Is The Bachelor's Obsession With Proposals Hurting the Franchise?

Is The Bachelor franchise too obsessed with proposals? Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season's controversial ending seems to indicate

By Tierney Bricker Mar 06, 2018 1:00 PMTags

"You shouldn't have gotten down on one knee." 

In 22 seasons, The Bachelor has seen 14 men bend the knee, presenting their final choice with a glistening ring, tilted at just the right angle to see the Neil Lane logo in the tiny box. That means seven seasons of ABC's long-running reality hit have ended with the couple choosing to just continue dating (with one exception, which we'll get to in a minute), sometimes with a promise ring offered as a symbol of commitment, providing some security for viewers who just invested hours of their time and energy into a relationship. 

And yet, during the last season of The Bachelorette, one man seemed to become the temporary thorn in the franchise's side for refusing to get down on one knee: Peter Kraus.

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In fact, his reluctance to propose at the end of the journey, just because it was expected (and what Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay ultimately wanted out of the experience, it should be noted), became a factor in the producers' decision to not have Peter, the clear frontrunner, as their next Bachelor. Instead, they went for a throwback choice: Arie Luyendyk Jr. Sure, it was a shock, given his absence from the franchise for several years, but it was also sort of a safe bet: He'd been ready to propose once before (five years ago on Emily Maynard's season), so of course he'd be reliable to do it again.

George Burns/ABC

And he did…except he changed his mind, breaking it off with his fiancée Becca Kufrin a few weeks after proposing in order to be with his original runner-up, Lauren Burnham. During their brutal break-up, Becca told Arie he should've never proposed if he was so conflicted.

So the franchise's latest season ended up with the result it had been trying to avoid the whole time: an unconventional happy ending, one that doesn't begin and end with a paid-for ring. (Meanwhile, The Bachelor Winter Games, the latest spinoff, which seemed to have no intentions of ending with an engagement, produced one surprise proposal and four committed relationships overall. Funny how that happened when there was no actual pressure placed on getting married after mere weeks of dating!) 

Could Arie's switcheroo maybe be a sign that it's time for The Bachelor to re-evaluate its obsession with proposals? We think so, especially when you take a stroll down memory lane and see an engagement wasn't always the end goal. 

The first man in the franchise to not propose was actually Alex Michel, the inaugural Bachelor himself. Bob Guiney (season four), Jesse Palmer (season five), Charlie O'Connell (season seven) and Lorenzo Borghese (season nine) followed suit, but it wasn't until season 11 when Brad Womack chose not to propose that a lead earned backlash for their decision (mostly because he ended the season single, sending both women home at the final rose ceremony).

But the Bachelor backlash reached new heights at the end of season 18 when Juan Pablo Galavis told his final pick Nikki Ferrell, "I'm not 100 percent sure I want to propose to you, but at the same time I'm 100 percent sure I don't want to let you go." (He had still not used the L-word, BTW.)

ABC/Rick Rowell

The backlash was immediate, and Juan Pablo did himself no favors during his appearance on the After the Final Rose ceremony (or throughout his season's airing, for that matter), offering one-word answers and returning each of host Chris Harrison's questions with hostility, as Nikki tensely sat by his side.

But the weirdest part of Juan Pablo's ATFR appearance was the promise of a "big surprise," as the Venezuelan Bachelor apparently told producers he had planned to propose to Nikki during the live taping, only to promptly shut down as soon as cameras were rolling. 

After the snafu, Chris Harrison called Juan Pablo's fake-out "a big dud" and said it was an "unsatisfying" ending for the fans. For the show, it was definitely NOT OK.

So is that takeaway here that the lack of a proposal automatically give viewers an unsatisfying finale? And was Juan Pablo possibly pressured by producers to propose, partially in an attempt to salvage his reputation, only to backtrack at the last moment?

That's ultimately between JP and the powers that be at The Bachelor, but it is worth noting that every Bachelor since Juan Pablo has proposed to their winner…and they all have broken up with their partner in less than a year.

In case you weren't convinced that the franchise really wants its seasons to end with the fairy tale proposal, just look at the series creator Mike Fleiss' tweet about Peter's hesitance to get down on one knee, which he posted during the search for their next Bachelor. 

"Do we really want a Bachelor who isn't ready to settle down with a woman he loves," Fleiss wrote. "Hmmm. Not what #thebachelor is all about..."

So then what is it all about? We're not sure...and we don't think the show is at this point either.

The Bachelor finale finishes tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC.