It’s been a long time since America had a break from “The Bachelor” franchise. ABC seems to barrel ahead at the speed of lightning, taking care to schedule finales and premieres only one week apart from one another so as to not deprive the so-called “Bachelor Nation” of the drama for even one moment. This production schedule is honored, it seems, no matter the cost.
When contestant DeMario Jackson was accused of taking sexual advantage of contestant Corinne Olympios when she was allegedly too drunk to consent, many people thought the franchise had finally met the monster that could bring it down — or, at least, force the network to cancel the fourth season of “Bachelor” spinoff show “Bachelor in Paradise.” Instead, after ABC conducted an investigation that found “no evidence of sexual misconduct,” it became clear that, not only would the show go on, it also seemed determined to profit off the allegation.
Last week, ABC was criticized for releasing a trailer that seemed to make a joke of the sex assault allegation. Employing the goofy sense of humor that “Bachelor in Paradise” is known for, the trailer featured the tweets of fans begging the show to return, over footage of a sun setting in the sky and ominous music.
The trailer drew the ire of fans and non-fans alike, leading the network to issue a sort of non-apology:
Promos are very different from the show. [The actual show] will not handle [the scandal] in a cheeky way. We’ll handle it in a respectful way. The investigation resulted in [a verdict that] no wrongdoing occurred. What I do think, and this is a great question for Warner Bros., but it certainly has brought to light some safety issues that we want to make sure we’re more on top of, moving forward, that our contestants are safe and protected at all times. It’s a little bit of a wake-up call to make sure we have [safety protocols] in place.
During the finale episode of Rachel Lindsay’s season of “The Bachelorette” Monday night, ABC teased the “dramatic” incident that almost resulted in the show’s cancellation.
Which leads us to ask: it any better to treat the allegation heard ‘round the world as a scandal than as a joke?
By all measures of the term, “Bachelor in Paradise” is a trashy, trashy show. It holds little to no educational value, pledges allegiance to damaging gender stereotypes, and, as much as I hate to say it, is devastatingly entertaining. But that’s what makes it so hard for the show to gracefully deal with the utterly real life consequences of sexual assault.
Should “Bachelor in Paradise” choose to use the incident as an opportunity to educate their viewers about the realities of sexual assault — the percent of rapists who go unconvicted, the number of women who choose not to report their assault because of the social consequences of doing so — their ratings would almost inevitably drop. People do not watch “Bachelor in Paradise” in order to learn. They watch it to escape reality. And there is perhaps no reality people wish to escape from more imminently than sexual assault.
Corporations are not people. It’s situations like this that throw that truth into high relief. While it is not ethically or morally advisable to frame a sexual assault allegation as a “scandal,” it is most certainly financially advantageous.
And for “Bachelor in Paradise,” that is what matters most.
Becky Scott is the editor of The Schmooze. Follow her on Twitter, @arr_scott