ABC has invited one of the greatest comics alive, Amy Schumer, to be its next Bachelorette. She shouldn't take the gig. No woman should.
This season of The Bachelorette is determined to destroy the series. After a tasteless two-night season premiere that, for the first time, let a group of men choose between two women who would be this year's Bachelorette, viewers were shown a "this season on" preview montage. Usually, this is where ABC parades the most extravagant dates, majestic sunsets, juicy smooches, and a handful of dramatic showdowns between the men trying to court the woman of their shared dreams.
This season is determined to destroy the series
The first half of the preview delivered as expected, but the second half boiled the entire season's drama to a single arc: Kaitlyn has sex with someone, and she feels awful about it — probably because a gaggle of television producers are demanding she atone on network television.
For a show that hinges on one person dating 20 suitors, it takes an awfully conservative stance on sex. But The Bachelorette airs on ABC, which is owned by parent company Disney, so if its view of sex is repressive, hypocritical, and laden with double standards, it probably shouldn't come as any surprise. If you haven't watched The Bachelorette or The Bachelor before, allow me to explain the series' complex sex protocol.
For a show about dating 20 men, it takes a conservative stance on sex
Both programs used to have unspoken rules that the stars not sleep with anyone until they've narrowed down the roster of possible mates to a final three. At that point they can have sex with the trio — separately, of course, and without the presence of a camera crew — in the show's Fantasy Suite. That rule has been flouted in recent years by the male leads of The Bachelor. While not explicitly stated, we're led to believe both Bachelor Ben and Bachelor Juan Pablo (again, separately) had sex in the ocean midway through their respective seasons, and Bachelor Chris had a number of sexual encounters, if not full-blown intercourse. In both scenarios, ABC or the producers or both walked the line, hinting at tawdry drama, but never confirming it, all the while preserving the sanctity of the Fantasy Suite.
So in some capacity, past seasons of the show have been leading to this. Perhaps ABC sees the public shaming of a lead having sex before the Fantasy Suite as a course correction, recommitting to its make-believe rules of courtship. But the producers' target and method is all wrong, as it has been from this season's conception.
After last season's The Bachelor went full tilt, abandoning its reliable structure for one extended madcap makeout fest, the program's producers and ABC devised a follow-up that upped the ante: this season of The Bachelorette would star two women from last season's Bachelor, and the two dozen or so male suitors would be given the opportunity to decide which woman stays. Yes, the one progressive thing about an otherwise trashy show — a woman taking charge, choosing between men groveling for her attention — was immediately inverted to give power back to the men. And though Bachelorette Kaitlyn now decides who stays each week, she must deal with half of a suitor base that is either disinterested or expects her to justify why they should stay and compete for her affection and not leave the show for the woman they voted for — one guy actually does this!
The season is tone-deaf
In short, we've been promised a tone-deaf season of Kaitlyn being further humiliated, shamed, and robbed of any power. (A season that is at least partially the handiwork of a producer who spent a flight Tweeting about an uppity woman it turned out never existed.)
Which brings us to the one flawless decision of the season: inviting comedian Amy Schumer to appear on Monday night's episode and deliver some blunt criticisms of The Bachelorette's least likable suitor. Schumer is one of the funniest comics alive and one of the fiercest patriarchy critics. The Bachelorette is a fitting target, not because it stars a naive woman seeking love on television, but because in its current warped manifestation, it has nothing to do with that woman or love. On her show Inside Amy Schumer, Schumer often plays a ditzy lead, and initially the joke seems to be on her and women like her. But after disarming the viewer, she shreds the real target: the dudes. Like The Bachelorette, it's a show starring a woman, but it's really about scummy, conniving, and judgmental men.
This is fertile ground for Amy Schumer. To quote my friend and editor Emily Yoshida, Schumer's comedy is often about women doing whatever they can to survive in their hellish manscape. And if there's a more heavily concentrated sampling of bloated testosterone than Bachelor Mansion, I can't think of it.
Following Monday night's episode, the two worlds collided even further: Robert Mills, ABC's senior vice president of alternative series, specials, and late-night programming, tweeted at Schumer, offering her the role as the next Bachelorette.
It's the outside-looking-in perspective that allowed Schumer to shine a light on the series' darkest features. There's a difference between Schumer guesting on the show and appearing within it, which makes the offer so strange.
ABC already has someone like Schumer as its current Bachelorette, and Schumer herself says Kaitlyn is her favorite contestant. On last season of The Bachelor, she was funny, confident, and sex positive. She introduces herself to Bachelor Chris with a grin, saying, "You can plow my field any day." Bachelor Chris, you see, is a farmer.
ABC already has a contestant like Schumer
Kaitlyn's spark is already fading with each hour of The Bachelorette. This personality lobotomy happens with each season of The Bachelorette, but it's especially painful to watch someone so charismatic and independent be gutted. ABC and its reps may claim they want someone like Amy Schumer to be the star of their show, but what they really want is a puppet.
The show is beneath Amy Schumer; it's beneath all women. Where previous seasons at least flirted with the notion of empowerment, presenting a woman with the same "human buffet" that men receive on The Bachelor, the show is now about giving a woman the illusion of power, then reprimanding her when she doesn't act in line.
ABC and the producers have been compared to pimps before, and it feels especially true now, as we watch the men tell a woman when and where she can have sex, and punish her when she disobeys. Such a dated system is the kind of thing we'll never tire of seeing Schumer burn to the ground, but from a safe and critical distance.