What Colton Underwood coming out could mean for Bachelor Nation

What Colton Underwood coming out could mean for Bachelor Nation
Source: ABC

Could Colton Underwood’s coming out mean future LGBTQ seasons of “The Bachelor(ette)?” The former “Bachelor” star confided in Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview, admitting that he hid from his sexuality for a long time before recently coming to terms with it. His Catholic upbringing combined with football’s culture of toxic masculinity instilled in Underwood a deep-rooted shame. He repressed his identity as a result.

When Underwood found out that he would lead Season 23 of “The Bachelor,” a reality TV show rooted in cisheteronormativity, Underwood prayed that the process would end in marriage and children. Bachelor Nation stood divided on his selection as the new star given his past on the show and audience perception that Underwood was not ready to make the ultimate commitment.

Though battling with his sexuality, Underwood gave Cassie Randolph the final rose in the season finale after pleading with her not to abandon the show. Their romance continued until May 2020, and later that year Randolph leveled accusations of stalking and harassment against Underwood. She was granted a restraining order, which was dropped in November 2020. Though Underwood’s coming out adds nuance to the situation, it by no means excuses his abuse.

What does the future hold?

Going forward, what could the former “Bachelor” star’s coming out mean for the future of Bachelor Nation? If there had been a gay season of “The Bachelor,” would Underwood have felt the need to force himself into a box of heterosexuality?

The show and all its spin offs have been steeped in scandal on numerous occasions, not infrequently involving homophobic, racist or fatphobic statements made by cast and crew members. Host Chris Harrison remarked that a gay bachelor or lesbian bachelorette might not be good for business in an interview with “The New York Times Magazine,” saying that he isn’t here to break boundaries but to run a business. He then made a point of saying that he is in support of marriage equality. Given Harrison’s thinly-veiled homophobic comments, his recent racism regarding controversy on Matt James’s (the first Black bachelor) season is unsurprising.

Though fans have long called for LGBTQ representation, it’s possible that a queer season of “The Bachelor(ette)” might undermine the already marginalized community. Created by and for straight people with the end goal of a traditional heterosexual union, “The Bachelor” would need significant changes in order to do the LGBTQ community justice (a change in host, for starters).

Marriage, an institution once denied to queer Americans, represents to many members of the community a heteronormative act of assimilation. Granted, most seasons don’t end in marriage and many of the relationships fail, but an engagement is still the goal. Hometowns could also present a complication, given that cast members may not have accepting families. Many aspects of “The Bachelor(ette)” that might challenge a LGBTQ season, these included, are easy enough to tweak in the name of diversity and inclusion.

Audiences expect drama, romance and trademark “Bachelor” corniness, and gay people embody those expectations. Though Chris Harrison might not think so, the LGBTQ community is entitled to all the romance, drama and corniness that straight people so freely enjoy. Who wouldn’t want to see the absolute chaos a lesbian season of “The Bachelorette” would inevitably cause? The contestants could end up dating one another and falling in love, and the rivalry would glue audiences to the screen. Plus, why not fulfill the beloved U-Haul stereotype? One could argue that the “Bachelor” concept was made for lesbians.

Will Colton Underwood be the first gay bachelor?

Source: ABC

Underwood made his first appearance in Becca Kufrin’s season of “The Bachelorette.” After Kufrin eliminated him in the final four, Underwood showed up on Season 4 of “Bachelor in Paradise,” during which he began a relationship with Tia Booth. His third appearance in his own season of “The Bachelor” gave us his iconic fence-jumping scene and his tumultuous relationship with Cassie Randolph.

Though some fans are calling for a gay season of “The Bachelor” starring Underwood, It’s safe to say that three appearances will suffice with Underwood. After a lifelong struggle with his sexuality, Underwood needs space to explore his identity before leaping headfirst into a committed relationship. A very public reality TV show is not an ideal way to explore your sexuality. Not only that, but his harassment of Randolph should not be endorsed by awarding him another leading role. Instead of recycling cast members, an LGBTQ cast should be new and represent another Bachelor Nation era.

Now that Bachelor Nation has racially diversified their casting, they need to expand to include other marginalized  communities. Its stringent formula rarely succeeds in landing an engagement or long-lasting relationship anyway. Perhaps it’s time to revamp the content as well as the cast, though Colton Underwood has already had his turn.

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