Sacramento hairstylist Clare Crawley was officially named ABC’s newest Bachelorette-elect earlier this month on "Good Morning America."
Dedicated Bachelor viewers may recognize Crawley, who has been featured on multiple franchise spinoff properties (including the incredibly bizarre "Bachelor Winter Games") since gaining D-list status, as the “fan favorite” contestant on lead Juan Pablo Galavis’ exceptionally ill-fated 2014 season of "The Bachelor."
Nevertheless, she seems like an odd choice for "The Bachelorette," considering that show leads are traditionally chosen from the runners-up of the most recent season of "The Bachelor." By any normal reasoning, the 2020 pick should have been one of Bachelor Peter Weber’s 25 dubiously eligible brunettes. Why Clare Crawley? Why now?
Here’s the thing about "The Bachelor" franchise: it gets old quickly. Sure, the basic premise is interesting, but one can only watch a revolving door of wine-drunk catalog models and social media influencers duking it out battle royal-style over the Bachelor/Bachelorette for so many seasons before the show begins to lose its appeal.
We’ve arrived at the point where, in order for the franchise to maintain the cultural relevance it once so effortlessly enjoyed, it’s absolutely critical that each new installment be substantially more engaging than pervious ones. Naturally, this kind of dramatic escalation requires increasing measures of producer intervention.
For example, during an early episode of last year’s season of "The Bachelorette," a fairly archetypical rivalry between two ridiculously manscaped contestants came to a head when one of the suitors threw a handful of McNuggets at the other in an uncontrollable fit of rage.
Clearly, such cheap escalation tactics—sensationalist scripts and over-the-top character acting—were wearing thin. Things were looking pretty dire. Something drastic needed to be done.
Which brings us back to Clare Crawley, ABC’s unexpected Bachelor contingency plan. Most notably, Crawley’s upcoming season is set to break a franchise record; at 39 years old, the newest Bachelorette will be the oldest female lead in the show’s 16-season run.
"The Bachelor" has historically been about shiny young people doing shiny young people things. The franchise is notorious for all but refusing to feature contestants (particularly women) over the age of 35. Considering that Crawley’s predecessor Hannah Brown was just 24 years old when she led the show in 2019, the network’s decision to cast Crawley as the Season 16 Bachelorette would certainly seem to reflect some larger conceptual change for the franchise as a whole.
With that in mind, it would be easy to take the recent Bachelorette announcement at face value, and celebrate it as a genuine ideological shift towards more progressive feminist values.
But we must remember that this is a franchise which is fundamentally concerned with its own sensationalistic nature, its own survivability. "The Bachelor" is a singularly self-obsessed entity, incapable of advocating for social change.
It only stands to reason that the choice of Crawley for Bachelorette was less of a sincere political overture for a underrepresented demographic, and more of a calculated bid for attention. Tune in, or don't—but stay aware either way.
Grace Pulliam is an 18-year-old creative writing junior from Zachary, Louisiana.