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New Book Dives Into How 'The Bachelor' Wooed The Nation

The season 22 finale of <em>The Bachelor</em> aired Monday, March 5th.
Paul Hebert
The season 22 finale of The Bachelor aired Monday, March 5th.

Earlier this week, in the season 22 finale of The Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr. whittled his potential fiancees down to two. But wait — there was twist. Luyendyk proposed to one of them, Becca ... and then he changed his mind and dumped her on-camera because he wanted to date Lauren, the woman he'd rejected. Viewers then saw 14 minutes of Becca crying her eyes out, which lead fans and critics to accuse The Bachelor of "manipulating the finale."

People love to hate-watch The Bachelor. But now, you can hate-read about it in Amy Kaufman's new book: Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure.

Kaufman is a Los Angeles Times reporter and a fan of The Bachelor. For her book, she interviewed dozens of contestants and producers. She discovered a lot of ruthless tactics used behind the scenes, but she also wrote that she'd be a contestant on the show if she ever had the chance.

I asked — does she still feel that way?

"Maybe now I would not because I don't think I could control the way I'm going to come across," she says. "I will say that when I'm watching the show, I have a desire to be in those situations."

Interview Highlights

On The Bachelor's casting process

The casting process to get on The Bachelor is pretty intense. You have to go through in-person auditions that take place in L.A., so they fly you out to like an airport hotel in L.A., and you spend a weekend there getting interviewed and doing a 150-question test, answering things that range from, "Have you ever broken up with someone?" to have you ever had thoughts of suicide, if you're on any medication. Then, you have an interview with a producer where they sort of replicate an in-the-moment interview. So that's those interviews you see where there are candles and roses in the background, and someone's talking about a date, for example.

And after that interview, the producer will say, "Do you wanna come talk to some of my friends?" and they walk you over to this sort of stadium seating room where 20 other producers have actually been watching that interview on a television. And then they just start peppering you with questions to sort of see how you would do under those circumstances, if you can handle the pressure and deliver interesting sound bites. And you get urine and blood tested because there are no STD's allowed on the show.

On how the show holds up amidst recent conversations about sexual harassment

There's been some discussion this season about, "How does The Bachelor continue to function in the #MeToo era?" And yet, there's still 5 to 6 million people tuning in every week, you know? And we've seen in the past year The Bachelor franchise go through some struggles regarding these issues. There was a scandal last summer on the spin-off, Bachelor In Paradise, where there were issues of sexual consent and alcohol sort of influencing, maybe, behaviors in sexual situations. Warner Brothers, the production company, had to do an intense investigation, and then I covered a lawsuit where a producer from The Bachelor sued the production company and some producers for what she said was sexual harassment on set. A lot of this stuff is out there, and yet we know there's problems with the environment on set and [it] doesn't really bother us.

On how writing Bachelor Nation has affected her own viewing experience

I mean the truth is, when I really sit down and think about what's happening on the show behind the scenes, I don't feel good about watching it. But that's not the stuff you're thinking about when you plop down in front of the television, you know. It's very easy for me to say, "These are two people willingly in this situation, and maybe the romantic relationship won't work out, but if it does, is that really so bad?" But, no, there are a lot of issues that are coming up on that journey to the end, you know, and I feel complicit in — I feel complicit when I tune in every week, and I see an image of a certain kind of woman who The Bachelor is sort of saying, "This is the woman who is worthy of love" — a woman who is generally white, really thin, tan, blonde, has a you know, whatever.

This is all tricky stuff, and I think the main thing I want to get across in writing the book is that you don't need to stop watching the show. I don't want The Bachelor to end. I just think we need to be more mindful about how we're watching it while we have the show on and have the exact kind of discussions you and I are having to see if the show can evolve in some way.

Jessica Cheung and Melissa Gray produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Sydnee Monday and Petra Mayer adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.