I have no shame in admitting that I’m obsessed with every Bachelor show.
Whether it’s The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or Bachelor in Paradise, I’ll watch it. I’ve watched every season since 2013, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the past few seasons - contestants gaslighting and being emotionally abusive towards the season’s lead. This leads me to ask two questions: Why would someone fall for gaslighting? And more importantly, what are the consequences of gaslighting being normalized in our culture?
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is defined as, “an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or ‘gaslighter,’ on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings.”
Gaslighting gradually undermines the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood or reality from appearance.
The term comes from the 1938 play and 1944 film version called Gaslight (if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must-watch) where a man deceives his wife into believing she has gone insane by making her question what she knows to be true. One of his many ways of deceiving her was turning down the gaslight when she believed he was away. This led her to believe that she was hallucinating the whole thing, while it really was him all along.
This brings us to two examples of gaslighting in the Bachelor franchise.
Hannah’s Season: Luke P
It was clear that Luke P was a frontrunner from the start when he was given the first impression rose, which carried a lot of pressure since the past four bachelorettes before Hannah ended up with the man who had received their first impression rose. He went on to tell her he loved her on the first group date and began starting problems with other men in the house.
Like many of the villains of the franchise, Luke was a different person in front of Hannah, convincing her that he was the good guy in the house. But unlike other franchise villains, this went on until the fantasy suite episode, when Luke’s behavior prompted fans to point out his abusive tendencies on social media.
After a relationship with many ups and downs, which included him starting countless unnecessary fights with other contestants and sweet-talking his way back into the house after Hannah eliminated him, he crossed the line for the last time during their fantasy suite date. In the clip below, you can see several examples of Luke gaslighting Hannah before she finally sends him home for good.
He used her Christian faith as a tool to shame and control her and blamed her when she rightfully called him out. As horrible as this is, the other example of gaslighting in the Bachelor franchise might be worse.
Peter’s Season: Victoria F
Victoria F had already made a name for herself before the first episode of Peter’s season even aired, and it wasn’t a good one. It had been leaked that she had a previous relationship with country singer Chase Rice (who performed on her first one-on-one date), had been involved in a controversial modeling campaign, and was rumored to have slept with some of her friends’ husbands, ending a few marriages along the way. Spoiler blogger Reality Steve revealed, “I can honestly say in all my years doing this, I have never had so many negative stories and as many people contact me about one person than I have this season with Victoria Fuller.”
When Peter asked Victoria to clarify the rumors, she immediately became defensive and turned the blame on him.
Victoria took to Instagram to deny the rumors shortly after filming concluded. I’ve had false rumors spread about me before, so I decided to give Victoria the benefit of the doubt. But it only took me a few episodes to see her manipulative behavior.
It’s very clear that Peter has strong feelings for Victoria, but she rarely looks him in the eye when he speaks to her, is unclear about her feelings, and seems to love leading him on. This emotionally manipulative behavior was already enough for me (and most fans) to realize giving her the benefit of the doubt was a bad idea, but her true colors were revealed on her hometown date.
Peter’s ex confronted him to tell him of Victoria’s past of allegedly ruining relationships. When he asked her to clarify the rumors, she immediately became defensive and turned the blame on Peter, which is a clear case of gaslighting.
It’s safe to say that this doesn’t seem like the behavior of someone innocent. To the shock of many fans, Peter gave her a rose, allowing her to be one of the final three women. Fans were quick to point out her toxic behavior on social media, accusing her of gaslighting Peter. Experts agree with fan’s claims, as relationship expert Susan Winters explains this gaslighting strategy: “When you have a reaction to your partner's blatant lies or bad behavior, you suddenly become the one at fault for noticing it. They insist you're overreacting, and overly sensitive. Now, you're made to feel bad and wrong for communicating your feelings.”
This leads to my main question, why are Hannah and Peter falling for these emotionally manipulative people?
Why Are They Okay with This?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and is a common trait of a toxic relationship. Hannah likely fell for Luke’s abuse because she believed that he could go back to the guy she fell for on the first night, a common reason why women get into toxic relationships.
I struggled to figure out why Peter was falling for Victoria’s emotionally abusive behavior. I quickly noticed an account I follow on Twitter retweet something from podcaster Alexandra Cooper, who wrote, “Victoria F is still on this show for one reason and one reason only- MEN LOVE THE CRAZY!”
Some men are attracted to women who show toxic behaviors because they see them as easy and exciting.
I decided to look into this idea that men are attracted to “crazy” women. Several Reddit users gave their explanations: crazy girls are “sexually aggressive, more likely to approach me and flirt than normal” and “Well when they like you they REALLY like you. The intensity of their emotion is addicting like any intense experience is to some of us.” In short, some men (in this example, Peter) are attracted to women who show toxic behaviors because they see them as easy and exciting.
There is good and bad in seeing relationships and behaviors play out on TV. The bad is that it often normalizes this type of behavior, but it also shows that these super-glamorous reality stars aren’t perfect and sometimes find themselves in toxic situations just like anyone else. If we (as an audience) can acknowledge these toxic behaviors when we see them, it can help spread awareness and make the pervasiveness of toxic relationships and gaslighting less of a problem in our culture.