How Will Colton Underwood’s Revelation Impact ‘The Bachelor’ Going Forward?
It was the three words heard ’round Bachelor Nation. “And I’m gay.” That brave declaration, from a clearly terrified Colton Underwood to Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts this morning, has the power to change not only the Season 23 star’s life, but the Bachelor franchise as a whole.
“I’ve ran from myself for a long time. I’ve hated myself for a long time,” the Indiana native and former pro football player confessed to Roberts of his painful road to self-acceptance. “And I’m gay. And I came to terms with that earlier this year and have been processing it. And the next step in all of this was sort of letting people know.”
While Underwood continues his personal journey, the hit dating game that made him a household name when he first appeared as a suitor on Becca Kufrin’s 2018 season of The Bachelorette is in a position to take a few steps forward as well. The franchise has long been under fire for its poor track record regarding representation, and this past season hit a low with host Chris Harrison’s atrocious defense of a contestant’s participation in a racist, Antebellum-themed party during an equally unfortunate interview with the show’s first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay.
“I believe Colton’s openness and honesty is exactly what Bachelor Nation needs to see right now and could help [the show’s producers] make the changes that need to happen,” says entertainment journalist Emily Longeretta, who has long covered the franchise for Us Weekly. “Now is the perfect time for a gay or bisexual lead.”
And she’s right. Almost seven years ago, then-Bachelor lead Juan Pablo Galavis was infamously quoted as saying that a gay Bachelor would never happen because “They’re more pervert in a sense. To me, the show would be too strong, too hard to watch on TV.” He later clarified that he meant sexually aggressive instead of perverted (English was not the Venezuelan soccer player’s first language, remember) and that he believed that ABC would be hesitant to go down that road.
But in recent years, MTV and Netflix (which is reportedly producing a docuseries on Colton’s coming out) have both proven there is an audience for diversity in dating shows with Are You the One? and Dating Around, respectively. Both featured queer contestants without leaning into the stereotypical lasciviousness that fueled Galavis’ theory and marred Bravo’s one-and-done Boy Meets Boy back in 2003.
Casting outside of the heteronormative box would both change the game (literally) and elevate the conversations around fluidity and the sexuality spectrum. In addition, a same-sex season of The Bachelor or even The Bachelorette would help the Disney-owned ABC break new ground, says TV critic Andy Dehnart.
“The Bachelor franchise has been way behind in acknowledging the diversity of the human experience, including in sexuality, and has instead clung to antiquated notions of sexuality and gender roles,” posits Dehnart, who has covered the unscripted landscape at RealityBlurred.com since 2000. He blames a fear of alienating viewers, adding that the show is “so archaic it makes an old Disney cartoon like Sleeping Beauty seem progressive.”
What’s changed? “Now that Colton has shared his story and come out as both gay and someone who suppressed his sexual orientation because of societal pressure to conform to traditional roles, perhaps both the franchise and the toxic parts of its fandom will see how damaging those roles are,” he says. In addition, the show “clinging a little less tightly to gendered expectations might help people who are watching…and would also just make for better television.”
What do you think? Should ABC get down with the LGBQTA and do a gay Bachelor? Who would you choose to star and host? Let us know in the comments below!