As far as reality television shows go, The Bachelor and its several spinoffs are fairly conservative, or at least as conservative as a show about one man dating twenty-something twenty-somethings can be. Watching The Bachelor often feels like stepping into an alternate universe stuck in 2003, the year the show first aired. In the Bachelor franchise universe, women tend to fall into one of three categories: sexy villain, sexy-Middle-America-girl-next-door, or sexy-and-successful-career-woman-who-wants-to-find-love. Everyone has long hair, everyone says they’re “here for the right reasons” (one of many pieces of Bachelor franchise jargon), and everyone knows the end goal is a big fat diamond on their left ring finger.
The most fundamental truth about the Bachelor franchise, aside from the fact that most people there aren’t really looking for love, is that every contestant needs to fit into an easily-identifiable stereotype. Otherwise, the viewers at home — referred to as “Bachelor Nation” — won’t be able to differentiate between the two dozen women who are dying to win the bachelor’s heart and/or shill FitTea on Instagram after failing to win the bachelor’s heart. But Bekah Martinez, one of this season’s standout stars, is the beginning of a new Bachelor trope that has long-since been established in the rest of the world: The manic pixie dream girl. (This trope is, in itself, a stereotype, but for the limited character work shown on The Bachelor, it works.)
As Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk noted, this season of The Bachelor is incredibly boring, perhaps by design. Ratings plummeted during the most recent season of The Bachelorette which featured Rachel Lindsay, a funny, charming, and smart lawyer from Dallas. The dip in ratings probably had something to do with the fact that Rachel was the first black bachelorette in the franchise’s history, which series creator Mike Fleiss speculated “revealed something about our fans.”
That might explain why this season’s bachelor, Arie Luyendyk, is so conventional. I truly feel for all the women who are being forced to pretend that they, too, are “here for the right reasons,” meaning here to win over and eventually marry Arie, who can best be described as a Ritz cracker come to life. All of this only serves to make Bekah look more interesting by default. She presents as “cool” and “different” and a “breath of fresh air” because she has a pixie cut, making her the first short-haired contestant in Bachelor history.
Unlike other contestants — like Krystal, the show’s obvious villain — Bekah comes off a good sport who really is there for the right reasons. She presents herself as being above all the inter-contestant drama, despite actively fomenting it. She rolls her eyes at other women, like Krystal, who take the competitive aspect of the show too seriously. In an early conversation with Arie, Bekah sets herself apart from the other women by telling him she doesn’t need him, implying that every other woman there does need him and isn’t just there to boost her Twitter follower count by a few hundred thousand people.
“I’m unsafe,” she tells him. “Based on what you said, you’ve been attracted consistently to people who need you more than you need them. It’s scary to be with someone who doesn’t need you to complete them.” Bekah gives you the impression that she could be there, or not, you know, who really cares — despite the fact that she went through the lengthy process of auditioning and putting her life on hold to be there. This is Cool Girl stuff cribbed straight from a Zooey Deschanel lead role, and Arie loves it. What tantalizes a boring man more than someone just a little bit different than what he’s used to? None of this is an indictment of the real-life Bekah Martinez, but of “Bekah M.,” the quirky persona created by the show’s producers.
At the very least, the drama that is missing from this season has begun appearing in real life. In November, Bekah’s mom reported her missing after not hearing from her for over a week, causing her to be listed as a missing person on the California Attorney General’s website. Apparently she had told her mother she would be working on a marijuana farm, presumably because it’s less embarrassing than telling your mother you’re going to be competing for the love of a washed-up race car driver on television. Is this not a very spontaneous, quirky thing to do? Some things don’t add up: Reality Steve told Jezebel that Bekah was off the show by the time she was reported missing, meaning she doesn’t end up with Arie after all. My theory: This is all an elaborate hoax by the show’s producers, whose power knows no bounds. Maybe they whisked her away to be the next Bachelorette.