Juan Pablo Galavis: How ‘The Bachelor’ Bad Boy Turned a Cynic Into a Believer
This week, a peculiar thought entered my head: "I'm excited for the upcoming season of 'The Bachelorette.'"
For the 8.4 million people who tuned into the most recent season premiere of 'The Bachelor,' this sentiment isn't strange at all. But for a scripted TV show-loving cynic who dabbles in the idea of calling herself a feminist, the idea is pretty far out of left field. Yet somewhere between Juan Pablo Galavis' crowning as the most desirable and his harsh rejection of Clare Crawley, I fell for 'The Bachelor.'
Aside from marathoning Alex Michel's quest for love waaay back in 2002 (yep, the first season), I've never felt compelled to watch the show. Perhaps it was the early roots of feminism and my distaste in a good-looking man picking and choosing through a bevy of equally beautiful women. Perhaps it was the general cheesiness that purported the early seasons of the show. Or perhaps the romantic inside me refused to believe that falling in love has come to this. Whatever the reason, bachelor after bachelor slid by without ever grabbing my attention.
(Case in point: For the past week, I've been consulting PopCrush Editor-in-Chief and 'Bachelor' fan Ashley Iasimone to make sure my knowledge of the show is accurate. Like Chris Harrison, she's a voice of reason that guided me through the ins and outs of writing this thing.)
Juan Pablo Galavis first landed on my reality TV radar in summer 2013. As luck would have it, I was assigned to cover 'The Bachelorette' for a freelance gig and found my Monday nights taken over by Des Hartstock and her harem of hunky hotties. While Des seemed nice enough, I found the whole season to be bland overall. (Except for Brooks. Brooks was wonderful and stunning.)
When it was announced that Juan Pablo would be the next 'Bachelor,' I remember my reaction was (expectedly) nonchalant. JP, to me, was unmemorable as a contender for Des' heart and I surmised that his season of the show would be equally uneventful. As America and Twitter now know: I was wrong.
I might have tuned in for the premiere of 'The Bachelor.' I honestly can't remember. What I do recall is the excited buzzing between my female friends ("I'm so excited for Juan Pablo!") and ABC's above-and-beyond marketing onslaught ("Juanuary," anyone?). Des' reject was painted as an exotic former professional athlete and a sweet, single father who just wanted to find the perfect mother for his daughter.
As Juan Pablo's season progressed, the bachelor started getting publicity outside of the show itself. First, Juan Pablo dropped some anti-gay comments, implying a same-sex version of 'The Bachelor' wouldn't work because "...there's this thing about gay people... it seems to me, and I don't know if I'm mistaken or not... but they're more 'pervert' in a sense. And to me the show would be too strong... too hard to watch."
Later that month, he raised eyebrows with a self-imposed "kissing ban" on an episode of 'The Bachelor.' The ban itself wasn't the issue, but Juan Pablo's hypocrisy was. The athlete claimed that he didn't want his daughter to see him swapping spit was that many women. (Totally respectable, although letting her watch the show in the first place is a bit questionable.) However, by the end of the episode, Juan Pablo had succumbed to the wiles of one of the women and was filmed smooching Clare. Womp.
By the time Juan Pablo had whittled down his little black book to two names, Clare and Nikki, two of the potential dates had already voluntarily peaced out. Sharleen realized she lacked an essential connection with Juan Pablo, while Andi (who would eventually be crowned the new 'Bachelorette') left after claiming her night in the show's famed Fantasy Suite was a "nightmare."
To have any contestant leave is usually a pretty big deal for the show. To have more than one contender flee definitely doesn't reflect well on the Bachelor or Bachelorette. Even so, viewers weren't prepared for the drama-filled season finale.
First, fans saw as Juan Pablo had his final moments alone with Clare. He stood there, nodding thoughtfully, as she poured out her heart to him. And then he kicked her to the curb. As he said goodbye, he tried to give Clare one last kiss, only to have her throw up her hands, call out Juan Pablo on his BS and zing him with, "What you made me just go through, I would never want my children having a father like you."
