7 November 2019

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favourite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman

ANOTHER BACHELOR BOOK? I know, I know, but after reading Most Dramatic Ever at the end of the summer I just felt like I had no other choice than to read this one as well and really kill all my brain cells at once with useless facts about a dumb reality show THAT I LOVE. I got this book for Christmas last year and was curious how it would stack up against Showler's pop culture analysis.

Amy Kaufman is incredibly cool. She's a staff writer for the LA Times where she covers celebrities, pop culture, etc. She also works as an investigative journalist and does a lot of reporting on sexual harassment in Hollywood, and after years of covering The Bachelor (surpringly unrelated), she wrote this book. Kaufman makes sure readers know how hard it was for her to write this. She was banned from a lot of events and cut off from a ton of her contacts when they heard she was doing an expose on the show. A lot of people were even paid not to talk to her, but good news is, a lot of people still did!

This book is more like what I expected Most Dramatic Ever to be like, but in reality, Most Dramatic Ever was more of a cultural analysis, whereas this book reads like more of a tell-all. Kaufman gives inside scoop into the actual production of The Bachelor, good and bad. Each chapter is also separated by essays from Hollywood personalities like Melanie Lynskey and Amy Schumer dishing on why they love the show. What I thought was important about these essays is that they all share a common thread: there are many issues with this show (body image, diversity, stereotypes) but at the end of the day, it's still okay to appreciate it for what it is. Suck it haters.

Amy Kaufman

Kaufman goes into a very detailed history about the show's origins, something I'm really uninterested in. She talks a lot about Mike Fleiss, the creator, and all of the hoops and hurdles and failures he went through before he could get The Bachelor going, and even then it was heavily criticized. The news and media didn't like the premise (obviously) but despite the bad reviews the show kept getting more and more popular. Kaufman didn't write Fleiss up as a good guy, rather as a money hungry, stoned-on-set, sort of macho man who nobody really liked. This is consistent with a lot of the rumours I've heard from Bachelor alum, specifically Kaitlyn Bristowe who has an ongoing vendetta against Fleiss for forbidding her from going on Dancing With the Stars.

Unlike Most Dramatic Ever, this book is filled with some serious juicy gossip. Kaufman is a journalist who covered the show for a number of years and definitely knows some fun facts. Here were my favourite learnings from this book:
  1. STDs are the top reason people don't make it on show. All candidates submit to a health screening, and most are eliminated for STDs. Sexually transmitted diseases keep most people off the show. 
  2. The show has a team that's entire job is to find ways to do all of the dates for free. In return for whatever hotel / tour / city they use that hotel / tour / city gets the advertising power of The Bachelor. This is called a trade-out, and producers are given a $0 budget for each date. Zero..
  3. Up until the book was published Lauren Bushnell had received the most expensive ring in show history, 4.25 carats with a 240 diamond halo supposedly worth $100 000.
  4. Ashley Iaconetti told Kaufman the payout for sponsored Instagram posts is roughly $1000/250k followers, $2000/500k followers, and $10 000/1 million followers. I know everyone here has been wondering just like I have been.
Lauren Bushnell, Ben Higgins, and the $100 000 ring. Bushnell has since married country musician Chris Lane. 

The most interesting parts of the book for me discuss how manipulative the show and producers can be. As a fan, I always suspected there was pressure and leading questions, etc., but I had no idea the full extent of it.

Firstly, the types of people selected to be contestants on the show all fit a specific type of profile that lends itself nicely to being easily manipulated. Rozlyn Papa from Jake Pavelka's season pointed out that many of the people going on the show have no jobs, or have jobs that don't matter, which is why they can leave them to go on the show in the first place. People who join the show don't have a lot of stability, self-identity, etc. It seems like in more recent years with all of the sponcon opportunities, jobs matter even less every year as it's unlikely any of them will keep them afterwards anyways. Having an actual career, like being an attorney (Andi) or a pilot (Pete), is actually this amazing standout attribute now for a contestant.

