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The first two episodes of The Bachelor prove you can be gaslighted in friendships too.

The Bachelor, as a TV show, as a dating experiment… as a whole… isn’t particularly smart.

But of course, you know that.

Putting women in a house, pitting them against each other in the tireless pursuit of a single man and cherry-picking quotes to make sure they fit a certain character profile isn’t necessarily making us smarter, making the world better, nor does it make us any kinder.

And yet, the ratings argue we don’t particularly care. Trash TV? Ha, yeah, we’ll watch it. Scripted catf ights? Oh, for sure, we’ll roll our eyes, but only during the ad breaks. After all, if our pupils are facing the back of our heads during the drama, we miss the drama, and no one wants lost drama.

For some, it’s trash TV serving as the ultimate guilty pleasure. For others, it’s just that, with a sprinkling of healthy piss-taking alongside it. Because there is something to be said about looking at the construct that is reality television, peeling the layers back, being smart about considering what’s put in front of us and not mindlessly falling victim to the producers’ carefully crafted masterpiece.

Michelle Andrews and I de-construct all this Bachelor-related drama on Bach Chat. Post continues…

And so, with the new season of The Bachelor upon us, the story arcs, the characters, the scripts are more pronounced than ever. The season is enveloped by a totally different mood, where three mean girls – a self-described “clique” – demand more airtime than the love story Channel 10 purport to be the real end game. And although drama has always had its place within the confines of the Bachelor mansion, this year it’s pervasive – like every episode will be dogged by the very worst stereotype of catty women.

So can we complain? Perhaps not, if we’re still watching it. But we can look at it, pick it apart, and use it for much smarter purposes than was intended.

Take Jennifer, for example. The 27-year-old marketing manager has been dubbed the Queen Bee of this season. She’s spoken of her habit of “intimidating” people and the “brazen” nature of her personality. She’s ignited two fights in two episodes. She wants to be the “entertaining one”, the one that keeps us watching, she says.

“I absolutely love that I’ve been painted as a villainous character,” she told Confidential this week. “… I will gladly take the name.”

By her own admission, Jennifer is here for the notoriety, not love. And acting up to that villainous throne has seen her illuminate something ugly we have all experienced in our real, non-scripted lives: gaslighting.

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In episode one, upon realising she was wrong in an argument about her dress being called “putrid”, Jennifer didn’t get louder. She got quieter.

“I really don’t want to engage with this woman,” she said, adding she thought Elizabeth, the woman she was fighting with, “wasn’t all there”. She went on to be baffled about the exchange, arguing she didn’t “want drama” when she had in fact created the drama, before claiming the entire thing was “just so beneath” her.

Come episode two, a remarkably similar exchange ensued. After mimicking the way contestant Elora spoke – a scene that propelled viewers back into the hallways of Year Eight – Jennifer was accused of being “dark”, to which her facial expressions were so pronounced, they had every intention of making Elora feel, well, a little crazy.

“Me?” she asked, “I am not sure why I am getting targeted… I haven’t said a bad word [about you],” she added. She went on to call Elora’s comments “hurtful”, further cementing her argument she doesn’t want drama, never having done anything that is even slightly amiss.

Of course, these claims were not true. Jennifer had spent a significant portion of the episode saying ‘bad words’ about Elora, and others. We know this; it was filmed for the entire country to see.

Is this yet another case of clever editing? Perhaps. Jennifer, and the women she selects to be in her “posse”, may be carefully constructed characters – more fiction than fact – expertly moulded by a team of producers.

In the real world, the one where cameras don’t pull like magnets to hideous behaviour, they may be wonderful women. But on The Bachelor? They do represent someone, somewhere.

The show is light, but the concept of gaslighting is dark. There’s something to be said about sharing honest thoughts and experiences only to be painted as the crazy one, the unstable one, the irrational one.

We have a Mean Girls mansion, one that’s there for our entertainment, but one we shouldn’t take as such.

And so, as this season progresses, the in-fighting reportedly only to get worse, there’s merit in looking at it, calling it, and talking about it.

And when bullying behaviour is veiled by a mask of faux victimhood? We should expose it for what it really is.

You can follow Zara McDonald on Facebook, here.

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