Yet another season of the Bachelor has come to a close, and this one really may have been the most dramatic season yet. As a quick recap (spoiler alert), Madi, one of the bachelor’s final two girls, broke up with Peter, the Bachelor, on their final date in Australia. Peter proposed to the other finalist, Hannah Ann. Peter and Hannah Ann were engaged for a whole month before Peter ended their engagement in front of dozens of cameras due to his unresolved feelings for Madi. Peter and Madi maybe got back together on After the Final Rose. Peter’s mom, Barb, made her negative opinions about Madi made known very publicly on live national TV. Then two days later, Peter and Madi officially broke up. All of this within four hours of beautifully crafted reality television. Not the happiest ending for our Bachelor Peter, who will go down as one of the most indecisive bachelors in Bachelor History.
As an avid fan of the show, my law school friends and I sometimes think about the legal issues presented by the show, like all good law students should do while watching trashy reality television. Below is a review of some legal issues that come up in the Bachelor franchise.
1. The Neil Lane Engagement Ring
What happens to the ring if the bachelor couple breaks up? Well, contractually, if the happy couple breaks up within two years, the ring, worth tens of thousands of dollars, goes back to the ABC producers even though the designer of the ring donates them to the show for free. Do couples ever stay together to keep the ring? Who knows, but it makes a riveting conspiracy theory.
2. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?
Now, on to those meddling TV show producers. In what can only be termed the pinnacle of the art of reality television, this season featured some truly cringy worthy moments that lead me to ask – can the contestants sue the producers for intentional infliction of emotional distress?
Peter and contestant Victoria Fuller went on their first one-on-one date to an amusement park and got to be dazzled by a surprise musical guest, who was none other than Victoria Fuller’s ex-boyfriend, Chase Rice. This led to a whole lot of awkwardness and tears. This was a clear set-up that sent contestant Victoria Fuller into a dizzy. Is that a legally cognizable injury? Perhaps not, given the high legal standard for intentional infliction of emotional distress, but something does not quite sit right about producers intentionally putting fragile women in a distressing situation.
Now, on to that brutal break-up scene between Peter and Hannah Ann. It has become a new Bachelor series tradition to have a brutal break-up filmed between the Bachelor/Bachelorette and their final pick. Fans of the franchise will remember the notorious break-up scenes between Arie and Becca and Hannah Brown and Jed Wyatt. While these break-up scenes make for excellent reality television, again, one has to wonder whether it is going too far to produce and film such an upsetting and intimate moment. While there may be no legally cognizable injury, this recurring trope by the producers seems to push on the boundaries of intentionally upsetting contestants for the sake of good TV.
3. Forced Non-Speech
Finally, the franchise over the past two seasons has been rocked by controversies surrounding contestants. First, there was the fact Jed Wyatt went on the show with a girlfriend. Second, there was the controversy this season of Victoria Fuller supposedly breaking up marriages and modeling in a campaign that used the slogan “White Lives Matter.”Throughout these serious accusations impugning their character, contestants, like Jed and Victoria, were not allowed to speak out and (attempt) to clear their names until they appeared on live television. This might cut counter to our First Amendment values of freedom of speech and expression. It appears to be forced non-speech, which presents some interesting questions of whether anyone should be able to limit their rights in this way for a reality TV show.
 Mehera Bonner, “Everything You Need to Know About the Engagement Ring Rules on ‘Bachelor’, Cosmopolitan (March 10, 2020), https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/tv/a31343153/bachelor-engagement-ring-rules/; Lindsay Denninger, “Every Burning Question About Bachelor Rings That You’re Gonna Have After Peter’s Wild Finale,” Yahoo! Finance (March 10, 2020), https://finance.yahoo.com/news/every-burning-bachelor-rings-gonna-001532268.html
 Stefanie Parker, “Chase Rice Speaks Out About His Bachelor Drama and How Long He and Victoria F. Dated,” Parade (January 29, 2020), https://parade.com/987460/stefanieparker/chase-rice-victoria-fuller-relationship-bachelor/.
 Aili Nahas, “Bachelorette Bombshell! Jed Wyatt’s Ex Says They Were Dating When He Went on the Show,” People (June 18, 2019), https://people.com/tv/bachelorette-jed-wyatts-allegedly-had-girlfriend/.
 Korin Miller, “All of ‘Bachelor’ contestant Victoria Fuller Past and Present Controversies, Explained,” Women’s Health Magazine (March 2, 2020), https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a30498400/victoria-fuller-bachelor-peter-weber/.
 Brianne Tracy, “Chris Harrison Says the Bachelorette Finale Will Give Jed Wyatt a ‘Chance to Speak’ Amid Drama,” People (July 18, 2019), https://people.com/tv/chris-harrison-bachelorette-finale-will-address-jed-wyatt-drama/