We're getting to the middle of Matty's season of 'The Bachelor', and it's been an interesting one in terms of the development of the franchise, but on Wednesday night the show strayed into some pretty nasty territory.
Quick background: after Sam Frost's season of 'The Bachelorette' the franchise changed production companies right before Richie's season, and since then has made a slight shift in the focus of the show.
Each season following (Richie, Georgia and now Matty) has featured the casting of villains and some might argue shifted the focus of the show from the singular Bachelor or Bachelorette's search for love, to a greater emphasis on drama while they're away.
Richie's season had Keira, the disrupter, who was clearly a producer's dream. She created waves within the house and SO. MUCH. DRAMA which ultimately saved a pretty uneventful season.
Similarly Georgia Love's season of 'The Bachelorette' had rivals Rhys and Sam, two devilishly handsome models who were more interested in their screen time and less interested in, you know, the actual bachelorette.
YOU CAN BE A STRIPPER IF YOU WANT TO AND THAT'S OKAY IT DOESN'T MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON OMFG #TheBachelorAU— beca (@beckaio_) August 16, 2017
Which brings us to Matty's season and our overtly cast villains Jen and Leah. Neither bachelorette spared any time playing up the role with the subtlety of a Disney character -- all that's been missing is a lightning bolt or a cloud shaped like a skull and crossbones every time they say something devious.
The pair has committed to the role expertly but on Wednesday's episode the show took a bit of a nasty turn with the introduction of Matty's sister grilling the women for "deep, dark secrets".
As the episode developed, many of the bachelorettes started to make comments about Leah's "secret job".
"Leah has a secret job title of 'party planner'," Elise said in a testimonial, "which is a very loose term and covers a lot of different types of parties".
Other notable quotes called Leah a "naked party planner", and "some kind of exotic dancer".
"Maybe she's worried that she's going to get caught," one bachelorette said, as if Leah was selling counterfeit purses out of the bachelor mansion basement.
The group date was obviously family themed, with Matty's sister looking on and, as we've been reminded roughly 6,000 times, Matty is ready to settle down and raise a family. Juxtaposing this with Leah's "dark secrets narrative" implying she's not fit to be around children?
We got two confrontations, one where Leah confronted the other bachelorettes and one where Matty confronted Leah.
While Leah was taken down for an entire episode, another woman in the house that admitted to working as a topless waitress in the past, Simone, was also grilled by Matty. Looking down on a crying Simone, Matty looked disappointed, "When were you going to tell me?" the man working his way through 22 women asked.
"I just feel like I'm being put in the same category as Leah now," Simone lamented before saying, "in that industry you're not ready to settle down because you're with so many guys".
Here's the thing, in the past the villain role always resolved itself with dignity. The villain trope stirs trouble in the house and disrupts the tedium of a 36 week series but there's no need for a "takedown".
In other seasons the troublemakers were sent off in a more private way, the satisfaction that the Bachelor or Bachelorette doesn't pick those figures is resolution enough without the need for humiliation. Keira had an awkward yoga date and grabbed an Uber home. Sam and Rhys went on a double date and were both sent packing after that. There was no need to humiliate them, especially when it comes to their sexual agency.
This whole episode is just kind of sad. The implication that the women ought feel guilty about their work choices is off. #thebachelorau— Chris Urquhart (@chrisurquhart) August 16, 2017
Rather than ending the episode by simply not giving Leah a rose, she was walked to the end of the driveway, publicly summoned in front of the other women. "Thank God," one muttered.
Not only was Leah sent through the ringer for being a "villain with skeletons in her closet," but the immense drama of being labelled a "topless waitress" as some mark against her character was ridiculous. Bachelors Blake Garvey and Tim Robards both held the same profession before they became the leading men of their seasons -- they were never forced to confront the women in their seasons, forced to admit their "shameful secrets".
"No man is worth that bullsh**," Leah said after Matty had sent her off, and all power to her. The show let down its own cause with an episode that targeted a woman's right to own her own sexuality, and turned it into something really ugly. For a show all about love, it felt pretty heartless.