ABC has released a promo video for the upcoming season of The Bachelorette, which will feature Bachelor alum Hannah Brown taking up the franchise mantle. Usually, promotional material for upcoming Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons follow a standard formula: men in suits, women in evening gowns (often red), holding a rose or being showered with rose petals. They tend to smile or smirk at the camera. If the franchise lead is particularly into physical fitness, maybe the promotional material includes lots of footage of them mid-shower, wreathed in steam.
Hannah Brown’s promo is … different. We have some questions.
Where is she, exactly?
Hannah appears to be walking through a fairy-tale wood, the kind of place where you might find a cottage full of dwarfs or maybe a tall tower with a long-haired princess inside. It’s quite foggy? And the lighting is both weirdly bright and strangely blue, meaning that it’s impossible to know what time of day it is, or whether this is even a real woods somewhere. There are boulders strewn around?
What is she wearing?
In the first few shots, we can only see Hannah from behind. She appears to be wearing the platonic ideal of a sky-blue Cinderella dress: fitted bodice, off-the-shoulder neckline, giant puffy skirt, sparkly silver beading. But then the music kicks in, a cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and the message shifts. This is not Cinderella. This is not a fairy tale. Because Hannah is wearing pants. (Actually a jumpsuit, but the point stands.)
At this point we can also see that she’s wearing a tiara and a “beauty queen” sash, a reference to her status as a former beauty-pageant participant. But obviously that’s not what this season is going to be about because, again, pants.
What’s going on with the roses?
In keeping with the fairy-tale theme, while also being something of a semantic mess, Hannah begins casting off the symbols of her … princess-ness, or something? She throws the tiara on the ground, she takes off the beauty-queen sash, and then she dramatically unfastens her tulle skirt to the cue of lyrics that go “I’m free and I love to be free.” Except even while she’s apparently forswearing all of her Bachelorette-y princess-y vestments, magical fairy-tale roses spring up from the ground around her, vining through the grass and eventually forming a red carpet behind her.
I know I don’t need to tell you this, but roses don’t work this way. Most of the roses around the Bachelor mansion are shrub varieties, or fake versions of them. To my eye they are a mix of hybrid tea varieties and floribundas. And although there are climbing rose varieties that do vine this way, they do not do well as ground cover. (The thorns, can you even imagine?)
So what’s the message supposed to be here?
I think that’s pretty clear: We don’t own Hannah. Whatever assumptions we may have — how she’s a beauty queen and a southern belle and a Bama fan, all of the absolutely reasonable things to think about her because they are things she’s discussed at length on The Bachelor — forget all of that. She’s not a princess! Fairy-tale roses may spring from the ground beneath her feet, but she can wear pants! She can walk through forests wearing sparkly high heels without tripping over tree roots! You’re not the boss of her! Dismantle all of your outdated, anachronistic concepts of femininity and power dynamics and performative displays of sexual value for the purposes of finding a husband, because Hannah’s wearing pants!
It’s important to remember, though, that while we may not own Hannah, she has still handed over the public narrative of her selfhood to a team of reality-television producers who’ve no doubt made her sign a lengthy and punitive NDA. So someone probably owns her. It’s just not us.