Anyone who’s watched The Bachelor or The Bachelorette knows, the reality behind such ‘reality TV’ must be edited and manipulated and poked and prodded until real life becomes good television.
But the extent of these behind-the-scenes measures remained largely unknown until author Amy Kaufman wrote Bachelor Nation, published March 6.
The book is based off of the US series (it has nothing to do with Australia’s Channel 10 programs) and the revelations are (almost) unbelievable.
Perhaps most startling, between the emotional manipulation and the STI discrimination (we’ll get to that later), is the way the show’s producers monitored female contestant’s menstrual cycles in order to create the most dramatic viewing.
“When women cycled together in the house, it created a completely different vibe,” Ben Hatta, a former Bachelor producer, told Kaufman, Page Six reports. “So a girl’s now crying mid-interview about nothing, or being reactionary to things that are super small. It helped the producers, because now you’ve got someone who is emotional. And all you want is emotion.”
Speaking to Refinery 29, Kaufman said the monitoring of menstruation cycles occurred early on in the show’s filming, which began in 2002, and that the production has become less extreme since then. Nonetheless, she was surprised they “ever took it that far.”
But it wasn’t only about creating a different “vibe”, either. Monitoring hormones was also useful in coercing contestants into doing and saying things they didn’t necessarily mean.
“If a girl’s feeling the butterflies for a guy already, when she gets into that state, her feelings just become more powerful, so she’s probably more willing to tell that guy she loves him,” Hatta said.
The use of the words “girl” and “state” aside (along with the presumption that women are incapable of logical thinking during menstruation), the level of manipulation implied is flooring.
“Maybe one of the producers knew she was in that emotional state and was like, ‘You know what? Now’s a better time than ever. You should do it, you should do it, you should do it’,” Hatta said.
LISTEN: How taking sex out of the equation helped Sophie Monk. Post continues below.
This is a recurring theme throughout Kaufman’s book: The relentless pushing of women’s boundaries, past what most people would be comfortable with, is made possible through emotional manipulation.
Producers are constantly reminding contestants they’re in a competition. There is the fake-encouragement of ‘you’ve come this far’. Or the guilt-tripping push of ‘what did you enter the show for if it wasn’t sweeping, presumptuous, dangerous, even, declarations of love?’
“There are plenty of examples in the book where contestants did things they never would have done in the outside world, like saying ‘I love you,’ or proposing to people, or making serious life decisions,” Kaufman told Refinery 29. “And that all came from being in the same mindset and being persuaded by people on the show. The producers have a big sway.”
Perhaps this emotional blackmail is most apparent in the contestants appearing okay with their ‘Bachelor’ being intimate with other contestants.
“Women really felt like it was creepy and weird,” producer Scott Jeffress is quoted saying in an excerpt from the book, as published by Vogue.
“So you just have to say, ‘Look, this is just the way the show works. It’s not his fault. Are you feeling it? Do you feel like you’re ready to go to that level yet? Because now’s your chance – just saying.’ And once they get on the date with him, it all goes away. It’s their world and there’s no one else there.”
Indeed, a music-backed mirage of “successful first kisses” would be exceedingly cruel if the situation was real life but, in an experiment, everyone involved is expected to be understanding because that’s what they signed up for. And perhaps they did. But how easy is it, really, to turn those feelings on and off?
It’s something we’ve all no doubt thought about, watching the show from our living rooms, playing with the channels through the commercial breaks, but it’s not been so starkly put as it is in Kaufman’s book.
Finally, the most effective “screening” method for potential candidates? Herpes.
After going through personality tests, and interviews with producers, and meeting with a psychologist, and becoming the victim target of a private investigator’s best efforts, potential candidates must undergo a medical examination during which samples of blood and urine are taken.
“These samples would be tested for drugs and sexually transmitted diseases,” Kaufman’s book reads, as published by New York Post. “They would fill out their medical history and answer questions about their health. If it turned out the person had an STD, they would be taken out of the running immediately. And apparently, that’s the top reason applicants don’t make it onto the show.”
Hatta told Kaufman: “They’d realise they’d been denied from The Bachelor and now a bunch of people knew they had herpes.”
And just like that, the ‘reality’ of the US The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is shattered.
In real life, menstruation is not manipulated. Feelings are not struck out of thin air by producers. And, in no world, are potential love interests screened for herpes before the first date.
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