Former “Bachelor” Colton Underwood came out as gay in a “Good Morning America” interview. The interview highlighted the pivotal moments of the reality star’s life — except for the one that showcased his controlling tendencies.
After Underwood dated Cassie Randolph from his time on “Bachelor,” she filed for a temporary restraining order against him. He placed a tracking device on her car, followed her around when she left her house, lurked in an alleyway outside of her parents’ home, and made a fake number to contact her.
In the “Good Morning America” interview Underwood spoke about the breakup with Randolph by saying that he was “sorry for how things ended.” However, he failed to acknowledge his troubling behaviors. ABC and Robin Roberts, Underwood’s interviewer, also failed to mention the pain and fear that Underwood inflicted on Randolph. It was simply brushed away so ABC could monetize Underwood’s coming out story.
Communication studies freshman Michelle Mene is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and feels that the situation minimized what happened to Randolph for the sake of Underwood’s coming out journey.
“As a lesbian myself and experiencing this in my community, I think we need to recognize that gay men can still be misogynistic and predatory toward women,” Mede said. “It is important to celebrate the new step that Underwood is taking in his life, but we also need to hold him accountable for his predatory actions toward Randolph.”
Underwood’s treatment of Randolph should not be erased because survivors are often not awarded the privilege of forgetting about their trauma. Victims of stalking frequently deal with emotional impacts, such anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, PTSD and suicidal thoughts, long after it occurs. Stalking victims may also struggle to keep jobs or relationships because of their inability to trust others. Just because a stalker is done stalking, it does not mean that a victim is done processing.
Since this situation is public, the matter goes beyond Underwood and Randolph. General audiences, who may also be stalking victims, might see this and relive the trauma they experienced.
This is something felt by public health freshman Danielle Mattson.
“[Underwood] deserves a moment to celebrate, but being in the spotlight does not mask the pain and trauma that [Randolph] endured,” Mattson said.
ABC is not the only company profiting off of the erasure of Underwood’s past to market his coming out story as a hot topic. The former Bachelor is also working with Netflix on a reality series that documents his coming out journey, but someone shouldn’t be rewarded with their own show after doing more harm than good.
Rewarding Underwood’s behavior is also damaging to him. When rewarded, the human brain releases dopamine, the hormone responsible for addiction and motivation and reward. This causes people to repeat actions.
By giving Underwood his own show, Netflix is showing him that he can get away with stalking. Since there were no consequences for his actions, Underwood may repeat these behaviors in future relationships.
“Generally, when someone is rewarded for their behavior, they are more likely to engage in that behavior again because their internal motivation is rewarded,” communication studies professor Anuraj Dhillon said. “If Underwood is rewarded with a Netflix show despite stalking Randolph, he is likely to feel positive about doing that and is likely to see growth in obsessive behaviors, such as constantly bothering the other person or trying to get back at the person, which is only destructive to his own mental health.”
If audiences truly want to celebrate Underwood’s coming out, they need to encourage him to create healthy relationships. In healthy relationships, partners have equal power. But by stalking Randolph, Underwood exacted power over her. Underwood should accountability and learn from these actions, so he can learn how to have happy, balanced romantic relationships.
A Change.org petition to cancel Underwood’s Netflix series has over 35,000 signatures, and Cal Poly students have spoken up about his actions and want him to take accountability.
“I think it’s great that he came out, as it’s important that people can share their feelings without shame,” food science freshman Allison Lee said. “Although I am glad that he’s happy, there is no excuse for stalking and harassing an ex.”
Underwood, like all human beings, deserves to be happy; but Randolph, and other stalking victims, deserve to have their peace of mind protected. Underwood cannot erase the past and the pain he caused, but he can show that he is truly sorry. He can publicly explain exactly what he did, apologize for it and advertise and donate to causes that work to eliminate stalking and domestic abuse. He can do that while living happily as a gay man. These two events are pivotal plot lines in his life story that can coexist.
If you or anyone you know has been affected by stalking, here is a short list of resources that can help you:
Cal Poly Safer Cal Poly Counseling Services
Stand Strong (SLO Domestic Violence Services)