Is there a point at which The Bachelorette franchise becomes so unmoored from reality that it eventually ascends to the heavens, like a cheerful blimp in a Studio Ghibli movie? We are approaching that point! Each week, a notch closer. Much has been made of Monday night’s scandalous sex between consenting adults, but that ignores what was truly surprising and completely bizarre: They had a mock-wake, while Kaitlyn laid in a coffin and the dudes took turns giving eulogies. “Kaitlyn is dead … for today,” host Chris Harrison told the human hair gels competing for affection. They took the news well, even though last season one of the bachelors actually did die, and everyone played along like it was a really funny group-date activity. (Except for Ben, who got a little sad.)
Something creepy is in the air this week, I guess, since there were faux eulogies on The Real Housewives of Orange County recently, too. It’s one thing to make a mockery of courtship and engagements and marriage — mock away! But must we desecrate funereal rites?
The fan ire directed toward last night’s sex is, of course, hilariously misguided: The performance of chasteness our society demands from women is harmful for everyone. People have sex! All the time! It’s a healthy, normal part of life for most adults. (This is also the second time Nick has had sex on The Bachelorette. Just make him the Bachelor next season and let the bonanza begin.) And yet this is the weird part of The Bachelorette, and not the fact that they held a “traditional Irish wake” instead of, oh, playing kickball.
This is how tortured our culture is by our conflicting sexual mores: We want women to be sexy but not sexual, and there’s a weird refusal to de-link sex and guilt. The Bachelorette embodies this thoroughly enough that the show is able to transcend the human aversion to death and somehow channel its fans’ energy into debating tired parts of sexual politics.