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A Very Serious Analysis of The Bachelor as Monomyth

Peter Weber in The Bachelor.
If only Joseph Campbell were alive to see Pilot Pete. Photo: John Fleenor/ABC

Simba, Harry Potter, Peter Weber. What do these young pups have in common? No, it’s not battling nefarious scars but rather existing as the “chosen one” in their own hero’s journey. Coined by Joseph Campbell in 1949, the hero’s journey, or monomyth, is a multipart narrative structure in which a character goes on a great adventure, faces conflict, and eventually emerges victorious. So yes, basically every season of The Bachelor is the monomyth. One might even argue the show’s producers edit footage to exactly map the monomyth arc because we, as Bachelor Nation, crave this escapist eyeball comfort food, served up on a lil’ Campbell-designed plate with a side of lip fillers and a sippy cup of stolen Dom Pérignon.

In the iconic words of sentient proverb, Madison P., “This is your journey and you are a big boy and you can make decisions for yourself.” While the latter two claims are still up for debate, does Peter’s journey still align with the monomyth even if it’s “one of the most shocking and controversial yet”? Let’s find out.

The Status Quo

This is where our journey begins. Conventionally attractive white man Peter Weber is living his normal life. He pilots commercial flights for Delta Air Lines. He goes line-dancing with his friends (reportedly) on Wednesday evenings at a place called The Canyon, “where music meets soul.” He practices his Spanish with his German father and Cuban mother, with a growing hunch that one day, he may go on an adventure where performative Español will come in handy. Because something is missing in Peter’s life. No, it’s not Instagram fame and the public airing of his neuroses, but true love. The kind of love you can only find by trusting the process, showing up for the right reasons, and going on the most dramatic journey ever. And with that, the stage has been set. As seasoned members of Bachelor Nation, we are primed and ready for a lust-filled saga of the “anyone but Arie” variety to begin anew.

The Call to Adventure

Did you hear that? It’s the ultimate siren’s song — the universe inviting Peter on a journey. While at his Uncle Bilbo’s 111th birthday party, he is given a magical ring that he’s told to keep secret, for its powers have proved to corrupt and destroy generations of men and elves in the Second Age of Middle Earth. Oh, wait. Sorry! Actually, he just bones the previous Bachelorette four times in a windmill and gets sent home because she preferred the company of a human acoustic guitar. Since second-place man hunk Tyler C. was busy organizing runs for charity and canoodling with Gigi Hadid, our boy “sweetie Petey” gets the default invitation to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

The Assistance

Of course, heroes never go on their journeys alone. Peter will need help from a mentor who is older and wiser. Luckily, ABC has had Chris Harrison locked in the basement for 18 years, subsisting on a carefully calibrated diet of Botox and bloopers. Chris is ready to perform his best Yoda (not the baby one, you bandwagoners) at a moment’s notice. And that he does, talking Peter through heartbreak and drama, dishing out advice and confidence boosts with the competence of a 13-year-old girl who watched the first 15 minutes of Brené Brown’s Netflix special.

The Departure

Thanks to Chris, Peter has never been more ready to cross the threshold from his normal, safe home and enter the “special world” where his journey will begin. This special world is none other than the Bachelor Mansion, a six-bedroom, nine-bathroom, 7,590-square-foot home that is soon to be filled with a bevy of ladies vying for Peter’s heart. As he fearlessly traverses the 11 minutes from his parents’ house in Westlake Village to the mansion in Agoura Hills to meet the women for the first time, Peter demonstrates a new level of commitment to his journey. There’s no turning back now … at least not until even the smallest bump in the road sends our boy spiraling into self-sabotage.

The Trials

No journey would be complete without obstacles. Per the monomyth structure, this can include everything from solving riddles and slaying monsters to escaping traps and gaining new allies and enemies. To which I present you: the loaded question of “can I borrow you for a second?,” Champagnegate, any and all situations involving Hannah Brown; Alayah’s Reddit account; the Battle of Tequila Golf Cart; Chase Rice; the blurry face ex-girlfriend; that one outfit he wore during the Revolve fashion show; and of course, and the ultimate purity ultimatum that “isn’t really an ultimatum” but, like, a rose by any other name is still an ultimatum, MADISON.

Peter spent the majority of his season in trials of his own creation, forever “rewarding the drama” by auditioning to replace Dr. Phil rather than asking the ladies about their hobbies or whatever. But even with a laundry list of tribulations both self-made and producer-dealt, as an audience at our 24th rodeo, we know red herrings when we see them. For the final battle is yet to come.