Kaufman then goes on to discuss the 27 page legal document all contestants sign before joining the show:

OK, first off- and this probably seems obvious- you must agree to be filed up to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. But this may also be 'by means of hidden cameras and microphones,' according to the contract- meaning you're likely going to be caught, at some point, in a less-than-positive light. You should have 'no expectations of privacy.' Furthermore, because this is a reality show, you must acknowledge that 'elements of surprise' will be included. You must be 'prepared for anything,' including 'twists' and 'surprises'. 'Producer or others connected to the show,' the contract reads, 'may intentionally or unintentionally make misrepresentations or omissions concerning the Series.' Basically: The producers can mislead you, and that's totally kosher. Here's where we get to an especially important clause, because it's in all-caps: 'I UNDERSTAND, ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT PRODUCERS MAY USE OR REVEAL PERSONAL INFORMATION WHICH MAY BE EMBARRASSING, UNFAVORABLE, SHOCKING, HUMILIATING, DISPARAGING, AND/OR DEROGATORY, MAY SUBJECT ME TO PUBLIC RIDICULE AND/OR CONDEMNATION, AND MAY PORTRAY ME IN A FALSE LIGHT.'"

So they can make you look like anything they want. Anything that fits their storyline. You may hear contestants referring to this as their "edit". Personally, I could never sign on to this. I have enough insecurities about how I'm actually acting in public to have to worry about the ways I'm not acting that they may edit in anyways.

one of my favourite contestants Michelle Money doing an "in the moment" interview 

Then, once you're on the show, they badger you for the content they need. Many people Kaufman spoke with likened the "in the moment" segments (where it's just one person talking to a camera/producer) to police interrogations. I have a hard time believing any of them know what a police interrogation is like but they may have watched When They See Us, regardless, I was spooked. Clare Crawley, for example, told Kaufman they made it seem like if she didn't say she loved Juan Pablo she'd be sent home. I can see how vulnerable you'd feel when you really like someone and the only people he's been honest with are pressuring you to say something. 

Crawley also goes on to discuss a phenomenon Meghan and I have always wondered about... the contestants are sitting in a house, fully pampered, with nothing to do but fantasize over their lives with the lead:

'But you have nothing to think about,' [Clare Crawley] emphasized. 'Not even tying your shoes. Not even what food you're going to order. You don't have to think about a single thing other than him. Imagine that: For three months, that's all you focus on. That's all you think about. All you talk about. So it's almost sped up really fast.'"

Juan Pablo and Clare Crawley- Crawley said Pablo told her he "liked fucking her" after their one on one date. She didn't get chosen in the end. 

The contestants are also fully removed from their support systems and placed in a herd with a bunch of other women, also fantasizing about their lives with the lead. Nobody is thinking straight. Nobody can talk sense into you. Kaufman explains how each season has a psychologist on call that the contestants can speak with at any time. The entire premise is a weird psych experiment and the network needs to cover their ass.

...when you fall madly in love with someone- or feel like you are, anyway- you can overlook anything. The part of the brain that is associated with decision-making- the prefrontal cortex- actually begins to shut down when you're crazy in love... I think this helps to explain why so many cast members drop the L-bomb early on... The perspective that leads you to question what's happening inside your mind and your body- which steers you away from rational thought about life outside the bubble."

A number of people have asked me if reading these types of books ruins the show for me, answer: hard no. I already know the show is garbage and scripted and edited! I love it anyways! Learning about how those processes happens doesn't ruin the facade for me any more than listening to the contestants' podcasts. I actually like learning about where the show stops and the real lives and emotions start.  

a paparazzi photo from Bachelor Australia showing what those romantic walks on the beach look like behind the scenes

There is no shortage of Bachelor content I will consume, keep the books coming. Overall I liked Kaufman's book, and it was a lot different than Most Dramatic Ever. I think it appeals to a different type of reader, but I personally enjoyed both. Most Dramatic Ever is more the type of thought-provoking nonfiction that interests me normally, whereas Bachelor Nation is more behind-the-scenes reporting, which I love as well. If you want to learn about the show's impact on culture, you'll want to read Showler's. If you want to learn more about the show itself, you'd like this one more. 

1 comment:

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