The Bachelorette's Season 9 Finale: You Can't Really Clap for That, Can You?

The Bachelorette S09E12

As Chris Harrison, the television host most likely to expire from tealight-related injuries, told us last night: There has never been a Bachelorette who walked away without choosing someone. While there have been Bachelors who took a long, hard look at their top two and said “Meh. I could do better,” the women don’t go home empty-handed. At one point it seemed possible that Desiree Hartsock would be the post-modern Bachelorette of our dreams who would walk off the show with a shrug and a wink, trusting that she’d find someone better or simply enjoy her own autonomy. She did, after all, say that she loved Brooks, that she didn’t love anyone else, and that she'd saved her heart to give to him. Then she burst into tears alongside Chris Harrison (the media host most likely to suffocate from second-hand spraytan fumes) and told him she just wanted to go home.

And then she fell in love, again, in less than 48 hours.

A more wrenching indictment of the dysfunctional female relationship to marriage has never been televised.

Desiree’s season of the Bachelorette was unique in featuring a constant stream of hashtagged tweets from “Bachelor Nation,” which revealed the intense schadenfreude and ruthless physical and sartorial scrutiny that is essential to the Bachelor/ette franchise viewing experience. Whoever selected the tweets went for hard laughs, often at the expense of the people onscreen. However, ABC's implicit encouraging of our out-and-out hate-watching was switched off for the finale, allowing the editors to do their damnedest to convince us that Des’s emotional U-turn was sincere.

I’ve sprinkled them throughout this review because I think it was pretty emotionally manipulative that they were suppressed. Of course, everything about the finale is a huge, horrible wonderful emotional manipulation designed so that no matter how little you’ve seen, you’re practically vomiting with nerves by the time the proposal happens.

Des is an absolutely beautiful woman. We don’t really know too much more about her. Not a lot of psychological digging is done on-camera beyond statements like the ones you find inside Hallmark cards: “I’ve got to trust my heart.” “This journey is so emotional.” “I’m just glad you’re my rock.” We saw Des sketch some gowns, we know she was raised in financially insecure circumstances. I don’t think any of us really got a handle on her personality until her break-up with Brooks. The make-up, figuratively and literally, came off. Des flushed, blushed, sobbed, and revealed that no one she's loved had loved her back. For a woman who embodies a lot of culturally prized standards, Des revealed that she's incredibly insecure and during the final rose ceremony, basically begged the guys to let her down easy. Why? Why would a young, beautiful woman have such a store of negative relationship experiences that she would sob that no one she's loved has ever loved her back? Why is a 27-year-old woman terrified of being alone?

When Des sobbed to Chris Harrison that she wanted to just go home, I believed her. If Des had an appropriate sense of self-worth and emotional boundaries, she would have then stood up, walked over to a producer, and demanded a seat on the next plane. But after some prodding from Chris (“If Brooks had never existed, how would you feel about the other guys?” a.k.a., “If you completely dismiss your individual desires and standards, you can snatch up an available gent.”) Des soldiered up and dismissed what she wanted. She bulldozed her emotions. She “trusted her heart.” The good men out there mustn’t go to waste. The cultural capital of being proposed to couldn’t just be left on the field. The security of being married trumped the security of really knowing her feelings.

For what lady isn’t this true, guys? Damn!

Des, in the first 24 hours before mentally swapping out the partner of her future life, ditched one of her contenders Drew, looking about as miserable riding a horse in Antigua as a person could look. 

The next day, a little more mellowed-out, Des spent a Catamaran ride getting buzzed and allowing Chris to talk her into him and his puffy nips. (His nips were all puffy! I don’t know why! I know it's grody to mention but I started getting concerned. Maybe he went jogging and forgot to put on the Band-Aids?)

I’ve got nothing against Chris. He seems like a nice guy, hey, I like him a hell of a lot better than Brooks. I just don’t buy that he is everything Desiree “ever wanted, right in front of her the whole time, but she couldn’t see it.” I think it’s more likely he was a guy who made her feel confident after her confidence was badly, badly shaken. The tip-off was when she told him he was the greatest man ever. That’s not something you say when you’re madly in love with a guy. That’s a pep talk you give yourself. Even more damning was the remark she whispered into his mic pac after she accepted his proposal: “And I want you to hold me to that.”

“What?” he giggled, just glad he wasn’t going to be flying home alone.

There is a certain age as a single woman where single men feel like helicopters leaving Saigon. You really want to stand there and wait for the one with the shiniest propeller? Do, there are plenty others waiting to board.

Why? Why do we feel this way?

Des is 27. She’s not exactly racing from the grim spectre of infertility. Would any 27-year-old man, who watched the woman he thought he loved walk off a few days ago, talk himself into a lifetime with a runner-up? Hell no. Even if he was 80 percent in favor of Plan B, he’d take himself home and wait until his ego was restored before making big lifetime decisions on national television. I don’t want to go so far as to say that we culturally instill a sense of panic in women over their marital status, the better to make them easy pickin’s for dudes (and more obliging; Desiree said during the “After the Final Rose” episode that she was moving to Seattle for Chris), but… maybe that’s exactly what we do.

Anyway, congratulations, Des. After two hours of hearing your best friends and socially deaf brother say you were head-over-heels-in-love with Brooks, and having Chris Harrison (the TV host who's most likely to get sick of Prague) constantly holler, “So you think BROOKS MIGHT COME BACK, EH AUDIENCE?” to a round of clapping, after all that, you're now engaged to that other guy. But at least you didn’t walk out of there and back into the world a beautiful, strong, single, 27-year-old woman. That would have been the worst-case scenario, right?


... Are women systematically oppressed by marriage pressure? Or do women prioritize relationships because they innately understand that is what truly matters?