Bachelor Nation has always been known for forcing its contestants and leads to conform to societal norms.
Whether or not the franchise would like to admit it, the majority of their audience is Caucasian Christians. So when Demi Burnett, the "villain" from Colton Underwood's season, took to Twitter to reveal that she's, in fact, a "queer queen," backlash was expected. Immediately, the former contestant received hateful direct messages all across her social platforms, specifically on Twitter. While the majority of her cast members spoke out in support of Demi, the trailer for the upcoming season of Bachelor in Paradise frustrated queer viewers with how it depicted Burnett.
Bachelor in Paradise 2019 (First Look) Trailer www.youtube.com
The woman Demi is making out in the Paradise trailer is her girlfriend, Kristian Haggerty. She's never before been involved with the show, aside from knowing a former contestant, Catherine Agro, who introduced her to Demi. Some viewers, like myself, grew worried that the show brought on Demi's girlfriend to use a same-sex relationship to, in short, pat itself on the back for "progressive" representation.
That has yet to play out, but we'll see how it does on August 19th on ABC. Until then, no one can truly judge what happens without watching the footage. But in last night's episode, a simple but moving moment happened: Demi came out to multiple cast members. She sat down with fellow Paradise contestant and friend, Katie Morton, to discuss her predicament. While she enjoys pursuing Derek Peth, she cannot stop thinking about the woman she was dating back home. Demi discussed her feelings about not wanting to hurt anyone in her process of self-discovery, her desire to be open and explore her options, but also her internal struggles.
Katie actively listened and didn't make a point to comment until Demi expressed concern over what will people think of her. Katie assured her, "First of all, it doesn't matter what anyone feels about it." Katie and Demi's shared movement clearly conveyed how much of a toll hiding one's sexual identity can take on a person. Afterward, Demi let go of the persona she'd put on for show. She noted how tired she was of being strong, putting up a shield, and not fully allowing herself to embrace her sexuality.
The heart-stopping moment was more meaningful than when she came out to her current love interest, Derek, or fellow contestant, Tayshia. This was a real moment between two close friends who support one another. When they tearfully hugged, I was in tears. The scene was relatable to many queer people, especially those attracted to both men and females. Demi struggled to feel "okay" and accept herself, which is an experience that viewers across America still need to be exposed to. Representation is important for media's normalization of queer people, no matter where they fall in the spectrum of sexual orientation, and for a network reality television program as conservative as the Bachelor franchise to take a step forward provides hope.
Unfortunately, the first time a Bachelor contestant came out as liking both men and women, the situation was (shockingly!) not handled respectfully. When Jaimi King, a contestant on Nick Viall's season, joined Paradise, it was over-sensationalized. She was portrayed as a wild card who would try to snatch up both women and men—who knows if she could commit to anyone! But that was back in 2017. A lot can change in a couple years in the Bachelor world.
No matter what comes later this season on Bachelor in Paradise, Demi coming out to Katie, Tayshia, and Derek is noteworthy and felt genuine. Demi may be scared, but as Katie mentioned, she "should be brave," and we all deserve friends and love like that.