“Bachelor Nation” is a phrase used to encompass everything to do with the television show, The Bachelor – every season, every spin-off and franchise, every contestant past and present, and their lives that continue on beyond the show.
70 years after the publication of “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” Bachelor Nation would have Adorno and Horkheimer rolling over in their graves to bury their faces in the dirt.
The show is the pinnacle of pseudo-individualisation – an endless chain of substitutions and clichés. Season after season I tune in to hear the same phrases: “will you accept this rose,” “they’re not here for the right reasons,” “I have trouble opening up,” “I’m not here to make friends,” “I think I’m falling in love with you.”
“I’m here to find love,” means, “I’m here to win.”
Pick-your-own path within the schema; the illusion of 20-30 storylines lie before you as the season begins. There are so many twists! You know the arcs, they’re the same as the ones in movies – rom coms and dramas – we all watch those too. I watch other reality TV shows and I watch UnREAL, the gritty campy drama set behind-the-scenes of a Bachelor-like show. The familiarity of UnREAL, despite its fiction, reveals the truth of Adorno’s claim that we already know the falseness of our cultural commodities.
“In the influential American magazines Life and Fortune the images and texts of advertisements are, at a cursory glance, hardly distinguishable from the editorial section.” (p. 132)
Participating in a reality TV show to “find love,” the contestants are doubly consumers and producers. Sacrificing their intimate relationships and their emotions to the screen, they become actors who continue to act even when filming ends. Within and beyond the show, work and leisure, producer and consumer are completely collapsed. Past contestants become D-list celebrities, who get paid to use vitamins and teeth whitener and tell their Instagram followers about it. They appear at events and in magazines, they hook up with other past contestants from the show.
I’m not even sure what I’m buying anymore but Jade and Tanner are building a house, Jojo and Jordan are surprisingly still together, and Ben and Lauren are getting married.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” from Dialectic of Enlightenment (Stanford University Press, 1947/2007).