Why are we still obsessed with ‘The Bachelor?’



Current Bachelor Matt James and host Chris Harrison in the recent season of “The Bachelor” which debuted in 2002.

Between the cattiness, cliches and drama, “The Bachelor” has remained a staple in American television. The real question is, why are Americans still invested in the Bachelor despite many of its outdated traditions and problematic themes, 25 seasons and 19 years later? 

Maybe it’s the sense of companionship when you watch “The Bachelor” in a room full of friends, or maybe it’s just an excuse to unwind and not think for a while. 

“When I was at school, my friends and I would watch it together and it was really a moment to be with my friends to watch something stupid that wouldn’t make us really think too hard,” said Katie Sullivan, a junior at The George Washington University. “It just became clear that none of us had any time where we weren’t critically thinking anymore, so our ‘Bachelor’nights just became time to watch dumb TV and feel okay with it.” 

The foundation of “The Bachelor” has stayed pretty consistent throughout the years. The first night is always about the first impression rose. From there you have group dates, individual dates, more rose ceremonies, and then as things start to get more serious, contestants go through hometown visits to see the chemistry between families. 

The entire “Bachelor” process is nine weeks long, with episodes ranging from two to three hours, capturing all of the crazy drama between contestants. Aspects of the show romanticize idealistic love that intrigues viewers while also making others question how genuine the connections really are if you are dating so many people at once in a short amount of time.

One aspect of “The Bachelor” that has changed significantly throughout the years is the role of social media. In the earliest seasons of “The Bachelor,” Instagram hadn’t blown up the way it has today, making it harder to decipher who wants a genuine connection with a person versus gaining social media exposure. After the show, the opportunities for brand deals, and the chance to appear on other “The Bachelor” spin-offs like “The Bachelor in Paradise” increase significantly. A crowd-favorite contestant from Hannah B’s season, Tyler Cameron, was able to help his best friend and roommate, Matt James become the next Bachelor. 

Contestant Jaureese Gaines had his own reservations as a finalist of Clare Crawley’s season. 

“I think [the show is] engineered to bring out the most primal instincts in someone, and that you’re, like, trying to get to this person who is receiving attention from so many other people so I think it just draws out like, the hyperalization of people’s emotions within a short amount of time because you’re only there for like two months,” he said.

Gaines, who had never been on a reality TV show before, got scouted on the streets of Santa Monica by one of the producers of the franchise who hopped out of her car and urged him to apply.

“I think the biggest attraction is just the number of experiences that you get to have if you were to be on the show, you know, all the different dates and just the experience of you know, being on live TV and kind of having like your 15 minutes of fame, like I think that’s pretty cool,” he said.

Despite many of its outdated themes like heteronormativity, lack of diversity, and producers only casting people using unrealistic beauty standards, “The Bachelor” can be quite satisfying to pick apart and cultivate conversations about the show amongst other people. 

If you’re someone who enjoys analyzing these themes, this spring quarter professor Adriane Stoner is offering a communication class dedicated to breaking down these controversial topics. The class was first offered almost a year ago, when DePaul officially moved all its classes to an online platform. Much to her disappointment, Stoner wasn’t sure how enjoyable the class would be now that they couldn’t meet in person. What started out as an asynchronous class turned into a very interesting and engaging course. 

To her surprise, students ended up reaching out to people from the fanbase, called Bachelor Nation, to see if they would get responses with very few expectations. 

“It was within a couple of days we’d heard back from [“The Bachelor” host] Chris Harrison, and he was our first conversation that we had, and I didn’t really believe that we would actually talk to him until I actually saw him pop up in the Zoom waiting room,” Stoner said. 

Stoner added that the timing of quarantine contributed to the success of her class, as the entire world was getting used to slowing down their schedules significantly, which allotted time for guests and interviews. 

“We got 20 people of the ‘Bachelor’ family to Zoom with us during the course of our 10 weeks, which was really cool,” Stoner said. “And so, I kind of used that to supplement the framework of the class originally, which was we talk about a different sociocultural topic every week.”

While there is plenty of content to be explored about the “Bachelor” franchise, the future of the show looks a little murky after the recent controversy over Harrison’s defense of frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racist social media posts. 

The current season of “The Bachelor” is winding down as contestants are going through hometown visits. According to TV Line the Feb 15 episode drew in 5.2 million total viewers and a 1.4 rating, with the expectation to only go up after the controversy involving Harrison and Kirkconnell. The pressure is on for Matt James, as the first Black Bachelor, who is narrowing down his choice of his future fiance. Many people are waiting to see how the season plays out after so much controversy this season. 

“It feels like American culture has grown beyond it, but more than ever we need something to watch as a way of not thinking when we’re all being overworked,” Sullivan said. “It has really managed to be the thing that everyone loves to hate but just keeps watching.”