Okay, so I am going to start by saying I am fairly new to the Bachelor franchise. My first season was Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of The Bachelorette so I lack the superfan status that so many have maintained for years. However, as a longtime reality television fan I understand how rare it is that a character on one of these shows is so relatable, despite the toxic, artificial environment the show is set in. This is exactly why I love Ashley Iaconetti.
In essentially two seasons of Bachelor in Paradise, Ashley I. has become a staple of the franchise and everything it represents. She is a real life Disney princess who is smart, beautiful, and hilarious. But like so many women on television (and in real life), she does not understand her own worth.
As someone who is overly emotional myself, I not only empathize with Ashley, but I relate to her. The moment she showcases any emotion she is regarded as crazy and loses all credibility with the viewing audience. As if enduring heartache was not difficult enough, the girl has had her heartbroken on television in front of millions multiple times. The producers of the show exploit her for her emotions for the sake of “good television.” Although everything she is emotional about is completely reasonable (I don’t care who you are), her words are manipulated to create a false storyline that deviates from the reality of the situation.
If you don’t know what I am talking about, note her character arch on season three of Bachelor in Paradise. The producers knew the reaction they would get out of her seeing someone she cares deeply about with someone she trusted and considered to be a friend. The order in which the contestants arrive is determined on what will create the best television, and it has never been more apparent. This is why Ashley arrived the day after Caila and Jared went on a date and made a connection. They brought her in to watch her implode, knowing that this storyline would be compelling enough for a few episodes of drama.
Like other shows in this franchise, Bachelor in Paradise is heavily produced. As a longtime reality television fan, it is evident that a lot about the show is dramatized (see: UnReal). With extreme temperatures, an endless supply of alcohol, and producer manipulation, these contestants are expected to crack under the pressure of these intense social situations. That is what the producers consider to be good television, and that is what they think we as viewers want to see.
Despite being absolutely striking; she has a realness about her that is often difficult to find on reality television. Her problems and her insecurities are very real. Young women watch her and are able to empathize because we have all been Ashley. We all have faced various forms of rejection and we might not always handle it in the most graceful manner. She sends a message to America that despite what you look like, you can get hurt putting yourself out there.
If you want to believe the fabricated narrative ABC feeds you every week, that is completely fine. It is a television show and it exists for entertainment purposes, I know that and have no issue with that. However, it isn’t fair to attack this woman on social media or bash her around the water cooler, because we weren’t there. She has taken the time to tell her side, where she rationalizes all of her actions and explains how the edited version of the story does not depict what actually happened during filming.
Ashley brings a lot to the Bachelor franchise, but more than anything she brings a authenticity that is essentially missing from these shows. She is in touch with who she is, her insecurities, and she does not deserve to be written off as another crazy Bachelor castoff, because she truly is so much more.