But in a matter of a few episodes, we saw a different version of her, a version that virtually had the whole country turning on the once golden child.
After an, admittedly very confusing, falling out with ‘best friend’ Irena, the 25-year-old’s actions were… questionable. Her petty squabble, which viewers were struggling to understand, saw her charming demeanour flip to ‘mean girl’, seemingly in the blink of an eye.
But the thing is, when something depicted on reality television seems out-of-the-blue because it goes from 0 to 60, it’s usually because it didn't. And it generally comes down to deliberate (albeit, sloppy) editing. Whether it’s for the sake of making something look more dramatic or even to play down some off-kilter comments that would depict the ‘favourites’ unfavourably.
So, why do we leap to criticise when we're very aware of just how orchestrated the show is?
We’re very quick to question the "reality" of the romances due to those awkwardly contrived dates, but what about those horridly put together fight scenes where most of the conversations are clearly omitted? Sure, Juliette Herrera’s recent exit seemed abrupt, but did we question that maybe there were some issues that we didn’t get to see?
And the truth is most likely lost somewhere in non-disclosure agreements and editing rooms. But besides that, without knowing what exactly went down, we can’t judge a person’s reaction. Especially when they take place in an environment like the Bachelor mansion. Even the most secure person may be driven to jealousy, since that’s just the kind of tension that the shows premise is literally designed to evoke.
Yes, these contestants may sign up for these gigs knowing that conflict is almost inherent, but the fact is, there’s no real way of telling how a person will handle a situation until they’re faced with it.
And it's certainly safe to say that this may not be how someone would approach an issue in real life, because, after all, when confronted with a very unnatural issue, in a very unnatural environment, it’s fair to assume that a person will react… well, unnaturally.
We also just cannot possibly see the spectrum of a person, with all their qualities and shortcomings, in some fleeting footage wherein they are tasked with a very specific goal: stand out.
And if you don’t think this is a problem, perhaps cast your mind back to these man-children from Angie Kent’s season of The Bachelorette.
Timm Hanly and Ciarran Stott were the favourites, by far, of her suitors. Ciarran was ‘the cheeky, funny guy’, while Timm was the ‘all-aussie bloke’, and we were gutted when Kent didn’t end up with either of them.
But then, fast forward to their behaviour during this year’s Bachelor In Paradise, and we’re sick at the thought of one of our friends dating these guys. With their ‘bro codes’ and their puffed up chests, it was a shock to witness… they were new people. Or... maybe they were always this way?
The issues lies in shows like The Bachelor operating on engagement. They need viewers to root for some contestants, and passionately loathe others. And when every cast member gets, say, three minutes of screen-time (if producers are feeling generous), the general go-to trick seems to be: utilise age-old typecasts that people can instantly both relate to, and despise. We’ve all known the sweetie pie funny guy Ciarran, and we’ve all known the asshole fuckboy Ciarran too.
Easy to identify, easy to process. What's more nuanced and therefore more difficult to process? A very normal person navigating a tense situation and reacting on her emotions.
Bella may be a lot of things, but what are we achieving by pigeonholing her? Or any other cast member for that matter? This outdated, formulaic method of reality television production where people can only be one thing—hated or loved; the winner or a villain—is getting old, and the dissatisfaction is reflected in this year's low ratings.
Many of us have come to our wit's end with the show, and have begun to opt out of viewing altogether. But there's a desperate need for change in the Bachelor/Bachelorette universe that calls for the depiction of multi-dimensional characters that are genuinely relatable, and not just in the way the way that we love to hate them.
Not only do the limited portrayals feel dull, but they can cause some real-life problems for the contestants. Abbie Chatfield from Matt Agnew's season of The Bachelor, recently wrote that she still receives daily abuse over her actions on the show. So perhaps we, as viewers, also have a responsibility to reassess our own responses.
Because while there’s a certain level of engagement that is important—calling out the blatant toxic masculinity on this year’s season of Bachelor In Paradise, for one—there’s also the need to take these dramas, or more so, these manufactured personality typecasts, with a grain of salt.
Enjoy the drama if that’s your shtick but remember that the show is designed to keep you tuned in… and sometimes at the expense of reputations of very real people with very real lives.