The Bachelor: Friendship Edition

Last year I wrote two articles about The Bachelor.

In my general review of the 2015 season I wrote about how, until the final few weeks, The Bachelor is little more than televised casual dating on steroids. Even though it appears to be a harem dedicated to the happiness of one central, power holding individual, it doesn’t really reach that point until the final few episodes when the competition narrows and real feelings become involved.

Then later in the summer I wrote an article about the show’s casting eligibility guidelines. After seeing a surprising lack of diversity in both personality and physical attributes, I really wanted to know more about how the show was “cast.” (This was also around the time UnReal came out and the behind the scenes stuff was somewhat more on my mind.)

This year I want to talk about the shadow side of The Bachelor, the thing reality television does it’s best to hide for the sake of preserving the drama. Because while the show itself is about the competition, this past weekend’s Bachelor at 20: A Celebration of Love also made it clear that Bachelor Nation respects friendships between contestants, even if it edits them out for dramatic effect.

Each episode of the show is filmed over the course of about a week. And during that week, depending on the number of remaining contestants, there are usually one or two group dates and a couple of one on ones with the Bachelor, followed by a cocktail party just before the elimination Rose Ceremony. Of course this makes one on one dates especially precious to each of the contestants since time with the Bachelor is hard to come by. It also means that the contestants spend the majority of their time on the show with each other and that by the end of it one could argue that they know one another better than the actual Bachelor.

Occasionally this time disparity is played up for dramatic effect. This season Emily called out fellow competitor Olivia for being “different with Ben than she was in the house.” She did this partially for herself and the preservation of her own relationship, but also in defense of her friend Amanda whom Olivia had, just minutes before, remarked sounded like an episode of “Teen Mom.” Ouch.

However despite the competition, we’ve repeatedly seen instances of the women consoling one another after disappointing conversations or repeatedly being overlooked for one on one time. Example: Lauren H consoling Leah in the episode from two weeks ago.

These women might not be on the show to make friends – they are still competing for the same man – but if you take away any connection to the outside world (no TV, no phones except calls to children, etc.) what else is there to do except get to know your housemates?

On the Bachelor at 20 I also saw how some of those friendships have persisted past their season’s end. Carly, a fellow competitor from last year’s Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise, was a bridesmaid in Jade and Tanner’s wedding. Ashley and Jared also seemed to have settled into a comfortable friendship after their failed relationship attempt on last year’s Bachelor in Paradise (though Ashley would be first in line to tell you a little more would go a long way). And of course other Bachelor alums, both single and committed, were seen mingling at the largest reunion party Bachelor Nation has ever thrown.

So I think in some ways there’s a lot more to the Bachelor experience than the edited story arcs show us. And whether you come away with a ring or a rose, in the end friendship seems guaranteed.

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