‘The Bachelor’: How This Contestant’s Heartbreaking Story Highlights a Bigger Issue in the Franchise Concept

With “Champaign Gate” in The Bachelor’s past, fans finally got a closer look at who Kelsey Weier is — outside of the drama. During a one-on-one with Peter Weber, Kelsey told a heartbreaking story that resonated with a lot of viewers. Here’s how Kelsey’s past traumas shed a light on one key issue within the Bachelor franchise.

‘The Bachelor’ creator has been accused of ‘hating women’ by former contestants

Kelsey Weier
Miss USA 2017 contestant Kelsey Weier, Miss Iowa USA 2017, at Nashville Unplugged | Benjamin Askinas/WME IMG via Getty Images

With Peter Weber’s season of The Bachelor in full swing, it’s worth referencing how and why the show started. One man dating over two dozen women may be a dream for some, but not all.

Since 2002, The Bachelor wad said to be “ahead of its time” in terms of progressive dating. In many ways, it is. In the age of technology where swiping right is the go-to, The Bachelor profiles another way to find love.

However, the show’s creator, Mike Fleiss, has a problematic past. This drives some potential viewers away — specifically previous contestants who know the goings-on behind-the-scenes.

“I always question watching every season due to a little PTSD, overwhelming emotions, and knowing a little too much,” former bachelorette, Kailin Bristowe, said on a throwback photo posted to her Instagram page.

“But I just always want to support the people going through this ‘journey.’ So while I have bitter feelings towards one person (not a contestant), out of hundreds, I will choose to love the hundreds of others who changed my life,” she added. “I will try to remember the positive experiences.”

That one person Bristowe referred to, is Fleiss. In an interview with Nikki Glaser on an episode of Talkhouse Podcast, Bristowe opened up about the contentious relationship she has with Fleiss. She began with his alleged prevention of her participation with Dancing With the Stars.

Bristowe didn’t mince words about Fleiss

“Anybody that listens to this podcast knows why I cannot go on Dancing with the Stars. And it’s because, and I will say this with a mic in my hand and a smile on face, that Mike Fleiss is a piece of s**t. He is the creator of The Bachelor, and he hates women,” she said, via People.

She continued: “So [Fleiss] lets all the Bachelors go on and the only reason he let Hannah go on this season of Dancing with the Stars is because — well, I hope I had something to do with it, that I said something — but because he’s in hot water because there’s some s**t that came out on him abusing his wife. So he’s like, ‘Look at me, I love women.’ As long as he’s in power with ABC, I will never get on that show.”

Bristowe referred to a judge’s order for Fleiss to stay 100 yards away from estranged wife, Laura Kaeppeler. She’d filed complaint accusing Fleiss of physical and verbal abuse. One of the incidents was caught on camera.

The details are painful to read, though Fleiss denies any wrongdoing on his part. He requested legal custody of their so and later that month, the two reached a divorce settlement which includes 50/50 custody.

In Nov. 2019, Fleiss and Kaeppeler reconciled, “working together with the help of a marriage counselor to rebuild what we lost.”

What happened on Kelsey and Weber’s date?

On the Jan. 27 episode, Kelsey Weier had the chance to talk to Peter about her upbringing, which is nothing short of heartwrenching. During their one-on-one date, Kelsey revealed that she maintains her “tough exterior” because of what happened between her parents.

She was in 7th grade when her parents separated. One day, she found a letter accompanied by her father’s wedding ring. He left the family and moved to Mexico, as Kelsey said, to start a new life with a new family.

She didn’t see her father for 12 years. As evident by her tears, this is something that affects Kelsey to this day. Fans weighed in about the scene with many in full support of the vulnerable contestant.

“When Kelsey said ‘a lot of my character traits come from my parents’ divorce’ I felt that,” one fan tweeted. “Dear god Kelsey that is heartbreaking, I’m so sorry about that,” another added. “Her story y’all,” one fan added with a crying face emoji.”

Kelsey’s story hit close to home for many. However, there’s still one major flaw with The Bachelor to begin with.

Here’s why Kelsey’s story connects with the ‘Bachelor’ franchise at large

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And the journey begins ✈️

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In a previous interview with The Cut, former producer, Jason Carbone, said the original premise began with 50 women, not 25. He added that Fleiss “sold the notion of Cinderella on a grand scale.” They interviewed many potential men before deciding to edit the show’s concept.

“In order to make it palatable that 25 women would date one man, the first Bachelor had to be the right guy to launch the format. We had to put him on a pedestal.”

That concept — one where vulnerable women flock to a reality dating series to find love — can be seen as exploitation. Bringing Kelsey on, where she’s forced to face traumas of her past, might mean something if she ends up with Weber in the end.

If Kelsey is sent home, how will that rejection fare in the grand scheme of all she’s been through already? It makes some wonder if producers care about the contestant’s well-being at all, or if it’s just about making good TV.

It’s the same way producers brought Victoria Fuller’s ex-boyfriend Chase Rice on the show without her knowledge and the same way Colton Underwood’s virginity was emphasized.

“I tried to be subtle by just saying I had never been in a serious relationship, and I was really inexperienced in that department in pretty much every way,” former Bachelor contestant, Ashley Iaconetti echoed. “I was later encouraged to be more blunt about it.”

The producers know what they’re doing

Another former producer, Ben Hatta, previously told Page Six, “The endgame is getting a contestant to open up. To do that, the contestant must feel like they can trust you.”

He continued: “If a girl’s feeling the butterflies for a guy already, when she gets into that state, her feelings just become more powerful, so she’s probably more willing to tell that guy she loves him. And maybe one of the producers knew she was in that emotional state and was like, ‘You know what? Now’s a better time than ever. You should do it, you should do it, you should do it!’”

The concept of the show won’t change anytime soon, and the franchise has its fair share of devotees regardless of what happens. Some just hope those already scarred by traumatic pasts, like Kelsey, aren’t further hurt by the show’s process.

The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.