This week's episode of The Bachelorette made waves for a very unusual reason: the host! While Chris Harrison left the bubble to help his son go to college Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher took over the hosting. JoJo's appearance and her dynamic with Tayshia asked us: what would the show look like with a woman as a full-time host? Can't help but think that it might help address some of the show's longstanding problems, although it's not a perfect solution.
Chris Harrison's role, especially in Bachelorette Seasons, is a kind of enforcer. He's there to cool the guys off when they get overdone, to be a buffer between the leadership and the participants, and to offer a bit of fraternal (or even paternal) solidarity. The result, however, is that he can occasionally act as the "last word" or "protector" to keep things from getting out of hand – both of which reinforce the outdated gender dynamic. We've seen before how downcast guys don't fully accept being rejected until Chris gets things done. We saw Chris having to set foot even after the Bachelorette said no. Even this season we saw Chris send out after a controversial and awkward date with Clare to eliminate Zach J. – all to position a man as the final referee, even if a woman starred on the show. It's not that big of a deal if it is Bachelor Cycle, but it can be awkward with Bachelorettes in charge.
"The whole situation had a kind of 'women, what can you do brother?' Feel about it, which is really not the vibe a show with a heavily female audience should go for in 2020.
Things continued during Tayshia's part of the season when Ed knocked on Chris' door when he was looking for Tayshia to ask for another chance after a less successful group date. Instead, he was invited by Chris to pour a drink and presumably his ailments. The whole situation was like, "Women, what can you do, brother?" feel about it, which is really not the vibe a show with a heavily female audience should be in 2020. And to be honest, there was always a bit of that feeling for the whole Bachelor Franchise. It is a show that was created by a man, moderated by a man and often shows stereotypes from a (stereotypical) male point of view.
Bachelors and male candidates always fit into a very narrow notion of what a man should look like and are asked to participate in challenges that often focus on false aggression or make a big deal of how hard it is for men to self-regulate to open. Bachelorettes and candidates are often faced with tricky challenges and focus heavily on their sexuality. There are exceptions of course (see: Ivan and Tayshia's phenomenal conversation this season), but even the moments that are supposed to be "feminine", like the group date "Wrestling Match" this season, still have priority in portraying the boys as "masculine" men in a very narrow definition of what that means. So the host is the "healthy man", the completely neutralized type who stands above everything and can bring everyone, regardless of gender, to their place.
Could switching to a host remedy all of these problems embedded in the format and style of the show itself? No, not exactly, but it would be a step in the right direction, especially for the seasons of The Bachelorette. It would give the lead of the season a different woman to bounce off of rather than a man, and it would also establish "responsible women" across the board as the host and lead. This is nothing against Chris Harrison, who is pretty much the face of the franchise at this point, and has done an excellent job on countless seasons and spin-offs to be the level-headed, slightly amused voice of sanity – but wouldn't it be nice? Did the franchise's face look more like the majority of the people watching at home?