He says what he thinks and doesn’t care if he offends; in fact, he likes it when people get offended. He’s a bully, denigrating his opponents for their height or social status or perceived lack of masculinity. He’s even rude to JoJo, whom he’s supposedly there to woo. He is, quite frankly, a douchebag. On Monday’s The Bachelorette, a villain emerged, one who dominated the entire episode with his obnoxious behavior and appetite for meat: Chad Johnson, a 28-year-old luxury real estate salesman and former Marine from Tulsa, Okla.
Now, some degree of douchebaggery is expected and even welcome from Bachelorette contestants. It is a shameless program that appeals to our basest instincts to gawk at muscular bodies and confrontation. It’s tailor-made for entertaining jackasses. But Chad takes it way too far, to the point where it’s unclear what his goal is, since he’s clearly not trying to win. In the parlance of the show, he is “not here for the right reasons.” But what is that reason? I posit that there are two possibilities: one, he’s promoting an as-yet-undetermined thing, or two, he’s an Andy Kaufman-esque performance art satire of a macho douchebag.
That Chad is not on The Bachelorette to marry JoJo is evident in his unwillingness to play the game. He barely participates in any of the challenges, he’s “not here to make friends” in a way that ingratiates him to no one, and not even viewers who would support him for the next season of The Bachelor. Worst of all, he’s not all-in on JoJo. While the other guys profess their love, he hangs back and says he doesn’t know JoJo well enough to know if he wants to be with her. He’s using the pick-up artist-derived strategy of feigning disinterest to get a woman’s attention — he even does the infamous pick-up artist move of “negging” or insulting JoJo to lower her self-esteem and make her feel like she needs to win him over, calling her “naggy.”
Unfortunately, that strategy works in the real world sometimes, but it’s not going to work on The Bachelorette, a show entirely designed to make its star — JoJo — seem valuable and desirable. Chad is trying to differentiate himself from the pack by behaving in opposition to the fawning manner in which contestants on the show are expected to behave, but that’s just not a winning strategy on The Bachelorette. He tries to approach the show rationally, like, “I’m not going to get carried away here,” but it’s not a rational show. The goal is to get engaged, not find someone to casually hook up with.
Which is why Chad’s presence doesn’t make sense. If he’s ambivalent about JoJo, why did he go on The Bachelorette in the first place? He could just go on Tinder or to a bar and meet someone in a low-pressure situation where his rationality would seem normal. Uprooting his life and going on TV is a huge commitment for someone who claims to be too busy to date and isn’t even that into the person he’s trying to date. Obviously he has a different motive. Chad says it himself that he’s a cold, calculated businessman, so if he’s not trying to find love, he’s trying to find something else.
One possible motive is that he’s trying to promote something. He doesn’t seem to be actively promoting any products on the show, so he might just be promoting himself, his own brand, Chad Johnson, in a bid to gain social media followers. Once he has enough, he can partner with an agency to advertise products to his followers. Lots of Bachelor and Bachelorette alumni do this. Chad could be building a brand that’s attractive to businesses trying to sell protein powder or workout gear.
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The other less likely but more interesting possibility is that he’s a high-level troll or a character satirizing violent American machismo from the inside. He’s such a caricature of a douchebag that he doesn’t seem real. He’s too perfect. The constant references to protein powder, the relentless aggression, the posturing about what it means to be a “real man.” Even the details that his mother just died and he has a little puppy are on-the-nose against-character traits. He’s well-versed in the language of internet trolling, dropping in words like “butthurt.” His first name, “Chad,” is the archetypal name for macho bros like him.
He’s also genuinely funny — comparing the guys confronting him about his behavior to West Side Story was clever, and the meat thing was like actual comedy. He’s obviously working closely with the producers to develop this character and say the right wrong things. So he either came up with this douchebag character himself and is being encouraged by producers to run with it, or he was entirely created by producers and isn’t even a real person.
And what, exactly, is he satirizing? A macho, hyper-aggressive alpha male who says whatever he’s thinking, insults his opponents and has the entitled belief that everything is his for the taking? And who even works in luxury real estate?
That’s right, Chad is a satire of Donald Trump’s America. If Trump wins, so do the nation’s Chads.
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