The last time I cried at a reality TV show elimination, I was eight and Sanjaya Malakar was eliminated from American Idol season six. But here I was, a twenty-year-old blubbering over a pixie-cutted woman in palazzo pants who in turn was crying over a man she had been dating for two months — Bekah from The Bachelor. My roommate asked if I was okay; I nodded while shoveling more stale dining hall cookies into my face. It had happened again: I started enjoying what was supposed to be a hate-watch, and it took over my life.
It started with a boy band. My then 15-year-old sister was obsessed with an ABC reality show aptly named Boy Band, an ABC summer replacement reality show in which 30 vaguely One Directional teenagers competed for a spot in a prestigious boy band. I watched barely five minutes of one episode when I realized it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. The boys were the epitome of soft but still cool, like a John Green character who lives in Riverdale. So I googled them, and then I started tweeting about them. I (lovingly) roasted each kid, ranging from a discount Ansel Elgort I named “Babiest Driver," to a tank top-wearing boy from my hometown (“You can tell he’s from South Carolina because his sleeves were the first to secede from his shirt”). But just like a farmer naming his prize pig, I became attached. I started watching the show unironically. My sister would catch me up on the gossip. Babiest Driver became “My Son the Babiest of all the Drivers,” and I scared half my dorm with my yelling when he won a spot in the final group. But I still hated reality TV.
This winter, ABC announced contestants for the newest season of The Bachelor. There was quite an uproar over how most of the contestants looked alike, so I made a handy dandy guide breaking them down. I made my observations, realized you could see one of the girls’ nipples, and distinguished all four contestants named Lauren from each other. That’s when I found Bekah.
I put Bekah last in my thread because I was absolutely in awe. She looked like a wood sprite sent to this earth to teach a businessman about recycling. She looked like a kindergarten teacher who plays Call of Duty. She looked like ME, if I took better care of my skin. Well, I had to at least watch the first episode.
She looked like a wood sprite sent to this earth to teach a businessman about recycling. She looked like a kindergarten teacher who plays Call of Duty. She looked like ME, if I took better care of my skin.
I settled down with my mom and sister to watch the limo entrances, where each woman meets with the Bachelor, this season a 36-year-old race car driver who looks like the awkward child of John Travolta and Rob Lowe. There came Bekah, perched on the back of a cherry red Mustang convertible. While she flirted with Arie, I grinned at my mom and said, “That’s my wife.” She immediately responded: “DAISY. Marriage is a SACRAMENT.” I reacted to that the same way I react to everything my mom says: I tweeted about it.
That’s when my Twitter friends found her. I’m the youngest person in my Twitter community by far. Most refugees from the late, great comment section on The Toast, and they’ve helped me through my three years so far at college and the sword of Damocles that is life after graduation. When I tweeted what my mother said under a picture of Bekah, people took notice.
“She’s TWENTY TWO!?! That’s way too young for Arie, but perfect for you!”
“oh my god. is she lost?????? did she cross streams or something and end up on the bachelor when she should be at MY WEDDING??? TO ME???”
“Oh no I found her instagram”
The Instagram is what really got to us. Bekah is so confident and so fresh faced and so cool. She wears lingerie over thermal tops, overalls with no shirt underneath, and she knows how to pose to make them work. She nannies during the week and goes rock climbing on the weekends. Somehow all the queer women from our community came out of the woodwork to talk about how darn cute she is. People were actually starting to show interest in watching the show, even. I warned them about how excruciating the two hours I spent actually were.
That’s when someone suggested a recap solely focused on interactions between the women. I had been meaning to get into writing about television, if only to justify the sheer amount of media I consume. And thus, my recap series Bend It Like Bekah was born, and along with it, a group DM. That very night I stayed up and broke down every limo entrance, barely mentioning Arie at all.
Week by week, I wringed each episode for whatever drops of queer content I could find. I covered how Arie pulled a prank that almost let a woman drink her own urine, the week that Bekah revealed her age to Arie, an event touted by ABC as “The Bekah-ning.” All throughout, we were reveling in how great these women seemed, and how undeserving Arie was.
It’s strange, but I came to terms with a lot of my queerness through writing about The Bachelor, the most heterosexual show on television.
My mom actually read my work, and enjoyed it, but kept reminding me that Bekah was straight. I reminded her that it does not say that anywhere, and that two contestants on The Bachelor: Australia dated after the show.Arie proved himself to be The Worst when he proposed to Becca, known as “Other Becca” to me, and then changed his mind and broke up with her in front of the cameras for twenty long grueling minutes. He then went back to beg the runner-up, one of the four Laurens, for forgiveness. She forgave him, but we didn’t.
It’s strange, but I came to terms with a lot of my queerness through writing aboutThe Bachelor, the most heterosexual show on television. I realized that nobody really watches these shows for the dates, or even the man at the center of the attention: They watch it for the interactions between women. It’s framed as the pursuit of a man, but that’s only an end goal; the obstacles are usually the fellow contestants. While the interactions may be catty, there was enough genuine love between these women that I was convinced Bekah and quirky taxidermy enthusiast Kendall were in a secret relationship. That may not be true, but I’ll just report the conspiracy theories as I see them, manipulating my own narrative, which is the best way I know to honor reality television.
top photo: The Bachelor/ABC
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Dais Johnston is a junior theatre major at Agnes Scott College. They wear a lot of hats both literally and figuratively, the favorites of each being bowler and theatre director, respectively. They tweet too much and need a nap. Follow them on Twitter and Medium @thegoodolddais.