ABC’s The Bachelor franchise has been around for a long time now. It premiered in 2002 and is in its 22nd season, while The Bachelorette has 13 to its name. I’d pooh-poohed the franchise until recently, when my friend and colleague Stevie Seidbart Desjarlais invited me to join her posse of feminists who get together and watch and critique “The Bach,” as they call it, every Monday night.
But this season has been somewhat disappointing for us all. Rather than an interesting and dynamic bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr. is one of the most boring men in the franchise. While I have nothing against race-car drivers turned real estate brokers with lots of money, Arie just doesn’t do it for me. He always wants to hug the women he rejects, and his vocabulary is unimaginative. The first night, after almost every woman greeted him, he stared wistfully and said, “Wow, she’s pretty.” On a one-on-one winery date with contestant Lauren S., Arie got clearly drunk, picked up the rose from the table (for Bachelor virgins: Arie awards a rose to the women he wants to see for another week) and held it close to his heart, wearing a pout, and said he couldn’t give it to her. Cruelty is par for the course in the franchise, but, dude, you could say something more than, “This is like, my first hard goodbye, and I’m very sorry.” Arie’s charm consists largely of being a good kisser and having gray hair, which makes him mature, I guess.
Throughout literature, there are plenty of bachelors who seem to meet ABC’s criteria for being on the show: straight, white men with bunches of money (there’s been only one non-white bachelor in 22 seasons). But unlike Arie, literary bachelors have a lot more going on for them in one way or another and would probably make for far more interesting viewing. So, ladies—because obviously we’re discussing straight cis pairings here, right?—hold tight to your panties. Below, I’ve rounded up some of the best and brightest for you.
1. Sherlock Holmes
“I make a point of never having any prejudices, and of following docilely where fact may lead me.” (“The Adventure of the Reigate Squire“)
Appearing in four novels and 56 short stories, Sherlock Holmes was all over the newspapers in his time (I mean literally, as the stories were largely published in The Strand Magazine). Everything about Sherlock is pretty hot by Bachelor standards: he’s British (major points for the accent); he’s college-educated (or so we surmise, since he started his detective work as an undergraduate); he’s got a lot of money from his work for various royal figures. And his build! “He had a tall, gaunt figure made even gaunter and taller by his long grey travelling-cloak and close-fitting cloth cap.” (“The Boscombe Valley Mystery“) Gangly men can be hot, for sure, and he’s no slouch: he’s a boxer, knows how to play the violin, has a practical knowledge of British law, and, you know, isn’t really addicted to cocaine. He only does it occasionally, “alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.” (“A Scandal in Bohemia“) Okay, so he’s a bit of a party boy, which means he’s not above having a good time. All in all, there’s a reason heartthrobs like Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. have played him in recent years.
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2. James Bond
“I am a poet in deeds—not often in words.” (Goldfinger)
Bond, James Bond, originally appeared in 12 novels and two short story collections by Ian Flemming (as well as, of course, a bazillion adaptations). As you’re probably aware, 007 is an intelligence officer in the British Secret Service, and a handsome one at that. He’s said to resemble the singer, actor, and composer Hoagy Carmichael, but there’s also “something cold and ruthless” about him (Casino Royale); he’s “a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold” (Moonraker). Bad boys have their charm, and despite his rotating series of girlfriends, Bond is in many ways the ultimate bachelor. He also doesn’t appear to age, which helps (unlike Mr. Holmes, who, by the end of his series, is around 60). There’s something of a tragic air about him, having been orphaned at 11 when his parents died in an accident in the French mountains. As for Bond’s personal habits, he’s a big drinker, a bigger smoker, and an occasional user of recreational drugs (but for work, you understand, to aid in concentration or wakefulness). Yes, he’s often a racist, a homophobe, a womanizer…but he owns a flat in Chelsea, don’t you know! Ladies, you’ll never be kidnapped on his watch.
3. Hercule Poirot
“Women can accept the fact that a man is a rotter, a swindler, a drug taker, a confirmed liar, and a general swine, without batting an eyelash, and without its impairing their affection for the brute in the least. Women are wonderful realists.” (Murder in Mesopotamia)
Inspector Hercule Poirot appeared in over 30 Agatha Christie novels and more than 50 of her short stories. The small Belgian man, standing at five feet and four inches, has an egg-shaped head, a small military mustache, a very pink nose, and catlike green eyes. Although he’s not what some would call traditionally handsome, Inspector Poirot is the kind of bachelor who would win you over slowly. He’s a bit of a dandy—“(t)he neatness of his attire (is) almost incredible” (The Mysterious Affair at Styles)—so you’d never be embarrassed by him in public, and he loves classical music, especially Mozart and Bach. Sure, Inspector Poirot is a bit finicky and a little old-fashioned, and he does love his patent-leather shoes. But his skills as a detective would also serve him as a partner: he’d always know what you want for your birthday, for example. He’s methodical, neat, and intelligent beyond a doubt. He doesn’t like the sea or airplanes very much (he gets nauseated easily), so he’d be looking for more of a homebody type. Perhaps you could be the lucky one!
