My summer Monday night tradition for the past several years: drive to my mom’s and make dinner with my grandmother, crack a bottle of wine, plant on the couch by 8 p.m. and glue our faces to the TV to watch 25 men battle over one lucky lady (I’m a purist, I don’t watch The Bachelor. The Bachelorette is where it’s at.) My grandmother and I will pick apart each guy, make our guesses at who this season’s bachelorette might choose, wait for the Most Dramatic Season Finale, and sometimes my mother will begrudgingly sit on the couch and make comments about how stupid the show is until she falls asleep.
So how excited were we when we could participate in our favorite pastime watching our favorite show in our very own hometown (after the initial shock of asking, um, why Richmond)?! This show has taken lucky ladies like Kaitlyn Bristowe (my personal all-time favorite bachelorette) to Scotland, Rachel Lindsay to Spain, and JoJo Fletcher to Thailand. And apparently the producers over at ABC were like, “Hey, let’s throw a dart at a map of America.” This was confirmed when at the beginning of last night’s show, they were careful to show a map of the US with a star over Richmond just to make sure you knew where the River City actually is.
Beautiful scenery of the capitol building, the Richmond skyline, and the iconic James River (and no doubt very, very strategically, not a single shot of Monument Avenue) filled my heart with pride for our little city. This season’s bachelorette Becca Kufrin took her male suitors on a historical tour of our city, checking out St. John’s Church and the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. The editors especially wanted to drive home the point that we are the most hipster city on this side of the Mason Dixon, complete with shots of the Quirk Hotel and a date at the Poe Museum’s hipster-goth-themed ‘Un-Happy Hour’ – you better believe I’m proud as hell about that, too.
No, they didn’t go to the best spots nor did they delve into the culture of this city–staying safely in the Art District and visiting beautiful historical sites–but it’s a reality TV show that (until recently, sort of) avoided people of color and focuses on superficial beauty aesthetic, so I didn’t expect any better, nor was I surprised.
Until the group date: Becca took her pack of boys to Richmond’s Capitol Building for a tour with presidential re-enactors and followed-up with a surprise mock-political debate on the steps of the same building. And Governor Ralph Northam moderated. Welcome to Virginia, I guess?
The debate, which was styled similarly to ‘The Dating Game’, posed questions like, “What is your ideal date?” and “How do you envision your future with Becca?” The men even donned suits for the occasion. If you’re into the drama, the debate quickly deteriorated into a poorly concealed fight between two contestants, Chris and Lincoln, over who lies to Becca more.
I couldn’t help but cringe while watching this petty, worthless drama play out on the steps of our capitol building in a city that is experiencing very real, visceral conflict that is truly affecting people’s lives. Yes, it’s a fun, silly show that I’ve always described as my ‘guilty pleasure,’ but somehow the way the show positioned a “political” debate over a real-life woman within a city and a state that holds a crucial role in many upcoming elections and has, in many ways, lead the charge on the East Coast in regard to activism and accountability in Trump’s America felt utterly tone deaf and altogether uncomfortable. There was no winner in this debate.
When the episode ended, I was relieved. Both because she sent Chris home and knowing the cast, crew, and producers of The Bachelorette had gotten the hell out of my city. On to next week.
And in case you’re placing bets, my grandmother’s money is on Jason. She’s usually right.