Arts Opinion: Latest “Bachelor” season handles sexual assault well

Friendships, rivalries and opportunities for love have always been a highlight of “The Bachelor” franchise. Despite the show’s popularity and spin-offs like “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” that have topped the charts, the popular franchise has a ways to go before redeeming its past mistakes.

Although this petty, dramatic show is entertaining and adored by fans worldwide, the franchise’s carelessness in handling sexual assault allegations on “Bachelor in Paradise” was disturbing to many viewers.

On season four of “Bachelor in Paradise” in 2017, sexual assault allegations arose between contestants Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson. Production halted while claims were investigated, but the season still eventually aired to the public.

Not only did the show’s promotional material highlight the assault in an exploitative matter, but the show’s discussion of the allegations criticized the victim of the assault. A group conversation involving the contestants occurred during which many jumped to Jackson’s defense regarding the allegations, undermining Olympios’s story about the night, according to Allure.

The entire situation was handled poorly. Olympios’s trauma was publicized for higher ratings and the discussion that was supposed to make things right was more like a trademark franchise tell-all than a difficult reckoning. 

Sexual assault allegations should not be taken lightly, especially by a massive franchise such as “The Bachelor.” Both parties’ reputations were damaged in this publicized fight about who was in the right. Even though Olympios and Jackson chose to be in the public eye, they did not choose to be analyzed during a poorly structured discussion.

After this scandal, the franchise lost the respect and love of many fans. The current season of the show appeals to these fans by starting honest conversations about handling sensitive topics appropriately.

In episode of “The Bachelor” that aired Jan. 28, one contestant, Caelynn, opened up about her experience with sexual assault. In a conversation with bachelor Colton Underwood, Caelynn disclosed that she was drugged, raped and turned away from a hospital as a sophomore in college. 

During the heart-wrenching story, Caelynn spoke with complete honestly while Underwood listened attentively. The open conversation’s significance was enhanced by a lack of heavy editing during Caelynn’s story, according to Vulture.

This was a revolutionary change for “The Bachelor,” especially considering the 2017 “Bachelor in Paradise” scandal. Caelynn also talked about her emotional struggles after the assault and revealed that she never received sufficient justice. 

The decision Caelynn made to share her story was courageous and, though it was her choice to share, “The Bachelor” gave her an effective platform to tell her story.

Underwood also opened up to Caelynn in the same conversation. Although it is a well-known fact by “Bachelor” fans that Underwood is a virgin, he shared his own insecurities about his lack of sexual history, among other things, without taking anything away from Caelynn’s story.

As the new bachelor, Underwood’s status of a virgin made headlines due to the potential of the season. The promos were very heavy-handed about this detail and a lot of the storyline was set to center around his virginity, according to Vox.

Although the show’s promos were heavy-handed and the season should not center around a man’s virginity, Underwood’s open conversation has helped destigmatize the idea of a male virgin.

While Underwood’s virginity is not nearly as significant as Caelynn’s story, it is still representative of how “The Bachelor” has finally started to discuss important topics. Hopefully the franchise can continue to allow honest conversations without undermining deeper meanings within them. “Bachelor” fans around the world will be watching to see if the show can stay on track.