Sun, sand, coup d’etats: ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ cast challenges its power structure

A group of around 20 men and women sit around a table.
In the most recent episode of “Bachelor in Paradise,” several male cast members advocated for a female cast member who was being mistreated. (Courtesy: Getty Images)

“The Bachelor,” a historically anti-feminist franchise founded off catfights, champagne and a majority white-Christian-conservative audience, may have just taken a feminist turn. 

On its seventh season, “Bachelor in Paradiseinvites past contestants to a resort in Mexico. Here, power is less mobilized than “The Bachelor.” Instead of one person giving out roses, rose-giving alternates between the men and women each week.

Villains are able to stay — all they need is a rose. Men consistently behave badly, sometimes juggling several women at once, and escape consequences. Take Dean Unglert kissing a girl and bringing another girl a birthday cake on the same day, or Joe Bailey, who strung another woman along while arriving at the beach with a girlfriend. 

That is, until season seven went full-on “Survivor.” In episode seven, a rare mobilization of power between cast members to banish Chris Conran unfolded. 

His crime? After dating Jessenia Cruz for several weeks, Chris’ at home-girlfriend Alana Milne arrives at the beach. Within a few hours, she and Chris are making out on the dance floor in front of Jessenia. This love triangle narrative is protocol for a franchise founded on female competition: A man chooses one woman to give his rose to, while the other goes home in tears. 

Except not this time. 

As Alana and Chris go on a ziplining date, murmurs of dissatisfaction transform into a call to action — and not just from Jessenia’s friends. What is most shocking is the investment of two fan-favorite male cast members: Joe Amabile and Riley Christian. This kind of gender-inclusive coalition is basically unheard of in the “Bachelor” franchise, as much of the drama is highly formulaic gendered politics. 

“This guy [Chris] is a bad actor,” Joe says. “He’s a scumbag.”

“Can we vote them off the island?” Jessenia asks, laughing. The camera lingers on Joe. 

“Something needs to be done,” he declares. “I don’t want them here.”

Now it’s nighttime, and Chris returns from his date. Despite his meek defense claims that he was “following his heart,” it’s clear he’s already lost. 

“Start again,” Joe says, interrupting Chris’s speech. “Start again, because that really made no sense.”

But again, what’s surprising is that it’s not Jessenia who voices the most discontent — it’s her two male allies. 

“I turned around, and your tongue was down another woman’s throat right in front of her,” Riley says. “I believe that you are a man with no honor, no respect, no code.”

Then the hammer finally comes down. 

“Let’s see y’all ride together, right the hell out of here,” Riley says. 

By the end of the night, Chris is gone. 

I can’t help but wonder if he would have stayed if it were all women confronting him instead. There’s something to say about two non-confrontational men standing up for a female friend who they have no romantic interest in. They catalyzed an institutional shift in power, dismissing a bachelor when previously only a rose could. When men advocate for women, other men listen.

Does this mean “The Bachelor” will evolve into a feminist franchise? I don’t think so. Previous attempts from producers to rebrand the franchise have varied from disappointing, with the first sex-positive Bachelorette getting historically low views, to catastrophic, with the winner of the first Black Bachelor’s season having a history of white supremacy

Yet I think this episode proved that shifts in power precipitated by cast members instead of producers have feminist potential. In order to protect the sanctity of the rose — which, per the rules of “Bachelor,” should be given with pure intentions — the bachelor(ettes) stripped the rose of its power. Chris’ banishment challenges the power of the rose altogether. The consequences will follow. For a franchise bent on playing by the rules of both the rose-giving and heteropatriarchy, this rule-breaking has ramifications. 

And as a similar coalition unfolds in the next episode — this time directed at Brendan Morais — I can’t help but wonder about a new future for the franchise, where cast members, in defense of the show’s endearing premise, unintentionally subvert the very institution they’re trying to defend. 

What happens when the bachelors and bachelorettes decide that roses shouldn’t hold the power? 

Eliza Powers PO ’25 is from New Orleans, Louisiana. She loves reality TV, Phoebe Bridgers and searching for the perfect avocado toast recipe.

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