The stays of execution that JoJo gave to Alex and songwriter James “French Fry” Taylor at the last rose ceremony were not to further explore love. They were to prolong and milk the men’s heartbreak.
In the two weeks since the last episode aired, a hiatus marked by July 4th, our nation has suffered heartbreak of its own. Louisiana. Minnesota. Texas. You know what those locales mean, though the events they signify: murder, police brutality, mass shooting, rage and civil rights, are already familiar. Lately, they just intertwine in more prominent, close-knit and devastating ways.
While always linked with America’s past, such events now pepper our contemporary moment. They do not divorce as easily as we may think from our simpler tasks and entertainments.
So what has any of that to do with dating footage shot in Argentina weeks ago—then produced and edited by nihilists (with hilarious sensibilities) well before violence and #BlackLivesMatter protests took over newsfeeds? Not much, except that both types of footage intersect with what Jesse Williams so eloquently referred to as the “invention called whiteness.”
Most Embarrassing Song Ever: “Chillin’ on a Bus”
The Bachelorette (hiding in vapidity) does a lot to create, to invent, our cultural ideas around whiteness—especially as it relates to love and marriage. Bachelor Nation obsesses over dating rituals. And it makes a difference when those customs only concern the whitest of whiteness. Think Vanilla Ice. Remember what he did to rap?
The remaining dudes even share that honky rapper’s iconic pompadour. Perhaps the hipster poof was always akin to Robbie Van Winkle’s ‘do. (Even Macklemore’s cut seems a redux of Vanilla Ice’s.) The bachelors perform hip-hop devoid of wit and style (what’s worse than ridiculous?) although they give it their all.
That’s right. They load themselves onto a bus and they rap. Without any discernible shame. So what’s the problem? Nothing. Play that funky music, white boy. It’s just that hip-hop is the music of revolution. And it’s black art. And these dudes use it to ridicule the tinykin Alex who is so short he “needed a stool,” as “rapped” in their refrain. Their obviously well-rehearsed rendition flooded at least one audience member with cringes of deep embarrassment. A “bleachable” moment for sponsors.
But what is with that urge to “whiten” moments? Especially when the franchise does that in the literal sense. Season after season.
In case you need reminding, JoJo nixed all the minority guys weeks ago—which is how it always goes. The next season’s star gets cast from the men or women who make it to the final rounds, and since this is never a person of color, the show breeds its perpetually white lead.
Aren’t we all yearning for a season of this show that looks like the cast of Hamilton? Instead, there’s a greater blending, a uniformity. Bland. Bleached.
“Sketchy” Argentina: Land of “Goochos” and Horse Weirdness
Alex gets a one-on-one date. In the early episodes this means that you’re a front-runner. As the show wears on, it means you’re about to get axed. Alex’s date includes wearing a theatrical costume and lolling atop a mesmerized horse. The whole segment is actually a rendition of anguish. It’s Derek’s “Cry for Me Argentina” edit except worse. If it were a song it would be called “Let’s Demean a Man, Argentina.”
So why pick on Alex? He was/is a Marine. He’s a toothpaste commercial with biceps. He’s in love, etc. Here’s why: the other men are made better only if they are winners. If there is somebody less, who they can beat. Masculinity works a lot like whiteness. It is created, in its idealized form, in the way that it dominates. That’s part of The Bachelorette’s appeal. The best man wins, but he also can’t be the best unless he wins. That requires losers.
Oh Alex, short fellow. One time villain. Now sacrificial lamb. And another horrific rapper. No sooner does he claim to be an ace freestyler when he crash lands by rhyming “yoyo” and “JoJo.” Are your ears burning? It gets worse.
He creates a platypus “beak” with a twinset of Pringles chips. Then he moves in for a kiss. Never was a man so doomed. But he still has to don the traditional outfit of an Argentinian farmer-cowboy. Side-tilted beret. Black rubber knee boots. Neckerchief looped through a brass napkin ring. And mini-saber tucked into his belt. He was metaphorically stabbed with it for hours.
