The Bachelorette And Eric Hill: Exploitation Or As Real As Reality Gets?

Source: ABC
Source: ABC

I’m not even going to beat around the bush: this week’s installment of The Bachelorette was just plain awful. I mean, I’ve been a fairly loyal viewer of the Bachelor franchise for years now – I’ve even watched all three seasons of Bachelor Pad – and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them do anything so painfully exploitative. When I started watching this season, they made such a big deal out of dedicating the show to Eric Hill and honoring him in multiple episodes, that I assumed he had a fairly large role in Andi’s journey. I thought he’d be a contestant through until the end, or at least until hometown dates. Why else would the show dedicate so much time – and so many segments of Andi crying about it – to his memory? I assumed that we would really get to know Eric and mourn along with the show as the season went on.

What actually happened was this: Andi went on one date with Eric Hill, on the very first week. They had a great time, but their spark quickly fizzled. After about two more weeks, they had an argument over who was being genuine (a petty, emotionally charged fight that I’m sure Andi will always regret) and she sent him home. We never saw him again, because he passed away soon after. Instead of simply moving forward with his elimination, the show edited out the Rose Ceremony altogether in favor of a “fireside chat” between Andi and Chris Harrison. Andi cried, Chris comforted and looked somber. They barely talked about Eric, though. It was mostly about Andi’s feelings. The whole thing, to me, felt unnecessary. I understand grief and I believe that Andi’s emotions were genuine – I just don’t think they needed to be aired.

Source: ABC
Source: ABC

This week, The Bachelorette took this to a whole other level. Not only did they pause regular activity for another grief session – this time, it was when everyone got the news of Hill’s passing – but they actually just filmed everyone crying. Everyone – not just Andi, but the remaining contestants, Chris Harrison and a number of crew members as well. There was no discussion, no fond remembrances of their time spent with Hill. There wasn’t much at all. Just a group of grief-stricken individuals doing what you do when you find out that someone in your life has died – hugging, crying, staring blankly at nothing in anguish.

It was almost completely devoid of conversation – it was too fresh of a wound for any insight. I mean, they filmed their reaction to the news, then filmed the Rose Ceremony less than 24 hours later. Andi was, understandably, a mess. She was overcome with grief – and guilt, of course, because her last conversation with Hill was an argument. She didn’t have anything insightful to say. Even Chris Harrison, the semi-mentor of the show, seemed to be at a loss. He was mourning as well. The contestants were almost entirely silent. Everyone just sort of…stood there and looked sad. It was, in many ways, bad television. So why bother showing it at all? If I am being generous, I’ll say it’s because they felt it would be disrespectful to act like it hadn’t happened. If I’m being cynical, I’ll say it’s because they want people to write blog posts like this and fuel the publicity machine. In reality, I think it’s somewhere in between those two. I understand touching on it – I mean, if they had to film the Rose Ceremony, they needed to explain why everyone was so somber – but that horrible interlude of crying and hugging? I mean, sheesh. The viewers at home barely got to know Eric let alone everyone else involved. We don’t know the PAs on set or the cameramen. We don’t need to see them in pain, for God’s sake.

Source: ABC
Source: ABC

Chris Harrison defended their decision to air the scene in an interview with TV Guide, though he didn’t think they’d end up using the footage:

“We thought, ‘Let’s shoot it so we’ll have it, deal with it and go from there.’ We weren’t sure we’d ever use it anyway and were pretty sure we wouldn’t. [Creator] Mike Fleiss called me and said, ‘I’m sorry we shot this,’ and I said, ‘We had to.’ I 100 percent backed him up. I don’t think you get to pick and choose when you shoot things and when you turn the cameras off. This show is built on the fact that we show you everything and just because something is uncomfortable for me or the producers, we all of a sudden turn the cameras off? It seems hypocritical.”

He went on to say that they didn’t “milk it” or take advantage of the situation:

“To have acted like Eric didn’t exist and this tragic event didn’t happen would have been incredibly disrespectful. If you watched the show knowing this was when he passed away and we didn’t say a word about it and went into the rose ceremony and acted happy go lucky, to me it would’ve been in poor taste. I’m not saying I’m right, and people will disagree and be angry or feel we took advantage of it. But I stand by the fact that we didn’t milk it and didn’t sensationalize it. I’m proud that we had the guts to show it. Again, maybe I’m wrong, and I’m not saying I’m the smartest guy in the world, but it’s what felt right to me.”

What do you think? Should The Bachelorette have filmed the cast’s reaction to the news? Were they “milking” a tragedy for more publicity?

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