i Need Media
Juan Pablo is the Yellow King
By Matthew Singer 03/13/2014
When it comes to stomach-knotting, avert-your-eyes anxiety television, the last episode of HBO’s True Detective had nothing on the season finale of The Bachelor.
Writer Nic Pizzolatto’s zeitgeist-gripping creep-noir came to a conclusion last Sunday, bringing all the violence, depravity and dread of the previous seven episodes together in a climax that, in its final moments, nonetheless managed to let a ray of hope slip through the morass. The Bachelor was not so kind. Airing the next night, ABC’s reality-competition juggernaut was every bit an uneasy watch, except it offered nothing in the way of optimism or faith in the universe. Romantic degradation reigned, and there was no Rust Cohle around to stop it.
Maybe it seems like a silly or belabored comparison, but True Detective and The Bachelor really aren’t so different. The former is a highly cinematic crime drama wrapped in dense existentialist themes, while the latter is a game show whose competitors vie for the affections of a stranger and spend an inordinate amount of time in helicopters. But both shows take what they do very seriously. Both are utterly devoid of irony. Both are pretty mean to women. And, in their concurrent seasons at least, both involved chasing a monster. Except, with The Bachelor, the monster was the star.
A Venezuelan soccer player and single father, Juan Pablo was the Creed Bratton of the last Bachelorette season, making the most of limited screen time by saying something goofy in a thick accent whenever he showed up. He earned “fan favorite” status because — let’s be honest — suburban housewives can’t resist a Latin soccer player. But then, the producers made the mistake of thinking that meant viewers wanted more of him. Did fans of The Office ever want a full episode dedicated to Creed, let alone a whole season?
It turned out to be a huge mistake. Very quickly, Juan Pablo revealed himself to be a himbo of epic proportions. He’d say offensive things and either blame his “honesty” or hide behind the language barrier. He used his daughter’s pride as an excuse for not making out with someone on camera, yet had no problem being filmed basically having sex in the ocean. He sent home any woman who challenged him; two left of their own accord. Even his own parents called him a sketchy asshole (more or less). In the finale, he upset one of the last two women with an off-mic sexual comment, assuaged her concerns by saying they’d be having a baby together in the next year, then dumped her for a skinny blonde pediatric nurse. On the live post-mortem wrap-up, he bickered with host Chris Harrison and refused to tell the woman he chose — but did not propose to — that he loved her. At that point, even the suburban housewives turned on him.
For most of True Detective, the villain was largely a boogeyman, talked about but never glimpsed. The Bachelor, inadvertently, brought us face-to-face with its monster — a jerk so douche-y he shattered the false “reality” of reality television, becoming palpably, irritatingly real. We know this guy. He’s probably at your gym right now.
Y’know, now that I write this out, maybe Juan Pablo’s fall from grace is actually closer to Walter White’s. Anyone want to read my “Breaking Bachelor” piece? Anyone?
i Need Media is a biweekly media column by Matthew Singer. Follow him on Twitter@mpsinger.