The Bachelor stands erect as the vanguard of heterosexual romance competitions. Bachelor in Paradise (BIP), whose third season concludes this week, is the sunburnt, day-drunk cousin of the ABC franchise. Set in the Ewok Village on the Planet Endor (the perfect place to fall in love), the summertime distraction stars a revolving cast of homogeneous hotties 86ed from past Bachelor seasons, returning to TV for another shot at the marriage proposal that evaded them the last time they were on TV (the only place to fall in love). Or, at the very least, it’s an opportunity to attract enough followers to merit a shot at some passive income endorsing mud masks on Instagram.
Taking a cue from the jiggle TV that dominated ABC in the 1970s, BIP is cheap and trashy fun. This is evident right from the opening credits; comely castmates are introduced during a montage of ribald slapstick that recalls signature jigglers Three’s Company, Charlie’s Angels and The Love Boat.
The “crazy girl” trope is well-charted territory in the Bachelor-verse. And while BIP is not without its fair share of femme hysteria, this past season showed audiences that emotional flameouts aren’t just lady territory. The following rundown illustrates how the BIP boys of summer reinforced, reimagined and rebuked American expectations of hetero-masculinity.
Chad Johnson: Toxic Masculinity Avenger
The self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Man” managed to be both a bully and a breath of fresh air on JoJo Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette. His shameless candor and unshakable hunger for protein-rich deli trays garnered intrigue from fans, while his violent temper drew ire from both Fletcher and the fellow suitors. BIP was supposed to be a redemption for the “misunderstood bad boy.” But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, especially when there’s an open bar. In episode one, Johnson blacks out, shouting belligerent missives at the crew and fellow castaways, calling Sarah Herron a “one-armed bitch” (Herron was born missing part of her arm). He caps off the evening by shitting his pants and passing out on the ground. Busy first night!
The next morning, Bachelor host Chris Harrison descends from his chaise lounge in the sky to cast Johnson out of Paradise. Production Gods demanded Johnson deliver aggressively glib soundbites and exaggerated protein loading, which he did, in spades, but they voted him off the island anyway. That is some First Testament–level bullshit. After much gnashing of teeth, Johnson left. Attributing his erratic behavior to the recent death of his mother, Johnson is a cautionary tale against fathers telling their little boys that “feelings are for faggots.”
Evan Bass: Effeminate Heterosexual
Johnson’s biggest adversary, the 33-year-old single dad and “Erectile Dysfunction Specialist,” is the kind of man who expresses bewilderment as to why taking on the “self-appointed role of protector” for women doesn’t get him laid. Producers exploit Bass’ effeminacy for laughs: BIP’s opening shows him wrapping his lips around a banana; all the other dudes are chiseled from alabaster, but noodle-armed Bass can’t even do one push-up with a girl sitting on his back. Bass spends most of his time in Paradise pursuing girl-next-door Carly Waddell, who is initially turned off by his constant acts of self-emasculation.
“My brothers told me to stop dating guys who are feminine,” Waddell confesses to the camera. “My first boyfriend ever now has a boyfriend. And here we are again.” Bass finally wears Waddell down and, according to Reality Steve, she and Evan leave Paradise engaged or whatever. On episode one, castmate Jubilee Sharpe calls Bass the “Penis Guy,” a nickname he lives up to after kissing Waddell gives him a big old boner that censors obscure with a big old black box. Bass’ narrative is fanfic for Nice Guys, a sexual triumph that stands in opposition to most of the male contestants featured in the Bachelor-verse who are typically closer to the Chad-spectrum of gender essentialist masculine machismo.
Josh Murray: If Ted McGinley’s Jock Quarterback From Revenge of the Nerds Played Soccer
Bachelorette Andi Dorfman’s tell-all It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Never After chronicles her relationships with Murray and runner-up Nick Viall; Dorfman alleges that when Murray learned she and Viall had sex, his jealousy manifested into emotional abuse, prompting her to end the relationship. When the book is mentioned on BIP, Murray uses unintellectual reasoning to counter that Dorfman’s lying and only God knows the truth, so everyone should just shut up about it already.
Viall is also among the flip-flopped spit-swappers on BIP, and, gasp, he and Murray are both after single-mom sweetie Amanda Stanton. For jocko homos like Murray, love is a competition and losing is for pussies. Stanton is his trophy, and he shows Paradise what a winner he is by repeatedly insisting their relationship is genuine and, no, this is not an attempt to repair his image, and if anyone says anything otherwise, they should “be a man” and say it to his face, or else. Murray and Stanton spend the majority of their stay in Paradise engaged in chaste, hours-long makeout sessions that, just sayin’, don’t require any boner-censoring black boxes. Bass feels Murray’s intentions are insincere, noting that “his polish has polish.” He surmises that Murray’s penchant for speaking only in banal inspirational quotes is a way to obscure inner pain. That could be true, if Murray were a total pussy loser, which he definitely isn’t.
Nick Viall: Neoliberal Button-Nosed Dream Man
When Nick Viall first appeared as the runner-up to Andi Dorfman’s heart in 2014, the tight-pantsed Milwaukee native seemed like a nice enough dude, if not a little smarmy. When Viall repeated his runner-up narrative the following year on Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season, he seemed like a nice enough dude, if not a little desperate. When he showed up to Paradise, he seemed like a nice enough dude, if not a glutton for punishment. No one with abs that taut deserves to be forever alone, so after BIP was a bust, the Production Gods granted Viall a fourth chance at TV love as their unorthodox pick for the next The Bachelor.
On BIP, Viall is shown treating women like human beings, not like bitches or trophies or wounded birds in need of protection. While this shouldn’t merit praise, on The Bachelor, it’s radical feminism. Viall pulling himself up by his John Varvatos bootstraps after suffering multiple romantic rejections on national TV, each one more humiliating than the last, is a mark of both strength and vulnerability. Or, to quote Chad Johnson, another crack at “sucking that fame dick.”