“The Bachelor” Is a Heterosexual Drag Show for the Ages

Tricycle races! Vagina jokes! So. Many. Hannahs. Welcome to Season 24 of the straightest thing on TV.

Straight women love to talk about RuPaul’s Drag Race, so why shouldn’t a queer woman be able to pontificate on The Bachelor? That’s my idea of justice—and that’s why I’m here to preview the 24th season of the straightest show that’s ever aired on television. (Well, besides Friends. And probably Entourage. I guess it has some competition.)

It’s long been my theory that The Bachelor is a sort of a heterosexual drag show: Thirty Instagram influencers perform hyper-femininity to an almost parodic extreme, burning through hairspray and false lashes at an astronomical rate. Meanwhile, the ab-riddled male lead—this time, a 28-year-old Delta pilot named Peter Weber—walks among them like a god-king, making out with whomever he chooses and doling out roses to whichever women excite him the most. If heterosexuality were a person, this show would be its horny id.

ABC/John Fleenor
This season’s Bachelor, Peter Weber.

Yes, I know that The Bachelor franchise has made some recent forays into queerness with bisexual contestant Demi Burnett—and I celebrate that development! Gay rights! But Burnett’s televised (and ultimately short-lived) engagement to Kristian Haggerty was like a drop of same-sex love in an ocean of straight desire. And to be completely honest, I prefer it that way. The Bachelor is my last little window into straight culture. It’s how I know what kind of eyebrows are in fashion. It introduces me to obscure country singers. It teaches me new ways to spell the name “Kaley.”

My only wish is that I had more LGBTQ friends with whom I could share this edifying cultural experience. So please consider this an exercise in persuasion: I want you to watch this season of The Bachelor with me.

First, let’s quickly get you up to speed: This year’s Bachelor—Peter Weber, a.k.a. “Pilot Pete”—was crushed when he came in third place on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette last year. Brown, a former beauty queen who was crowned Miss Alabama 2018, instead got engaged to a singer-songwriter named Jed Wyatt, who had written a dog-food jingle and who had allegedly promised a serious girlfriend back home that he would come back for her after filming. Upon learning more about that prior relationship from a People magazine article, Brown broke off her engagement and performed the ultimate rebound by winning Season 28 of Dancing With the Stars.

ABC/Eric McCandless
Hannah Brown on The Bachelor.

Look, I know that’s a lot of backstory. This franchise carries with it an almost Tolkien-esque level of lore. But it is always forward-looking: In a normal world, Pilot Pete would be nursing his broken heart in an anonymous hotel bar somewhere after nine hours of commercial flights. But in this world, he is on national television picking one of 33 identical-looking women to be his bride.

ABC/John Fleenor

In this week’s premiere, a shirtless Peter washed an airplane with a garden hose. He flew another airplane around Los Angeles at sunset. He saw a third airplane in the sky that was so awesome it made him go, “Whoo!” Basically, Peter loves planes and planes love Peter. Whatever the outcome of this season, flying machines will always have his heart.

ABC/John Fleenor
Peter Weber and Madison on The Bachelor.

Among the girls who streamed out of limousines and tottered over to meet the pilot in front of a garish mansion in Agoura Hills, there were only a few standouts: Medical sales representative Victoria F. made a joke about having a wet vagina and then burst into tears when Peter didn’t remember that joke later in the night. Madison, a foster parent recruiter who comes from a religious household in Alabama, definitely didn’t make any genitalia-themed jokes right off the bat—which probably made her a safe choice for Peter to take home with him to witness his parents renew their vows. And Hannah Ann, a model from Tennessee, won the coveted “first impression” rose, helping Peter overcome the pain he now associates with her first name.

ABC/John Fleenor
Hannah Ann and Peter Weber.

But don’t watch The Bachelor to root for any particular contestant. Watch it for the priceless moments between those contestants. Watch it so you can see multiple college-educated young women whisper to each other during an aviation-themed pop quiz that a mile is equivalent to 30,000 feet. (To be fair, though, Hannah Ann got the answer right: It’s 5,280 feet.) Watch it so you can see an attorney and a house flipper get in a passive-aggressive fight over the rules of a tricycle race. This is the kind of stuff you couldn’t script if you tried.

ABC/John Fleenor

Besides, there’s a possibility that none of these women will win anyway: Hannah Brown made a surprise appearance at the end of the premiere and had a long conversation with Peter about their unresolved feelings for each other, sending the other women into full-on panic attacks. I don’t know what’s going to happen this season. But I do know that it will be straightness at its messy best.

Tune in to next week’s episode of The Bachelor on Monday at 8pm EST and to our recaps of Season 24 every Tuesday.

Samantha Allen is the author of "Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States" and a GLAAD Award-winning LGBTQ journalist.