Written by: Meagan Lynn
The first night outside the Bachelor Mansion started with a prayer for confidence and patience, and drew a clear line in the sand from seasons past: Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette would be like nothing we’ve seen before. The awkward but lovable ‘Bama girl whose Instagram bio read “I love Jesus with my whole heart” was sure to shake up America’s quintessential reality TV show.
Thanks to Hannah, Chris Harrison’s infamous promise of the “most dramatic season yet” delivered, big-time. While After The Final Rose left us with no engagement and no boyfriend, it did leave us with something possibly more intriguing: the picture of a redefined Christian woman, and a new hope for the Bachelor franchise, to embrace discussions about sex and religion.
While words like “faith” and “God” floated around in previous seasons of The Bachelor, with leads Sean Lowe and Colton Underwood, host Chris Harrion admitted in an interview with Entertainment Tonight the show has intentionally danced around the issue.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever embraced it this much,” Harrison said. “Sometimes we shy away from it because religion, it’s a little bit like sex, where it’s taboo to discuss in the open… I think it needs to be brought in the open more sometimes.”
So after 38 combined seasons of the franchise, why now? Maybe it’s because religion is what bonded Hannah with contestant Luke Parker, but ultimately broken them apart due to a difference of beliefs in their shared Christian faith. That central storyline this season culminated in the iconic “I’ve had sex and Jesus still loves me” pinncale moment. Or maybe Bachelor producers are trying to tell a new kind of story with nuanced relationships that don’t center around issues like the virginity status of the show’s lead.
Particularly, the show is telling a new kind of story about nuanced women. This comes at an important time in the show’s history, as The Bachelor is no stranger to criticism for its “anti-feminist” portrayal of women. Prominent comedian Wanda Sykes went as far to say in her recent Netflix special that she has “more respect for strippers than women who go on The Bachelor.” Most feminist criticism of The Bachelor franchise centers around the trope that women are incomplete until they find a husband–in her intro video, Bachelor contestant and former Georgia-based Assistant District Attorney Andi Dorfman was shown taking her law degree off the wall in her home to “start her journey” to find love.
Hannah B. was a sharp pivot from past Bachelorettes. She was a modern southern woman: openly Christian, openly sex-positive, and now a feminst role model for many. The intersection of these identities is a challenging space to navigate, and Hannah shared with PEOPLE the criticism is hard to handle.
“I have been told that I misrepresent being a Christian, and that has been soul-crushing. My faith is very important to me,” she said. “I was not trying to say that it’s okay to live a life of sin and just call out to the name of Jesus. But I’m a human being and Jesus still loves me.”
Despite receiving pushback during her time on the show, Hannah says she hopes to continue the dialogue surrounding faith and sex by speaking out.
“The conversation about sex can be hard for people to talk about and can make women and men feel a sense of shame. But I can be a woman of faith and also be sex-positive. And I am not going to stop talking about the things that I believe in.”
Hannah also paved a new road for future Bachelorettes, where fans watching for a fairytale ending will happily cheer on a woman who didn’t find love, but found herself instead.
What does this mean for the next season of The Bachelor? Potential Bachelors Peter Weber and Mike Johnson, both from Hannah’s season, have proven to be feminist allies, defending Hannah regularly in the midst of the Luke P. drama in the house. On Peter’s hometown date, his family also said a German prayer before dinner and discussions about God pointed to Peter’s faith. Neither men were the center of controversy this season, with both very serious about finding their potential wife.
“This last season was a long time coming,” Chris Harrison told Entertainment Tonight. “The last few years we’ve really let this show evolve. This was a culmination of a lot of things coming together in the right place at the right time. The casting this season, from Hannah to the guys, was spot on. We had such depth and so many stories to dive into; it was one of those seasons where we caught lightning in a bottle.”
Maybe the next season of The Bachelor will end in engagement, or just in a committed relationship like we saw in Colton’s season. Maybe the season will once again be a journey to self-love, above all else. But as Hannah did for The Bachelorette, Peter or Mike have the potential to continue the revival of the franchise to be a true paradigm shift reflective of 21st century dating.
If you’re a big fan of The Bachelor, make sure to check out our Bachelor News Daily segments on YouTube where we share the latest about what’s happening in and around the franchise.