Looking for something with more depth than The Bachelor? Here’s a show about The Bachelor

For those of us putting off work for two hours on Monday night to collectively sit and watch the infamous Bachelor, the question always arises: how much of this stuff is real? And by “real,” the accurate term would be “produced.” The Bachelor and The Bachelorette attract their fans with a cocktail of catfights, revealing clothing, and lots of drama. For those who have managed to stay out of the hit reality TV show’s loop, the premise of the shows is that one man or woman, as the bachelor and bachelorette, respectively, choose from a group of 30 contestants to find his/her soulmate. The contestants go on dates that range from ten participants to the coveted “one-on-ones.” They travel all over the world with luxury accommodation, dress themselves with thousands of dollars worth of clothing and jewelry, and are refused access to cellphones, internet, and any media at all. They are allowed (read: encouraged) to drink however. A lot. The offer of a rose means that the contestant is safe for another week. The endgame of this six-week ordeal is a very romantic proposal (as long as you don’t mind 15 cameras around you).

As a show with a very shallow (and evidently fabricated) premise, The Bachelor’s behind the scenes are almost more interesting than what happens in front of the camera. Created by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, UnReal is a television show that focuses on the behind-the-scene nuances and politics of a show like The Bachelor called “Everlasting.” Shapiro worked on The Bachelor for years before, finding it a suffocating, but addictive environment. “Shapiro could see how shrewd The Bachelor was, but she hated that it objectified women and vaunted heterosexual romance. She especially disliked working in an environment that fetishized beauty,” wrote T.D. Max in a New Yorker profile.

Shapiro translated this frustration into a short film called “Sequin Raze” which was a precursor to UnReal. In both pieces, overtired producers sit in a dark room staring at multiple screens, barking directions into walkie talkies. The executive producer orders tears from the woman recently sent home, and a producer, based off of Shapiro herself, says she can get the woman to cry and leaves.

UnReal follows Rachel Goldberg, the caricature of Shapiro, an overdrawn woman wearing a “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” t-shirt in the first episode. In contrast, her job is to manipulate and draw confessions from the contestants, winning cash bonuses for tears and catfights. We see the producers order suitors, as they’re called in “Everlasting” to send home certain women while keeping others on for the crazy factor. They slap “villain” and “MILF” stickers on photographs in the producers’ room, weaving a narrative they can sell out of reality. “We’re selling true love, here, people!” Quinn, the executive producer of “Everlasting,” played by Constance Zimmer barks, knowing full well how much of it is a lie.

It’s fascinating to watch these two shows UnReal and The Bachelor side by side. There’s a new element of cynicism that’s laced to The Bachelor with the knowledge that contestants often ride fake horses or shiver in freezing temperatures during rose ceremonies, in addition to the absurdity of the premise itself. When the current bachelor of the season, Nick Viall, sends a contestant home, I wonder whether it was his choice or whether the producers told him to.

I wonder when a woman visits Nick in his room in an attempt to woo him whether the producers encouraged her. Although UnReal also has the dramatized television factor, as it is a show that wants to attract viewers and traction, it is also a means of translating the reality from the televised drivel of The Bachelor. I have no excuse for watching The Bachelor with a pint of mango gelato and a glass of wine, but I enjoy the “secrets” I’ve gleaned from UnReal, the understanding of how trying it is to create a shining and glossy result.

I’d recommend UnReal to anyone who’s interested in the behind-the-scenes, toxic environment of reality shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, because then you ask yourself, is this girl crying because she was sent home or because the producers mentioned her struggles with her body image?

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