4. Sirius Black
“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” (Order of the Phoenix)
Appearing as a character in books three through seven of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, it’s pretty much canon that everyone, including you, is in love with Sirius Black. Sirius Black is the kid you knew in high school who was the son of bigoted Republicans and swung so far left to spite them that he sometimes forgot he was still a privileged white guy at the end of the day. He has a tragic past, though, with 12 years in prison to show for it—until he escaped, because there’s no Wizarding Innocence Project. After recovering from those hard years, he’s back to being gorgeous, with floppy black hair à la the best of the emo-kids generation, and he can turn into a big, black dog at will—perhaps a bonus point for furries—but not to worry: in his human form, Black’s still a total fox. He’s also seriously loyal, and after a playboy adolescence, he’s probably ready to settle down by now. Plus, there’s that whole being a wizard thing, which will come in handy with household chores. No more fighting over the dishes when he can magic them into cleanliness!
5. John Yossarian
“Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance.” (Catch-22)
Captain John Yossarian of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is every girl’s dream—a war hero, and only 28 at that! Plus, his narrator gives him a pretty hardy list of literary predecessors: he’s “Tarzan, Mandrake, and Flash Gordon…Bill Shakespeare…Cain, Ulysses, the Flying Dutchman…Lot in Sodom, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Sweeney in the nightingales among trees.” That is, he’s a hero at being aware that war is a totally screwed up concept, one he’d like to try to outlive. But he’s not heartless and has a pretty healthy measure of guilt in ways others don’t about trying to avoid death. His avoidance is creative, too, which points to him probably being a pretty zany boyfriend. Things he’s tried, for example: poisoning his squadron so they can’t go on a mission, checking himself into the hospital for a recurring (and fake) liver disease, running away from battle midair, and always having an emergency escape plan to Switzerland. Wouldn’t you want to live in Switzerland with him? Anyway, you won’t have to, because as far as anyone stateside knows, Captain Yossarian defended himself well, took enemy fire bravely, and was awarded the heroic medals that many of his dead comrades probably deserved. Sometimes love (and TV) is all about keeping up appearances, after all.
6. Ralph Touchett
“(A) real little passionate force to see at play is the finest thing in nature. It’s finer than the finest work of art—than a Greek bas-relief, than a great Titian, than a Gothic cathedral.” (The Portrait of a Lady)
Perhaps the purest of all of these leading men, Ralph Touchett is Isabel Archer’s cousin in Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. He’s more of a watcher than a doer, and a bit of an armchair psychologist, which really just means that you’ll be able to have emotional conversations with him. He’s also a homebody and likes wandering his gardens slowly, sending you off on adventures of self-development so you can return and report back to him. In many ways, Ralph is the perfect bachelor: he will advise and opine, but he won’t mansplain; he’ll share your appreciation for books and art; he’ll probably give you lots of money; and he’s cynical enough to not get all boring with how lovely he is. There’s a downside to Ralph, of course—he’s dying. This might put a damper on your relationship, but it would make for great TV.
7. Jean Passepartout
“What a domestic and regular gentleman! A real machine; well, I don’t mind serving a machine.” (Around the World in Eighty Days)
Mr. Passepartout is just the opposite of the recluses on this list. Appearing in Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, he’s a well-traveled man even before he meets Phileas Fogg, who takes him on the round-the-globe trip. His prior life is a bit of a mystery, really, but that’s something we like in a man, isn’t it? He hints at the tragic as well, for when he first meets his new employer, he tells him—very properly, because he’s that kind of guy—“Finding myself out of place, and hearing that Monsieur Phileas Fogg was the most exact and settled gentleman in the United Kingdom, I have come to monsieur in the hope of living with him a tranquil life, and forgetting even the name of Passepartout.” He’s frugal, too, which helps, and though he’s a bit forgetful—he left the gas on when he went on his trip—he’s also a real mensch, Frenchman though he is. He saves a woman from self-immolation, and then agrees to serve as the person to give her away when she later marries Fogg. It’s true that Jean is somewhat gullible, and a bit of a clumsy funny man—he tends to lose things, like his shoes—but ultimately he’s a sweetheart. Plus, he wants to settle down, and while his buddy Fogg may have taken him on a long trip, you can remedy the situation by having a staycation as your honeymoon!
Want more behind-the-scenes info on the inner workings of The Bachelor? Don’t miss Amy Kaufman’s book Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, an unauthorized and gossipy look at how the show became a cultural phenomenon.
Featured illustration: Justin Volz