JoJo, usually not a vocab expert, has to tell him their teachers are “Gauchos,” (the farmer-cowboys,) not “Goochos.” (Please let the real Gauchos have been well-compensated for this segment, showrunners!)
So, have you ever seen a horse get “conquered with love?” Have you ever wanted to spoon with a splayed horse? How about enact a 50 Shades scenario with a horse? Yes? Get to rural Argentina ASAP.
But beware the food. Post-rap performance, the guys eat at a roadside dinner. They deem it “sketchy,” that familiar white racist jab toward ethnic food and anything unfamiliar.
Will Famous Sports Figure “Aaron Rodgers” Please Watch The Bachelorette?
JoJo is desperate to cut Alex loose the moment he declares his love. She can’t hold off until the rose ceremony because that would be “disrespectful.” Get lost now, Alex. NOW. Alex gets hauled away in a mud-covered pick-up, clearly a last-minute hire.
In contrast, King of the Frontrunners, Bronze Medalist in Football and Bro-dom, and Expert Gloater, Jordan, gets a lift in a shiny limo to his one-on-one date. He tells JoJo that he’s in love with her and she digs it.
The other bachelors do not dig Jordan. He is a “fabrication” in their eyes. Apparently, he has some sort of celebrity brother. A brother so famous he doesn’t even know that Jordan has enlisted in The Bachelorette army because they don’t discuss anything these days. Also, Jordan could play football if he wanted. And if coaches would stop comparing him to “the best” (that famous brother, presumably.) It’s well-known that fame is hard for those who possess it, but Jordan proves the pain extends to siblings as well.
Jordan is “the best” at JoJo, at least. Granted, The Bachelorette is not the NFL—though arguably it’s just as fascinating.
The Thermodynamics of Frontrunning: Break it down!
The group date consists of Truth-or-Dare style Humiliation Games. James Taylor has abandoned his guitar. JoJo, outing herself as a sadist, feeds him 25 French fries, the catch being that he cannot swallow any until they are all stuffed in. It’s like that gluttony scene in Se7en.
Robby chooses “Dare” when it’s his turn. He’s ordered to strip, “show his butt” (Chase requested the mooning) and race through the hotel hallway. Not very daring when you have zero percent body fat.
Soon after, the men embark on a philosophical (and drunken) inquiry into the nature of frontrunning. James admits to fighting his way up from the back of every crowd. Chase contributes a Scooby-doo (“huh?”) glance-around. Robby describes his own ascendance to frontrunner. It’s propelled by willpower and self-belief. Blind to all competition. His method works since he gets the rose.
This revelation sends Chase and James out the door and into a mirrored elevator where they cascade through a kind of Sliding Doors epiphany. They sit, like mirror images of the same cat, confused in their exit car. Meanwhile, their better version, Robby, lip-locks with JoJo on the hotel roof.
Is The Bachelorette a Low Stakes War Between White Dudes?
This episode’s key word is “real.”
They all keep saying it. Real love. JoJo wants a real guy. With a real job in a real town. She describes her love with Jordan as “so real.”
But she seems most separated from reality when she’s on the date with Luke the American Gaucho, bow-legged prince. They play a game called “skeet” wherein pigeon-shaped clay is blown to smithereens by rifle fire. Luke has remarkable aim, that is perhaps less impressive because his occupation is “War Veteran?”
In previous episodes, a limo burned. The bachelors play-acted at fire disasters. Remember Chad threatening machete hacks and beat-downs? And all the summoned medics. Then Wells endured a gunshot to the chest. Fake, of course. Invented. But like life itself, fraught with consequence.
The Bachelor Franchise has always been violent—the way it deals in power plays that raise someone up, only through the demise of another. Could Jordan rise without Alex’s fall? How could Robby be out front without James and Chase falling behind?
These tepid little wars distract us, at the same time they make plain, simple, the operations of whiteness.
After JoJo blasts apart a skeet, she whoops, screams, then leaps into Luke’s arms. It’s hard to read it as genuine glee. JoJo, and her producers, wouldn’t have known when they filmed it, about all the real gunfire that was about to hit America.
Photo: Getty Images
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