The first rule of talking about memes in public — aside from, you know, not — is knowing your audience. Non-nerd civilians will inevitably glaze over at your rousing description of that rascally frog on a bike, remain unmoved by the pathos of Crying MJ. But Daniel, the Canadian model, personal trainer, and immediate villain of the 12th season of The Bachelorette, simply could not help himself. His name was Daniel, for god’s sake — Daniel, like the freakin’ meme! “Daaaamn, JoJo!” he said with a smirk, stepping out of the limo to meet his potential future wife. “Back at it again on The Bachelorette!” JoJo smiled politely. She didn’t get it, but hell, a dude showed up at the mansion in a giant cupcake on wheels last season. It’s best not to ask questions.
Halfway through the night, though, it strikes an increasingly shit-faced Daniel that his dazzling wit might have barely grazed the top of JoJo’s blowout. When he finally scores alone time, our intrepid meme archivist presses on. “Have you seen that viral video?” he stammers. “Have you been following the Internet the past couple months?” JoJo demurs. This is a reality television program where adult men and women attempt to find their life partner based on, like, 36 hours of hanging out in front of a film crew. Its cast is aggressively basic and spectacularly un-woke except in matters of Bachelor franchise mechanics. Their musical guests are almost unanimously folk singers I’ve never heard of with names like Matt Matthews or Jeff Stevens. They like “values” — not specific values, mind you, just values in the general sense. No, they have not been following the Internet the past couple months.
If you’ve watched much of the past couple years of The Bachelor and its spin-offs, you know that Daniel — who, later in last night’s two-hour season premiere, would strip to his briefs, hurl his Fireball-saturated carcass into the pool, and poke another man in the belly button — is far from the only weirdo among JoJo’s men. There is Evan, a former pastor turned erectile dysfunction specialist, who repeatedly utters the word “mojo” and greets JoJo with an unctuous, “How’s it goin’, girlie?” There is Brandon, whose occupation is simply “hipster” — you can tell because, in stark contrast to the sundry shades of Macklemore fade that surround him, his hair’s kinda long — who lets JoJo know that he was too cool to watch her on the last Bachelor season. There is a man in a full Santa costume, face almost completely obscured by beard, whose gimmick is repeatedly cackling “JoJoJoJo” to increasingly bone-chilling effect. Get it? ’Cause her name kinda sounds like … ah, never mind.
So what’s with all the charmless freaks on a show ostensibly intended to match one thirsty Bachelorette with America’s most eligible bachelors? JoJo doesn’t need self-styled villains and SantaCon castaways among her harem of American heroes (of which, of course, there are many: You could form an über-hetero Village People from the pool of firefighters, football players, and Marines). In no conceivable universe does E.D. Evan stand a fighting chance against Luke, a cowboy war veteran from Texas who believes unicorns are real. Did you hear that? Cowboy. War. Veteran. That’s what we in the biz like to call “Bachelorette kryptonite”; Luke may as well have penciled in his own Fantasy Suite reservation on the spot, and that was before he brought fellow Texan JoJo a pair of cowgirl boots.
Here’s the thing — are you sitting down? The Bachelor doesn’t work, and everyone involved knows it. The successful coupling rate for its combined franchises over its 14 years of existence is woeful: A grand total of six couples from The Bachelor and Bachelorette (that’s 31 seasons total) are currently together, and that’s including Ben and Lauren, which, I mean. Surely its premise was once sincere — especially so in the early ’00s, when online dating was less ubiquitous and reality TV less meta. One would think such a pathetic success rate might have tarnished the Bachelor brand. Not so — in fact, it’s quite the contrary. In 2010, the franchise introduced Bachelor Pad, styled as a strategy-based game show for eliminated cast members from previous Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons. Really, it was an excuse for desperate fledgling models, actors, and garden variety hot people to bum around the mansion and have a whole lot of casual sex — no Fantasy Suite required! Bachelor in Paradise, the show’s far more entertaining 2014 replacement, threw all structural pretense out the window: This is an island where ex-cast members go to (1) stay on TV, (2) fuck each other in a resort setting, and (3) mayyyybe kinda sorta find love or whatever. In that order.
And just like that, the game done changed. Moreover, the game dropped the betrothal bullshit and admitted it was a game. No longer was love the prize after the final rose: The prize was initiation into the Bachelor system, America’s horniest Elks Lodge, and upon entry you were set for life — or at least for the rest of your hot years. That meant you didn’t have to be pleasant or even remotely stable to nab a spot in the cast — in fact, all the better if you’re a total sociopath. Sociopaths SLAY on Bachelor in Paradise!
JoJo’s not dumb. She’s not as neurotic as previous Bachelorette Kaitlyn, whose “I’m a COOL girl that makes fart jokes!” posturing masked a tendency to anxiously overthink the whole process to the point of psychic paralysis. JoJo seems like she’d probably be fun to hang out with in a group setting, if maybe not for prolonged periods of one-on-one conversation. But she gets it — the fact that nothing here matters much. As such, she wasted no time beelining for The Hot One, a.k.a. Jordan Rodgers, former NFL quarterback (and little brother of Aaron, a much better NFL quarterback) and instantly obvious front-runner, much like personal trainer and Gosling doppelgänger Sean the year before. Fuck it, right? That’s this season’s motto. Just fuck it. There’s always Bachelor in Paradise, Daniel, where you’ll be back at it again.