Sometimes I wonder what will it finally take to be done with the Bachelor franchise? I’ve tried to watch the show through the years because I know it continuously provokes important conversations and has plenty of positive role models for both men and women. But I swear, every time I give it a chance, another scandal or toxic character emerges. And now, with the recent allegations against Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss, I’m disturbed again.
As Variety reports, Laura Fleiss has accused her husband of attacking her and demanding that she get an abortion. She filed—and was granted—a restraining order. Warner Horizon, which produces The Bachelor, told Variety, “We are aware of these serious allegations and are looking into them.” Fleiss responded with his own allegations: According to documents obtained by Variety, Fleiss claims his wife attacked him and that her “judgment was seriously clouded and [she] was so desperate for a baby after having the miscarriage that [she] lost it and wasn’t thinking clearly.”
While this is certainly the most serious allegation against Fleiss, it’s not the first. He reportedly feuded with a neighbor in Malibu by launching an aggressive noise war. He’s faced controversy for casting an accused domestic abuser on his stunt series Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? I’d even argue that his reasons for starting The Bachelor in the first place are seeped in misogyny. (Never forget the time he said, “Girls crying is still the backbone of the show.”)
The franchise itself has been in hot water several times over the years, of course, from contestants accused of sexual harassment to an encounter on Bachelor in Paradise that led to a debate about sex and consent on reality TV. Many of the contestants, especially women, are relentlessly bullied by online trolls after appearing on the show. Some may argue they “signed up for this” and that they build careers off the publicity they receive—and the production team obviously can’t control the actions of online trolls—but the way the contestants are portrayed is partially in the hands of those making the storylines. Vetting these cast members is also the responsibility of those behind the scenes. When slut-shaming characters like Luke P. get on the show, I have to remind myself that someone chose this dude over a wide range of other, hopefully less problematic, dudes.
Fleiss has tweeted before that he’s “horrified” when “abusive assholes” are cast on the franchise—but I don’t think that’s taking full responsibility. And that’s my biggest issue with The Bachelor franchise: the behind-the-scenes action. I worked in film and TV for several years, including for a reality TV show, and I’m friends with a former reality TV star as well as a reality casting producer. I know firsthand what the industry will do for ratings. I saw an asshole become the hero in the final edits, while a good person became the villain. I saw people behind the scenes have far more power to control the narrative than the actual people in the story. And that is why I think we should be concerned about the personal lives of men who have the power to shape what we watch, especially with ones with a platform as big as The Bachelor.