It was at this moment that 'The Bachelor' caught my attention. It continued an iron-clad hold on my night and my fascination only grew as I watched Juan Pablo dig himself in deeper. He proceeded to announce Nikki the winner -- although he flat out told her he didn't want to propose to her yet. The proclamation came off rocky, at best.
Cut to the finale's aftershow, where JP and Nikki are reunited and he blatantly refuses to say he loves her. Or really, that he has any sort of strong feelings for her. As host Chris Harrison continued to prod, Juan Pablo continued to deflect his question. Despite the tension in the audience (and the fury unleashed in the Twittersphere), Nikki continued to beam, albeit hesitantly.
Even former 'Bachelor' and newlywed Sean Lowe called out Juan Pablo's non-committal answers, insinuating it's his duty to give the public some update about where the couple is headed. Juan Pablo dodged the question again, and Nikki continued to smile. (It's at this point I caught myself humming 'Dear John.')
In case you want to relive the most uncomfortable 'Bachelor' interrogation ever, we've kindly embedded it in the video below.
While we've confirmed that this might be the most awkward and controversial season of 'The Bachelor' like, ever, it doesn't exactly necessitate a life-changing experience for cynical viewers such as myself. I wasn't moved by the excitement that the woman who walked away from Juan Pablo is now in his very shoes. I'm not excited that yet another beautiful, single person is going to search for love in the public eye. What hooked me to 'The Bachelor' is the mere fact that the show was forced to own up to what it really is.
The premise of the show relies on a good-looking, sensitive guy who can woo the American public. (I mean, need we rehash the season where they marketed Andy Baldwin as an officer and a gentleman?) The ruse works because the bachelor signs on the dotted line and plays into the image. Although he may be bland, he generates enough appeal to keep the country (and particularly, female viewers) hooked. Seriously -- when Sean Lowe visited my previous office, he cause more of a stir than when Snoop Dogg did. Riddle me that.
But with Juan Pablo, all bets were off. He fit the desired mold on paper, but in reality, he came off as manipulative, callous and insensitive. He constantly reassured the women "It's OK," when really... it wasn't.
There's still some ambiguity about what controversial phrase he whispered to Clare in the helicopter during a one-on-one date, but suffice to say that it morally offended her to the point where she refused to repeat it on national television.
But for all his pitfulls, Juan Pablo had one chance to rectify everything. The finale aftershow was his chance to speak live and unedited, to tell his side of the story and to make America believe the fairy tale. And instead of making millions of women insanely jealous of Nikki, he made everyone sympathize for her. He even made Chris Harrison, smooth-talking host and wingman extraordinaire, look like a moral compass. He walked away looking like a man who is fully aware of his arrogant behavior and too delusional to care.
There's nothing ABC can do to correct the PR nightmare Juan Pablo became. He's easily the most hated 'Bachelor' of all time. He's given the network no choice but to admit that they hired the wrong guy -- and one who most aptly fits the underlying themes of 'The Bachelor.'
I understand that upcoming seasons of 'The Bachelor' won't be this controversial. Juan Pablo may have been a ratings jackpot, but it only worked because he was such a departure from the normal cookie cutter mold that has existed for so many years. Yet, the show finally gripped me.
I'm not sure if it's my desire to see a Juan Pablo survivor in the coveted 'Bachelorette' position, or maybe ABC's acknowledgement of the show's (at times) sketchiness finally assuages my guilt in watching. Maybe I'm wondering if, in the vein of 'Survivor,' future men will compete for the role of villain.
Whatever the reason, if I do ultimately tune into this upcoming season of 'The Bachelorette,' it will be with a renewed insight for the franchise. And yes, a little bit of feminist guilt will undoubtedly plague me, but in the words of Juan Pablo himself, "It's OK."