This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.
A great staple of The Bachelor/Bachelorette is the constant debate over whether suitors are there for “the right reasons.” The term and the show manufacturing tension around it has become canon and almost a parody in the franchise. And yet every season, cast members accuse one another of being on the show for fame and not simply for love. The horror!
On this week’s episode with Bachelorette Katie Thurston, we once again had to watch contestants and producers carefully flirt with the fourth wall of the show.
Contestant Thomas Jacobs — who, IMO, is suspect for a number of other reasons that I won’t fully get into here — admitted on a strange group therapy date that he hadn’t been too interested in Katie when he first found out he would be vying for her affection. Instead, he was more angling to become the next Bachelor himself. The other men quickly erupted with anger in their talking heads afterward; there were back-to-back cuts of their disgusted reactions to Thomas’s admission.
It became a major point of conflict when another contestant, Aaron Clancy, used it to build a campaign against Thomas. Aaron accused Thomas of not being on the show For The Right Reasons, or, rather, for the unadulterated love of Katie, a total stranger who the group of men had met like 48 hours ago only to then be thrust into a heavily controlled fantasy world to compete for the opportunity to propose to her within six weeks. Yes, going on the show for clout is apparently more out of touch and abhorrent than the alternative.
Once again, Thomas is squirrely and seemingly disingenuous to me for other reasons (namely, dodging Katie’s legitimate questions and lobbing lovey dovey horseshit at her). So I say all this not to defend his character so much as to admit that his admission about wanting to become famous and pursue new career opportunities by being a part of the franchise was refreshing to hear.
More than ever in the show’s two-decade history, there are way more viable opportunities for people who get cast on the show than “winning” the heart or competition at the end. With social media and the burgeoning influencer industry in play, most people nowadays who make an appearance on the Bachelor/ette will see an immediate boost in followers. Even those who don’t make it past the first rose ceremony will gain some kind of notoriety online if they’re personable enough.
Greg Grippo, a current fan favorite for Katie, already has 127,000 followers on Instagram and only two episodes have aired so far. He’s been catapulted out of obscurity, with old cringey photos still on his grid. Eric Bigger, a contestant on Rachel Lindsay’s season who would have otherwise fallen back into obscurity after being sent home, now has a sustainable influencer career. He told Refinery29 that he and his other castmates can make anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 for a sponsored post.
As the Bachelor/ette’s conservative premise has continued to feel increasingly unsupportable in today’s environment, its pipeline to the influencer space is arguably its only selling point for participants. If the franchise didn’t present exciting ventures for contestants beyond “finding love” on the show, fewer people would be interested in applying. Statistically, the chances of “winning” the show and finding everlasting love are so, so, so, so slim, while the chances of establishing new streams of revenue for yourself are incredibly high. So why are we still pretending like most rational people applying to the show aren’t doing so with this in mind? And why are we then shaming them for doing so?
Of course I’d love to subscribe to the purity narrative that contestants are compelled only by love, but that is not the reality we live in. In every newsletter, I have the exhaustive pleasure of reminding us that we live in a capitalistic reality! Which means we are all compelled by the potential for capital gains as a means of survival, even if we would much rather challenge that system as much as we can. It’s one reason why influencing as a job is inherently controversial — it forces us to acknowledge our own reflection in the mirror.
So I understand why men on Katie’s season, or the public at large, might feel a moral imperative to call out someone who so boldly proclaims they are not there For The Right Reasons. It feels dirty to be so honest about our primal desires for fame and money.
So, c’mon, let’s just let this trope go. There are so many more valid reasons to dislike the many contestants on the show already.
Until next time,