The second episode, “Football,” is the first of two episodes. It follows Colton Underwood, a former Bachelor star, as he makes his way in life.
The docuseries, streaming on Netflix now, follows the coming-out processof Bachelor Nation’s Colton Underwood . He revealed that he was gay in an Good Morning America interview.
This moment came after he had competed in Bachelor. He later became the “virgin bachelor” and dated 30 women during a Bachelor Season of his own. After he confessed his love to Cassie Randolph, Underwood is well-known for jumping over a fence. Their relationship ended in a spiral after that. Cassie filed an order for a restraining against Underwood after the breakup. It was for stalking. The order included a claim that Underwood had placed a tracking device in her car. Underwood claims he cannot discuss this on his new show because of “legal reasons.”
Netflix’s decision to give Underwood another platform with Coming out Colton has drawn a lot of criticism. The problem with the series is its flaws.
We watch Underwood connect with LGBTQ people and explore what made him feel like staying in the closet. As he prepares for sharing his truth with the rest of the world, the show begins before his GMA interview.
Underwood’s quest to reclaim his story is underpinned by a needy story about modern sports culture. The central character of the docuseries addresses how homophobia at his high school locker rooms led to his shame and fear, which ultimately made it impossible to tell the world about his sexual orientation. With Being Out Colton Underwood was able to confront the things that he claims prevented him from living fully authentically. But, the show completely wastes this opportunity.
In the second episode, “Football”, Underwood meets with gay athletes and his high school coach to talk about the homophobia and toxicity he witnessed in the locker room. As with many of the episodes, however, the complex issues are only briefly examined and I was left wanting more.
Underwood says that the coaches and people supposed to be looking out for the kids allowed the most harmful parts of the locker rooms to continue to exist. “I was shocked when they were okay with homophobic slurs and jokes that involved homosexuality. It drove me deeper into the closet.”
If Underwood is correct in claiming that these events caused the fundamental problems in his personal life, then they merit much more attention than they receive here.
Some of the episodes are fascinating, to be fair. Gus Kenworthy, Underwood’s friend (a.k.a. Underwood and Gus Kenworthy (a.k.a. “gay guide”) meet up with three gay ex-NFL football players to discuss their experiences in the league. Esera Tuaolo, David Kopay, Michael Sam and David Kopay leave enough impression to warrant a documentary of their own. Kopay discusses how he defied people’s negative views of his sexuality in order to attend the funeral for the first man he loved. He also talks about the reactions of his family when he revealed his story publicly. Tuaolo shares how Kopay’s book saved him. Underwood, a member of the same draft group, recalls Sam being the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL. He also remembers the backlash he faced.
He said, “Hearing the stories of David Kopay and Esera and going through it together with Michael, the one thing that sticks out is, nothing’s changed.”
Underwood heads back to his high school to reunite with Darrell Crouch, his former football coach. In confessional, he admits that “all of the problems and all that has brought me to this point now began here.” “Having someone you consider your second father allowed this toxic culture to football, regardless of whether they meant it or otherwise, had an impact upon me.”
Underwood finishes his conversation with his coach by describing the homophobia that he witnessed in the locker-room. It’s short and unclimactic. It is not a confrontational or catharsis-based exercise.
Crouch understands how difficult it is for players to openly talk to him. This is the reality at schools like Washington, Ill., but Underwood lacks the language, ideas or research to continue the conversation beyond that. He tells his friend about the exchange and is worried that his coach doesn’t understand it. We are left wondering what the point was. It is frustrating to see Underwood make excuses for himself and viewers.
The episode ends with Underwood having a brief conversation with his coach. But that’s where Going Out Colton should’ve started. It left me with many unanswered questions. How does Underwood’s locker room experience in high school compare to those of Sam, Kopay, or Tuaolo in NFL locker rooms? What advocacy is being done to support LGBTQ athletes and who are its leaders? While Underwood’s journey to come out is his own, imagine Underwood returning to his coach with informed suggestions about how to reduce toxicity in the locker room.
The docuseries makes it clear that young athletes depend on their coaches and teams. Underwood tells Kopay and Tuaolo that he is more nervous about speaking to his coaches than he was with my parents. Underwood explains that his coach was like his parent and how football culture pushed him to act as a child.
He says, “That is why people are kept in the closet is because a lot if the toxic parts were permitted and deemed part the culture.” Underwood could have used Netflix’s docuseries to shine a light on an issue we aren’t having enough of, if this is where it all started for him.
Sam’s inclusion is another missed opportunity. Underwood, who was in the same draft as Sam, recalls how other players talked about Sam and his partner. He now regrets not supporting his friend.
Underwood says that Michael Sam’s actions should have provided other league players with an opportunity to speak out and not be afraid. “Unfortunately, I did not reach out to him and I didn’t stand up for him in his locker room. You see, I was also part of the problem. In that moment, I felt like I was letting him down.”
Underwood admits that Sam had additional obstacles as a Black man. This extra layer of prejudice would have been compelling to explore if Underwood and the series creators had thought to do so.
Before Underwood became the fence-jumping virgin and had a post-reality series breakdown, he was just a straight kid in a locker who wanted to play the game well. He could have made it easier for children in locker rooms all over the country to come out on a platform such as Netflix. Coming out Colton feels like a huge loss.
Coming Out Colton can be viewed now on Netflix.