I’m a little embarrassed to be writing about this, but it’s setting off my radar in a big way and I think that there is a much bigger issue at hand here than simple trash-tabloid news to be gossiped about.
The Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi interview that aired last night during the last half hour of ABC’s, “The Backelorette” was disturbing, to say the least. I admit to watching Jake’s season, before that, I would sort of flip in and out of random seasons. I laughed at the staged moments and sometimes I got caught up in the drama and romance of the show, even though I knew the majority of it was contrived. But there was nothing funny about the break-up interview aired by ABC last night. In fact, I would say that what ABC chose to shoot and air could even be considered dangerous.
For starters, let me just preface what I’m about to say. I’m not on Team Jake and I’m not on Team Vienna. I’m on Team Functioning Adults. I want people to be happy and healthy and I think we should all know by now that the words, “happy” and “healthy” are rarely ever seen in conjunction with the phrase, “reality show”. In fact, the more drama and dysfunction on a reality television show, the better, according to the networks that air them. The worse and more shocking the situation, the better the ratings. Which is what brings me to the dangerous part of this equation.
Unless Pavelka and Girardi are the world’s greatest actors, last night had at least some semblance of realism. Real emotions, real people, very real breakup. Which makes me wonder, why aren’t more people disturbed on multiple levels that this interview aired? As I was watching, I felt guilty. Like a voyeur. The whole show made me feel dirty, like I was participating in these two individuals’ path of self-destruction. But what was even worse, was the fact that the entire show was presented in an extremely misogynistic light. When we, as a television consuming culture start accepting moments of mysogyny and abuse as entertainment, however “light” that abuse is, we’re treading in dangerous water. Though quite frankly, I should’ve seen the show as mysogynistic LONG before last night’s interview. It could also be considered male-hating as well.
Girardi is not a saint and neither is Pavelka. I don’t mean to imply that Girardi is some feminist masthead with what I am about to say. But any woman, no matter how society views her, no matter what people think she deserves, has the right to not be in abusive relationship and has the right to discuss that relationship and her reasons for leaving openly. It doesn’t matter if she is annoying. It doesn’t matter what she does for a living. The behavior of the host of last night’s show, Chris Harrison and the behavior of Jake Pavelka was disgusting and disturbing.
To begin with, Jake was the only person given the chance to speak for himself alone. Girardi was only brought in after Harrison and Pavelka were able to sit and talk alone. Why did Vienna not deserve to have a stand-alone interview? Simple. Because Pavelka is more of an asset to ABC. He was on a season of, “The Bachelorette”, proceeded to have his own season of, “The Bachelor”, went on, “Dancing with the Stars”, and will also be featured on the upcoming ABC series, “The Bachelor Pad”. So ABC had to work hard to cast him in the best light possible and you can rest assured that there will be a smear campaign against Girardi in the weeks leading up to Jake’s appearance on, “The Bachelor Pad” while Pavelka will have some major image reconstruction happening through various outlets. The fact that Girardi came out of the episode making any sense at all actually says a lot in her favor, because I can guarantee that ABC attempted to edit the episode to make her look as bad as humanly possible.
Both Pavelka and Girardi went to tabloids to sell stories. So right there, we can neutralize any argument that Girardi didn’t deserve to have a say in a more fair interview because she took her story to a magazine. If that were true, the same should be said of Pavelka. So I just want to put that aside right away as it’s become a favorite argument of the “We Hate Vienna, She Deserves What She Gets” crowd. Why would it be worse for a woman to sell her story than it would be for a man to sell his? Is it because he was meant to be the star of the show? Does that mean she shouldn’t get an equal say?
I scanned several message boards today to see what the general consensus on last night’s show was, just to see if I was alone in some of my misgivings, which I’ll get to more specifically soon. It’s about fifty/fifty at this point, with half saying that Jake’s behavior (and even Chris Harrison’s bizarre and poorly hidden attempt at keeping the interview skewed toward Jake) was abusive and half saying that Girardi, “deserved it” because she’s “low class” and “annoying”. (Check People Magazine’s article on their website to see comments I am taking quotes from.)
