The Bachelorette Made Me Sympathize with Chad So I Hate It

He was boorish, intimidating, and about one step away from doing something criminal. On Tuesday’s episode of The Bachelorette, Chad Johnson was on his worst behavior: threatening people, being endlessly offensive and disrespectful, and returning to the house after his elimination to do something bad that will be revealed at a later date.

And I felt bad for him.

Because as douchey as Chad’s behavior was, he was goaded into it by his fellow contestants and a show that wouldn’t let him mind his own business.

I’m not trying to excuse anything Chad did. Threats of violence are unacceptable, as is the actual violence the show seems to want to happen. And Chad’s brand of regressive, oppositional hypermasculinity does not belong in contemporary America, as much as Donald Trump and his ilk want it to be so. Chad, or at least the version of Chad the producers have created, is indefensible. But everything the show did to make sure Chad acts like Chad is indefensible, too.

The most awkward moments of The Bachelorette Episode 4

Throughout this entire season so far, the other contestants have been poking and picking at Chad. They talk about him ceaselessly. They insult him to his face. They invite him into conversations with the sole purpose of ridiculing him. On Tuesday’s episode, Chad was laughed at by Jordan, called a coward by Grant, and asked combative leading questions by Luke, to say nothing of Alex and Evan’s relentless campaigns against him, which we’ll get to in a bit. Chad reacted poorly to all of these, but the only confrontation he started was with Derek, and only because he overheard Derek saying bad things about him to JoJo. Chad repeated over and over that he didn’t start anything, and that’s mostly true. Every rude, abusive thing he says is in direct response to a perceived attack. And he’s not wrong in perceiving most of these attacks (or, as Derek would say, “perception is reality”). He’s asked them to stop and they won’t.

Mostly Chad just wants to be left alone. He wants to eat meat and lift weights and not talk to anyone except JoJo. If he were allowed to do that, none of this conflict would be happening. But he’s not. He’s relentlessly antagonized by everyone. Even his only ally, the oblivious goofball Daniel, has abandoned him. To paraphrase Tupac, it’s just Chad against the world, baby.

The Chad Offensive is led by Alex and Evan, the second and third biggest douchebags on the show, and it’s important to note that, as far as viewers have seen, Chad didn’t do anything in particular to either of them to deserve the single-minded hatred he’s getting. Alex’s motivation seems to be that he doesn’t think Chad is a good reflection on the Marine Corps, and Evan’s is that Chad interrupted his time with JoJo during the second cocktail party (and maybe that Chad reminds him of bullies from his past). Other than the interruption, none of these things has anything to do with Chad, and the interruption is just part of The Bachelorette. It’s nothing personal, and they both take Chad’s behavior too personally.

Chad, JoJo Fletcher and Alex, <em>The Bachelorette</em>Chad, JoJo Fletcher and Alex, The Bachelorette

As a result, Alex and Evan come off like spiteful madmen who are more focused on the destruction of their enemy than their own victory. Once Chad is gone, they will have nothing to fight for, and they have devoted so much energy to attacking Chad that they haven’t shown what they have to offer JoJo. And Chad would have been indifferent to them if they hadn’t taken his free-floating rudeness personally and focused on him, provoking him to lash out at them like they knew he would. They think they’re the good guys, but they’re almost as bad as he is. They’re just not as honest about it, and they don’t threaten to beat people up quite so much.

I don’t know what Chad’s relationship with The Bachelorette‘s producers is like. I don’t know how much they’re encouraging him to beef with everyone or if they’re feeding him lines. I speculated last week that he’s an entirely created character, which was mostly a joke, but there’s surely some exaggeration in the Chad persona. The crew knew that he was returning to the resort after his elimination, and the fact that they didn’t stop him indicates some kind of manipulation on the producers’ part. They either know he’s acting and not actually dangerous, and everything we’ve seen is even faker than we thought, or they do think he’s dangerous and let him go back anyway for the sake of good TV. If it’s the latter, that’s incredibly irresponsible and exploitative. If Chad is a danger to himself and others, and the grown-ups in the room are letting him act with impunity or encouragement, he is almost a victim. Chad is an emotional child who can’t control himself, so it’s the producers’ responsibility to control him, since they brought him on the show. And abdicating that responsibility is indefensible.

Chad’s a douchebag, but he’s also clearly unwell. I’m not qualified to diagnose him, of course, but I’m willing to say that there’s some mental or emotional reason he’s acting like this. And The Bachelorette is exploiting that for ratings. Chad’s reactions to provocation are not appropriate — but ask yourself, how would you react if you were in Chad’s situation, trapped in a bubble where everyone hates you and is actively trying to sabotage you? I know that I wouldn’t be at my most polite.

The Bachelorette won’t stop poking the Chad bear, yet acts like the bear has been poking itself the whole time.