Production on Bachelor In Paradise resumed after parent company Warner Bros. recently determined that the alleged sexual misconduct never took place. Apparently, the studio reviewed tape of the incident in question, which took place between contestants DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios, and found that it doesn’t support “any charge of misconduct by a cast member,” nor does it show “that the safety of any cast member was ever in jeopardy.” When news of the alleged sexual misconduct first arose, it indicated that the tape showed Olympios was too intoxicated to give consent. Before Warner Bros. released the results of its internal investigation, Olympios had retained legal counsel and issued a statement on the incident.
Both the incident and Warner Bros.’ handling of it have raised plenty of questions about filming a reality series and just how much control producers have over the cast. The answer to the latter is: a lot. CNN Money recently obtained a copy of the contract that the current crop of Bachelor In Paradise contestants signed, and it’s almost ridiculously broad. Well, the legal experts CNN Money didn’t use the term “ridiculously,” but they did agree that the document imbues the Bachelor In Paradise team with an awful lot of power over the contestants, while severely limiting the legal recourse for the cast.
Neither ABC nor Warner Bros. would comment to CNN Money about the contract, which grants the show “the right to change, add to, take from, edit, translate, reformat or reprocess… in any manner Producer may determine in its sole discretion.” Now, most viewers of reality TV know that there’s a fair amount of editing and shepherding that occurs to cultivate the narrative producers are looking for, but this stipulation really drives home just how blanche that carte is. This can lead to a contestant being made to look like they’re talking to a raccoon (which wasn’t the case), or being made out as the villain of the piece. But that’s essentially what they’re signing on for when they join, according to the section of the contract that states “actions and the actions of others displayed in the Series may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavorable nature and may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation, or condemnation.”
While contestants must agree to refrain from unlawful behavior while filming, the contract, in its current iteration, goes to greater lengths to protect the producers and studio from any legal claims that might arise than the human beings they’re corralling around an island. But all that ass-covering on the production company’s part could ultimately mean much of the contract is unenforceable, legal experts tell CNN Money. While they acknowledge that there are loopholes, they describe the document as being “so one-sided,” voicing “major concerns with the manner in which the contract is drafted.” One entertainment lawyer even says “there are significant arguments to be made for an alleged victim, that there are reasons to believe they could have success.” Unfortunately, the one iron-clad part of the contract is the binding arbitration that all contestants agree to, should they make some claim, which means there’s a good (read: depressing) chance that Olympios’ possible case—lawsuit, what have you—is over before it begins.