I forced my family into the so-called “Bachelor Nation” the way one would force a square peg through a round hole. We started with the ninth season of The Bachelorette when Desiree Hartsock was in the titular position. It was rich with drama. Chris Harrison was the ringleader of a circus filled with glitzy clothes, people crying, over the top dates, and more people crying. My family resisted at first but were soon fully immersed in Desiree’s journey through what was proclaimed to be “the most dramatic season yet.” No one was more taken by the show than my sister Allison. After watching Chris Soules’ season a few years later, she pulled me aside.
“Anna,” she said seriously. “If I’m not married by the time I’m 26, I need you to nominate me to be on The Bachelor.”
“What? Allison, no. I’m not doing that.”
“The girls are all insane, you’d be risking career stability, and not to mention the producers probably manipulate all of the contestants to portray them in a way that best suits the narrative they’re trying to build.”
Allison frowned at me and crossed her arms.
“I get it. You don’t think I’m pretty enough.”
That was not it. After reading Amy Kaufman’s book, Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, I had gained a better understanding of the shocking production process of the show. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in reality TV in terms of producing. It was both fascinating and appalling. Here are some highlights.
1. While in the Bachelor Mansion the girls are not allowed to do anything
The producers do not let the girls do anything besides go on and look forward to the dates with The Bachelor /The Bachelorette. No reading, no TV, no outside excursions. This creates something called a “bubble effect.” Without anything to else to focus on, the majority of the contestants’ attention is directed towards their budding relationships, accelerating the development of romantic feelings. Occasionally, producers will use the lack of stimulation to their advantage. For example, if the girls agree to give interviews saying a certain contestant is a bitch, they will be allowed to rent a movie.
2. Chris Harrison was hired as the host because he was made for the friend-zone
Chris Harrison was selected to host the bachelor because he was married and deemed not attractive enough to be a threat to the Bachelor or the Bachelorette’s men. Showrunners did not want to there to be a possibility that any of the girls would go for the host. It was decided that Chris Harrison’s face and body could stop them.
3. There’s a contract for the Neil Lane engagement ring
A major milestone in each season of The Bachelor occurs when the Bachelor or Bachelorette finalists select engagement rings from Neil Lane himself. ABC does not have to pay for these rings because Neil Lane benefits from product placement advertising. Basically, if people see their favorite influencers buying a certain kind of ring on TV, there is a higher likelihood they will buy a ring of that brand. While Bachelor couples are not charged for the ring, there are conditions. If the couple’s relationship breaks off before the two-year mark, they have to return the ring to ABC. If they break up after two years, they earn the right to keep the rock.
4. The producers are ruthless
The story producers on The Bachelor have the hefty task of creating a story out of hours of raw footage. They help the contestants come up with their limo introductions. They ask probing questions that give them words that can be used to support a particular story. Sometimes different sentences are edited together using something called “frankenbiting” to give an interview an entirely different meaning. Even if a producer’s moral compass does not point due north, it makes for great television.
5. The cocktail parties/rose ceremonies take up to twelve hours
Between the individual “in the moment” interviews, introductions, and technical set-up of the rose distribution, the taping of the cocktail parties and rose ceremonies that proceed them can take a while. The contestants pass the time with their allotted two drinks per hour. When the first rose ceremony of this season of The Bachelor was still in full swing at 5 am, Colton drank more iced coffee than he did champagne.
In theory, The Bachelor is a love story where two beautiful people fall for each other under fairytale circumstance. In reality, it is a highly fabricated environment where storylines are cherry-picked from hours upon hours of footage. This is not to say that the final product is any less enjoyable. We know that not every bit of what we watch is true. Allison knows but refuses to acknowledge that any part of the show might be artificial.
“Don’t you dare tell me anything from that stupid book you read!” she yells covering her ears. “You’re going to ruin my entire viewing experience!”
In this case, Allison is able to represent the majority of the American public. We watch this franchise solely for the viewing experience, knowing it shows life through rose-tinted lenses. Even if the contestants are more bored than they let on, and the producers could be classified as manipulative, we watch anyway.