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Why Corinne Was Never Really a Bachelor Villain

Photo: Rick Rowell/ABC

Last night’s abbreviated, hour-long entry in the annals of Bachelor lore featured many shots of Finnish scenery and few highlights. We learned that Raven’s ex-boyfriend never gave her an orgasm, that Nick and Raven have disagreeing visions of how best to get wrinkles out of clothes, and we also learned, finally, that Nick does not see a future with Corinne and is sending her home.

Corinne has been a puzzle on this season of The Bachelor, someone whose persona and series edit often seemed at odds with the raw material she must’ve been providing. For much of the beginning of the season, Corinne seemed to be following a Courtney Robertson structure, offering up sexual availability and a deep disdain for the process of the show while simultaneously implying her own powerful desire to win.

It’s a rich vein of material, and Corinne did provide ample footage to help craft her into a villainous figure. The words coming out of her mouth often fit the right formula. She regularly told the other women she did not care about them. She made explicit statements of frustration in one-on-one interviews that she had to share Nick’s time, and that other women were getting in the way of Corinne seducing “her fiancé.” She straddled him in bouncy houses and showed up on his doorstep in a trench coat with little underneath. Her vagine, she told us, was platinum. Corinne did so many of the right things to become a passable, if unoriginal, version of the kind of woman Bachelor nation so loves to despise — someone explicitly self-centered, sexually driven, unwilling to trust the process, and incapable of expressing appropriate humility in the face of Potential True Love. She looked like she was in it to win it, and if there’s any personality The Bachelor is notorious for giving a platform and then viciously swatting down like a bug, it’s the Overtly Thirsty.

As further proof of her effectiveness in this role, other women came to Nick to tell him how upsetting it was that he continued to spend time with Corinne. There may be no better indication that you’re the show’s villain than other contestants expressing their concerns about you and your motivations — it is the gold standard of Villain Construction. And sure enough, it didn’t take long before adult disability services teacher and eventual finale participant Vanessa told Nick that Corinne’s continued presence made her question even continuing to be on the show. If he wanted someone like Corinne, how could he possibly also be interested in Vanessa?!

In spite of the explicit sexual playfulness, and the thirstiness, and the proof positive that she was the black sheep in the form of other women complaining about her, though, Corinne never seemed like a good villain fit. She could never quite pull off the unsettling aloofness Robertson managed to convey to her fellow Bachelor women, for one. She certainly never had the same edgy “this whole thing could come toppling down” vibe that someone like Chad brought to JoJo’s Bachelorette season. And she was never as effectively manipulative as someone like Michelle Money, who was much better at playing off the other women’s individual hang-ups and insecurities.

Instead, Corinne seemed unavoidably dogged by a collection of strange quirks. There was a platinum vagine, sure, but there was also her nanny. Her cheese pasta. Her penchant for falling asleep at inappropriate times. Her odd refusal to use automatic doors. The Bachelor is great at taking oddities and turning them into shorthand for an entire character profile, but these things felt irreconcilable with Corinne’s apparently villainous behavior. It’s hard to respect and fear someone who so sincerely loves “cheese pasta.”

Indeed, looking back on Corinne’s whole trajectory as a Bachelor figure, the impression is less one of Mastermind Reality Show Villain, and rather of something much simpler and more depressing. Corinne’s underlying Bachelor persona is that of a child. In the context of her nanny and her neediness, Corinne’s very large eyes and flowing blonde hair are less evocative of manipulation than they are of infantilization, and her sexualized behavior looks different as well. Straddling someone in a bouncy house and showing up on their doorstep wearing only a trench coat are not a grown person’s idea of what makes for eroticism. They are a child’s understanding of adult sexuality, potentially influenced by early ABC Family programming like True Life of an American Teenager, or maybe the movie Splash.

That collapse of Corinne’s villain edit reaches its nadir in the hometowns episode, where Raven takes Nick to climb a Nicholas Sparks–esque rural water tower, Vanessa shows off her unbelievably virtuous profession, and Corinne… takes him shopping at an upscale mall. She is profligate with money! Her best friends are store employees whose job is to do her bidding! She likes the finer things and dresses Nick in $800 sweatpants! On the surface, she is ripe for our mockery and disapproval, flouting every rule about authenticity and family values that the hometowns are meant to put on display. What better Bad Girlfriend could you ask for?

It’s too sad to bear. Her idea of a good day, one full of joy and meaning and normalcy, is dropping several thousand dollars at a mall and then going home to her doting but not especially effective father. Corinne was never the villain — she was a less brilliantly intelligent, less driven Emma Woodhouse, stuck in the first phase of the novel where she takes care of her father’s estate and thinks she understands everything about the world. She doesn’t even have a Harriet Smith to spur her into deeper self-knowledge; she just has the deep disappointment of Nick Viall as a suitor and her nanny’s familiar cheese pasta.

Corinne’s final words of the season hint at glimmers of new frontiers and depths. As she rides away in her limo, rejection finally at hand, Corinne tells the producer in the car with her that she’s done capitulating to men and just telling them what she thinks they want to hear. She’s going to be her own person now! She’s going to write her own narrative and define herself based on who she wants to be, not on the desires of others. This is what a strong Bachelor villain might say when finally eliminated — that the Bachelor did not deserve them, and in the future, they’ll double down on who they are and what they really want.

And then, after uttering this unexpected declaration of self-worth, Corinne does what Corinne has done throughout the season when faced with pressure or extenuating emotional circumstances. Worn out and safely in the charge of someone who will take care of her (in this case, a limo driver), Corinne curls up and falls asleep. It’s a fitting end for Corinne, failed Bachelor villain and disappointed child — she vents her feelings, and then she takes a nap.

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