Half of the reactions I have seen say that Pavelka’s behavior is unacceptable, no excuses. When I talk about this behavior, here is what I mean. During most of the interview, Pavelka had a smug grin on his face, told Girardi she, “disgusted” him, and had no examples or proof of any of his baseless accusations of infidelity toward her. Whereas Girardi had an answer for everything asked of her. Pavelka was the text book insecure jealous male.
Despite the bubble-headed bimbo personae crafted by Venna herself (Maybe in an attempt to flirt with Jake during his season, I bet we’d all be pretty embarrassed to see video of us in the past trying to woo potential boyfriends and girlfriends in our early twenties.) and the folks in the editing room over at, “The Bachelor”, Girardi had a lot to say for herself last night. She answered accusations toward her in a surprisingly articulate fashion, providing an answer for everything Jake and Chris asked, which should be a reminder to viewing audiences everywhere that the people on reality television are not always what that they appear to be onscreen. It’s likely that Vienna is more than just an annoying young girl and maybe Jake is more than the handsome guy done wrong by girlfriends past.
Again, Girardi is no saint. She spoke too often, very emotionally, and also spoke out of turn and lobbed insults. She’s young and immature for sure. But does that mean she deserved the be ganged up on by a television host and a network golden boy in a completely unfair light?
If it were any other show, I’d say sure. You wouldn’t believe the rights that people have to wave when they sign contracts for reality television shows. But in this case, ABC, Pavelka, and the production team at, “The Bachelor” have gone too far. This time, it went beyond dirty editing for ratings. This time, they set the example that it’s okay for a man to be abusive to a woman if she “deserves it”. Which in this case seemed to be based around the fact that Vienna wanted changes in the relationship, changes in location, and God forbid, physical affection from her intended spouse or at least some even level of emotional affection and concern.
A similar plot line happened on, “Glee” this season, when a sad and angry Mr. Shue backed his wife into a corner, getting in her face, grabbing her arms, and screaming at her at the top of his lungs. Most people felt that it was appropriate because the female character being backed into the corner lied about a pregnancy, prompting many people on Facebook to say again that because of her lies, the character “deserved” that kind of treatment. I could eventually let that argument go, because it was fiction. In this case, what happened on television last night was real. The snarky, arrogant, rude, and ultimately baseless comments going from Jake to Vienna should have set off red flags in the host Chris Harrison, who instead joined Jake in condescending to Vienna who did her best to state precisely what her side of the story was. Again, I’m SURE Vienna did many things wrong in the relationship. The point is that what went down in that interview was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Girardi was emotionally heated in her arguments, but she was entirely respectful of Pavelka’s space and kept her voice at an even keel until Pavelka raised his, screaming at her and almost tattling on her to the host of the show instead of speaking to her like any human being deserves to be spoken to, with respect, no matter what the disagreement.
So my question is this, what defines an abusive relationship with a man? Does he have to hit a woman to be considered abusive?
What happens so often in emotionally abusive relationships is that a man feels that he has the right to yell at, scream at, throw things at a woman because she deserves it. Men who hate women, even if they haven’t intellectualized that this is their problem, feel that any negative emotion from a woman is just them “whining” or being “unsupportive” effectively shutting down the two way emotional street that a relationship has to be in order to be alive and productive. Pavelka admitted last night to throwing things in anger, raging at Girardi, yelling at her, and snapping vocally because she was interrupting him. To which I say, no matter how frustrated you are with a person, it’s NEVER okay to throw things or scream at them. I’m talking man to man, man to woman, and woman to man.
There’s a double standard in life and when it shows up on television and film, it’s time to address it and say in a public way, “This is not okay, it’s a form of abuse!” When a woman has a negative emotion or a complaint, abusive men think that women shouldn’t be allowed to talk about it because it’s disrespectful to men. (Jake repeatedly accused Vienna of “undermining” him and “emasculating” him any time she disagreed with him. Perhaps he needs a dictionary. People simply disagreeing with you does not emasculation make.)