The Approach

It’s time for our hero to face his worst fear and retreat to his innermost cave. In Peter’s case, this is his desperate need for validation and deep-seated insecurity surrounding abandonment and feeling reciprocity. In case you somehow missed it, our boy’s love language is Words of Affirmation, where the only acceptable words are “I,” “love,” and “you,” and they must be delivered with at least 14 tears for him to develop and sustain erection. That being said, Madison has spent all season refusing to deliver Peter’s favorite line, and the hero is distressed, to say the least. He wants nothing more than a lifetime filled with faith, reassurance, and one-shouldered dresses. Fortunately, the Weber family is waiting in the wings to remind Peter that everlasting marriage is possible, if only you follow your heart into the deep Madison unknown.

The Crisis

Just kidding. They HATE her. Peter’s dad is “concerned.” His brother questions whether his horny kin can really wait until the wedding, and even if he does, is he really willing to give up a life of line dancing for weekends ministering with spider lashes? And Barb? She’s campaigning for literal “angel on Earth” Hannah Ann like it’s her last day on the planet, and someone just suggested taking a family trip to the DMV and maybe grabbing a Subway big meaty trio after if there’s still time. Which is to say, temper tantrums are had, and Barb isn’t afraid to play dirty to get the daughter she wants.

This sends Peter, who was apparently hoping for a quick family sign-off on the way to his meeting with crypt keeper Neil Lane, into an absolute tailspin. But not to worry, Madison self-eliminates anyway, leaving Peter to crawl back to Hannah Ann and propose rather than face being alone. To exactly no one’s surprise, he breaks it off the second they’re back in L.A. It’s predictably disastrous and leaves the audience terrified knowing there are commercial pilots out there completely lacking both decisiveness and foresight.

The Treasure

But like any moderately attractive rich white dude, Peter sneaks out of his scathing, sloppy breakup ready to claim his prize. In the words of Kendall Roy, I mean Peter Weber, “I saw the differences, and I thought they didn’t matter.” And he’s in luck: Madison realizes she made a mistake and scuttles back to the live show to make a solid dent in Peter’s deep fear of unrequited love. They’re going to make it work, one day at a time.

Now, Madison might claim “this is my journey, too,” but is it? Does she upend the narrative, stealing the hero’s crown from Peter’s soft, Southern California hands? Of course not. The producers snap on this perfect opportunity to make an example of her, winding Barb up like a haunted jack-in-the-box to publicly roast Madison on live television, showing the rest of Bachelor Nation that the villain doesn’t get her own journey in the world of the monomyth. There are certain processes that are not to be messed with.

The Result

It’s finally the time for Peter to go back to the ordinary world free of boom mics and bronzer, which won’t be easy. He must convince Barb that everything’s okay and that his hard-fought treasure is worthy of acceptance. Does Peter’s petulant child routine work on his mom, proving that he’s a grown man and that love will conquer all? Of course not. We’re given the most deranged 15 minutes of footage since Scary Island aired as Barb quits the blubbering and obliterates Madison on live television. But that’s okay! Peter has a new mom named Chris Harrison, and he’s promised his love and support no matter what. As an audience, we have finally reached catharsis. What a relief.

The Return

And with that, our hero has returned to the ordinary world. Catch him at The Canyon on Wednesdays for college night line dancing if he isn’t flying a plane or playing with Madison’s split ends while they cry directly into each other’s eyes.

The New Life

The quest has changed the hero and he has outgrown his old life. Did Peter overcome any of his insecurities and grow into a more realized, dynamic character? Eh, the jury’s still out. But don’t get it twisted — Peter has evolved. He’s more than just that guy who had sex four times in a windmill. Now he’s the guy who had sex in a windmill … with a sexy new face scar! And they say you can’t change a man.

The Resolution

At this point, all of the major plotlines have been straightened out. Hannah Ann proved she’s more than an early-model Westworld host. Victoria F. sort of apologized for her bigoted internet behavior. Kelley even showed up at After the Final Rose and demonstrated she is, in fact, alive and not pregnant with Peter’s preseason hotel hookup love child. All is as right in the jungle as it can be.

The Status Quo

But of course, it doesn’t end there. It’s time for a new hero’s journey to begin. Tired of dealing with 23-year-old living, breathing Revolve ads without their own health insurance, the producers dig up that one lady who talked to the raccoons on Bachelor in Paradise. Will Clare Crawley, who pays her own utility bills and appears to have a personality, flip the script at last? More importantly, do we even want her to? Is it best for all of us if the biannual monomyth continues as scheduled, this narrative hellscape of our own societal creation marching proudly on? Like a lot of things lately, it’s looking bleak, but tune in on May 18 to find out!!!

Wait, Is The Bachelor Actually a Monomyth?