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The Cynical Girl’s Guide to Watching The Bachelor

ABC is currently airing its 20th season of The Bachelor, aka the show where one moderately attractive single guy finds his soul mate by dating 25 ridiculously attractive (and usually skinny) women simultaneously. Filled with overly dramatic declarations of love, cat fights, crazy expensive first dates that involve helicopters and hot tubs, and lots of crying, the show has something to offer everyone. Even those who are incredibly cynical about reality dating shows get something out of it, and trust me, I’m probably one of the most cynical people I know and I love it.

The Bachelor, along with just generally being a super weird cultural phenomenon, definitely has its fair share of problems. For example, it has a horrible lack of diversity and reinforces heteronormative ideals of relationships and marriage (the female contestants are constantly debating over who is better “wife material,” for example). However, if you don’t take it too seriously, and recognize that it isn’t without flaws, it can be a hilarious and de-stressing experience. And honestly, I don’t know many people who watch the show just because they want to see authentic love blossom between two people who are essentially strangers. People watch it for the the drama, the outfits, the unrealistic first date locations, the six packs, etc. If you’re interested, I’ve prepared this quick guide to get you started.

If you have no idea how the show works, here’s a quick rundown:

The bachelor (this season, it’s the adorable/slightly awkward 26-year-old software salesman Ben Higgins) dates a group of women, eliminating a few each week during a “rose ceremony.” He gives roses to the girls that he wants to stay for the next week. If a girl doesn’t get a rose, she must leave immediately.

The bachelor gets to know the women better through group dates and one-on-one dates. For the one-on-one dates, the bachelor and his date spend the day together doing something ridiculously expensive and outlandish, like riding a hot air balloon, flying a helicopter, etc. At the end of the date, the bachelor either gives the girl a rose, which means she’s safe until next week, or he doesn’t give her the rose, and she must go home immediately. On group dates, several women usually compete in some kind of weird, almost cruel competition (like a cooking contest or a farm-themed obstacle course, for example) then attend a cocktail party. There’s a “group date rose” that’s given to the girl that’s impressed the bachelor the most. (The fates of the other girls are decided at the rose ceremony.) The final four girls get hometown dates, meaning the bachelor meets their families, the final three get “fantasy suite” dates, meaning they get “off-camera time” in some expensive hotel suite, and the final two get to meet the bachelor’s family. And at any time, pretty much any of these rules can be bent or thrown out the window if the bachelor feels like it and/or it looks good for TV drama. Got it?

Now that you know the rules, here are a few guidelines to maximize your watching experience:

1. Keep tally of how many times you hear phrases like:

  • My future wife is in this room.
  • I didn’t think this would be so hard.
  • I’m here for the right reasons.

The repetitive/predicable nature of this show is endlessly entertaining. Better yet, making a drinking game out of it! Or perhaps a bingo game, like this one:

2. Accept that at some point, you will fall for the bachelor and/or the front runner contestants.

Though most of this show is staged, there are a few admittedly adorable and seemingly genuine moments that slip through the editor’s final cut that will melt your heart a little bit. For example, this was me a few weeks ago:

“Ugh, Ben says the same thing to every girl, this is so boring and repetitive.”

(Less than five minutes later) “Oh my god, Ben made little hair clips and bows for one of the girl’s two daughters! This is so cute, I’m going to explode.

Accept and cherish the genuine moments: you don’t have to be cynical 100% of the time! (Maybe just like 90%.)

3. Don’t fight the urge to ask questions like:

  • How much of this is real?
  • Did the producers put her up to doing this?
  • Is that girl really crazy? Or did the editors just edit the clip a certain way?
  • Is part of the interview process for these contestants asking them what their tragic back story is? Why is everyone so sad all the time?

Debating what is real and what has been staged by the producers is part of the fun!

4. Have a friend who is equally as cynical watch it with you.

Have a friend by your side who won’t get annoyed by all of your questions or snarky comments. Together, you guys can laugh at the ridiculous quotes and whine about how boring one-on-one dates are. Plus, you’ll have someone to drink with you during that drinking game I mentioned earlier!

5. Pay attention to the #TheBachelor on Twitter.

Seriously, this hashtag is gold. You’ll find live tweets during the show from parody accounts, comedians, and actual former contestants. It’s a great way to spend commercial breaks!

There you have it! That’s (in my opinion, at least) everything you need to know to start watching The Bachelor. And keep an eye out for The Bachelorette, which usually airs in the summer, which is exactly the same show, but with the roles reversed (more six packs, just as many tears). Happy watching!

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 9, 10

Rachel is an English major and a Senior at UMass Amherst, a student assistant at W.E.B. Dubois Library, an expert at procrastinating and tripping over stuff, and likes dinosaurs, tea, video games, and all things sparkly.
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