of her fellow contestants, Anna did not appreciate Brittany’s choice to introduce herself to Matt by making out with him. Victoria called Brittany both a “slut” and a “whore.”
Anna said that she and Brittany both hail from Chicago. “I, like, recognize her,” she said. “…And she’s, like, sketchy. She’s not here for Matt!”
“I don’t see her ending up with Matt,” Anna said later. “All I’ve been told about her is she fucking sucks. But also, I don’t know her. She’s the one who made out with him right away.”
During a relay race challenge—which came complete with a guest appearance from Bachelor par excellence Ben Higgins!—Anna upped the ante: She hid the acorn Brittany was meant to find while wearing a squirrel suit. (Pandemic dates are hard to plan!)
But then Anna pushed the gossip a step further. “People have gone out of their way to tell me, ‘Oh my God, watch out for this girl,’” she said. “There is a rumor because she knows all the rich men in Chicago, that Brittany may be an escort. She may be having a transactional relationship with wealthy men.”
At this moment, editors cut to Brittany making out with Matt James.
What proceeds from here is largely predictable: Anna confronts Brittany, telling her that she was “getting messages from people in Chicago” telling her that Brittany was an escort. Brittany says she has never worked as an escort, asking Anna in disbelief, “You were telling people in the house that?”
“I think that’s an awful thing to say about someone and I apologize,” Anna replied, without seeming particularly sorry. She later laughed with Victoria about Brittany’s supposed job.
“But whether or not Brittany has ever worked as an escort—which, again, she says she never has—is beside the point. No one should face scrutiny for working as an escort, or for doing sex work”
But whether or not Brittany has ever worked as an escort—which, again, she says she never has—is beside the point. No one should face scrutiny for working as an escort, or for doing sex work. Given the show’s embrace of a challenge weeks ago that prompted Matt’s contestants to write erotica, this puritanical backlash against a supposed escort just weeks later is disappointing, if not particularly shocking.
After she denied being an escort, Brittany called out the women for ganging up on her in such a brutal fashion. “I just feel like everyone’s against me right now,” she said. “I know you guys don’t care at all, but it’s really hard.”
“OK, Victoria replied. “Then get out of the house.”
The “Queen” also tried to pick a fight with Katie—who was the only one to encourage her fellow contestants to be more welcoming toward the other women. Ultimately, Katie brought her concerns about the women’s behavior to Matt without mentioning anyone specifically. What happens next remains a cliffhanger until next week.
It’s a shame that the rumor of a possible escort in the show’s cast would cause such a feeding frenzy—but then again, it’s not necessarily surprising. The Bachelor has struggled for years with slut-shaming—both on the show, in moments like when Juan Pablo Galavis slut-shamed Clare Crawley on air, and within the fan base, who have a history of bullying contestants as well. There have been good moments; Clare, for instance, actually became famous for her flawless comeback to Juan Pablo, “I would never want my children having a father like you.” But then there have been just as many lows: In a memorably-awful moment in 2015, Kaitlyn Bristowe was forced to spend part of her “Men Tell All” episode listening to Chris Harrison read out some of the most vile things said about her online after she had sex with Nick Viall.
In recent years, the franchise appears to be trying to speak more frankly about sex. Hannah Brown memorably refused to be slut-shamed in her season, and as Katie pointed out weeks ago, this season’s erotica challenge allowed the women to own their sexuality without shame. But it seems this franchise and its participants still draw some very old-fashioned boundaries around what a woman who’s “here for the right reasons” does for a living. The one thing we do know going into next week is that Matt seems determined to address whatever is going on in the house. Let’s hope he sets a more empathetic, open-minded tone for the weeks ahead. Fingers crossed…