When a man has a negative emotion or complaint, however, they think they have the right to do and say whatever they want to the woman in their life. That is just plain wrong, on top of being unappealing, undignified, and the problem of personal emotional insecurity. These men are motivated by internal problems usually stemming all the way back to their own childhoods, but instead of taking ownership of their anger and expressing themselves in a healthy way, they instead attempt to control a woman.
Pavelka appeared to have turned completely cold to Girardi because she had complaints, this is also a trademark of abusive men. Running hot and cold, being entirely quiet and then extremely loud instead of communicating in a mature way by using words and articulating feelings. Pick up any book or talk to any therapist about emotional abuse and they will tell you that this is a manipulation technique.
In all honesty, the fight that happened between the two of them last night was a textbook case of early relationship problems. It’s what sometimes happens when the honeymoon is over. Jake was jealous and clammed up on Vienna in every way and Vienna escalated the situation when she felt like she wasn’t being heard by turning the emotions up to eleven. It’s not that their problems were so over-the-top that they were beyond fixing, it was Pavelka’s behavior amidst the problems that at the very least put a toe on the line of abuse.
Women in any relationship have a right at any time to discuss their feelings, including grievances. The mature thing to do would’ve been for these two to ultimately realize that if they had genuine feelings of love for one another but couldn’t solve their problems, that means it’s time to go to therapy or counseling and figure out how to solve things in a fair and loving way or part ways and leave it at that. Love is not about control. It’s about compromise and working toward a common solution to relationship problems. Because you should want the other person to be happy, not to just do what you want them to do. These are things that teenage girls everywhere have to learn as they grow up and our culture should reject bad examples, like what was shown last night, whether a single teenager watched the show or not.
Instead, ABC attempted to paint Girardi in the worst light possible, bringing her out second, ending the interview by giving Jake the last word when Girardi ran off set because Jake screamed at her. Instead of chiding Jake for raising his voice and losing self-control the way he did, Harrison and Pavelka simply raised their eyebrows and shook their heads at each other and scoffed at Vienna for doing the RIGHT thing and not sitting there and taking verbal abuse. They were almost giddy about it, with Jake remarking to Harrison that this was the way that most of their fights ended. Well, of course! Who would stick around to be screamed at? At least Girardi tried to have a rational discussion about it. Whether her arguments were rational or not, it was the way she behaved herself that made the difference. Jake smirked or screamed. Girardi at least attempted to be an adult.
It was a truly disgusting moment for anyone who cares about gender equality, even more disgusting than the contrived plots and promiscuous public flings of typical reality television. Yes, the show is complete fluff, but now it has crossed the line and I can only hope that I’m not the only advocacy-minded person that noticed this and wants to raise a stink about it. It’s not about the show or Vienna and Jake. It’s about defining abuse in the public arena. I will never watch anything having to do with, “The Bachelor” again, though I’m ashamed to admit that I ever did in the first place.
I don’t expect gender equality (NOTE: I did not say gender homogeny!) to ever come through reality television, but what we watch for entertainment defines us a culture and a country. especially when it is en masse the way that television is. Should it be banned? No way, absolutely not. But more people should be discussing Pavelka’s, Harrison’s, and ABC’s behavior in response to the conflict and not the exact conflict itself. People should be bothered by this and those who watched the show should be having a dialogue about abuse and what abuse is exactly based on last night’s television.
Was Girardi mature? No. But she’s also only 23 years old, with Jake being much older than her. But I guess if Jake had any ability to be the bigger man, along with the network, the interview wouldn’t have taken place at all.
As I said before, I’m not on Team Vienna and I’m certainly not on Team Jake. But I do hope that they both get the emotional help that they need to pave the way toward a healthy relationship with other people in the near future. I hope that Vienna gets validated for leaving the relationship and I hope that Jake disappears from the spotlight forever. Quite frankly, I hope the show gets cancelled and that others will write in to ABC to complain. But I bet the ratings from last night were stellar, so you can probably expect more emotional fireworks in the future, and I’m so embarrassed that I contributed to the show’s success.