ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
And I'm Ari Shapiro, not to be confused with Arie Luyendyk spelled slightly differently. I'm talking about "The Bachelor," the 16-year-old reality TV show in which women compete for a marriage proposal.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Yes, they do. And there's a reason we're telling you about this. Bear with us. First, let me set the stage. Earlier this week in the season finale, Luyendyk whittled his potential fiances down to two.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELOR")
BECCA KUFRIN: I am confident with us, and I see us.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's the moment of truth for Arie...
LAUREN BURNHAM: I'm ready to spend the rest of my life with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...As his journey to find love comes to a dramatic end.
ARIE LUYENDYK JR: They're both such incredible women, and I never would have imagined that I'd be at this point and not know. I'm in love with these two women, and it makes me feel guilty.
SHAPIRO: It makes me feel guilty to make you all listen to that. But anyway, Arie Luyendyk had already rejected 27 other women during the season.
KELLY: But there was a twist.
SHAPIRO: Of course, there was a twist.
KELLY: Yes, there was a twist. Arie had proposed to Becca, and then he changed his mind because he wanted to date Lauren, the woman he had just rejected. Viewers then saw 14 minutes of Becca crying her eyes out.
SHAPIRO: Of course, they did. It's reality TV.
KELLY: Yes. So fans and critics are accusing "The Bachelor" of manipulating the finale.
SHAPIRO: People love to hate watch "The Bachelor."
KELLY: They do. While you can hate-watch, you can also hate-read about it because there's a new book called "Bachelor Nation: Inside The World Of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure." NPR's Linda Holmes talked with the woman who wrote it.
LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Amy Kaufman is an LA Times reporter and a fan of "The Bachelor." For her new book, she interviewed dozens of contestants and producers. Kaufman discovered a lot of ruthless tactics used behind the scenes but also wrote that she'd be a contestant on the show if she ever had the chance. I asked - does she still feel that way?
AMY KAUFMAN: OK, maybe now I would not because, like, I don't think I could control the way I'm going to come across. I will say that when I'm watching the show, I have a desire to be in those situations. You know, I imagine like, well, if I was in a house, like, would the guy pick me? And by the end, could I convince him to go with me? And would we make it against all odds? Like, I play that out in my mind. Would I actually go through with applying for the show even if I had a realistic shot at getting on? No.
HOLMES: When you talk about the casting of the show, what is the process that people go through in order to get on "The Bachelor?"
KAUFMAN: The casting process to get on "The Bachelor" is pretty intense. You have to go through in-person auditions that take place in LA. So they fly you out to, like, an airport hotel in LA, and you spend a weekend there getting interviewed and doing, like, a 150-question test answering things that range from have you ever broken up with someone to have you ever had thoughts of suicide, if you're on any medication. Then you have an interview with a producer where they sort of replicate an in-the-moment interview. So that's those interviews you see where there are candles and roses in the background and someone's talking about a date, for example.
And after that, the producer will say, do you want to come talk to some of my friends? And they walk you over to this sort of stadium-seating room where, like, 20 other producers have actually been watching that interview on a television. And then they just start peppering you with questions to sort of see if you can handle the pressure and deliver interesting soundbites. And you get urine and blood tested because there are no STDs allowed on this show.
HOLMES: Yeah. And it says in the book that that's a big reason why people get bounced late in the process. So by the time they cast you, they know a lot about you, and they know a lot about potentially vulnerabilities that you have.
KAUFMAN: Yes. And one of the more interesting documents I found was sort of a marked up bio sheet that seemed to come from a pre-interview producers had done with a contestant saying, you know, oh, she had a brain surgery. Like, this makes her really emotional. Let's ask her about that. Like, get her to cry, you know. Like, they know your weak spots, and that's really how they start to craft your narrative and turn you into a character.
HOLMES: And what do they do during the interviews to kind of use that information to get you to say what they want you to say?
KAUFMAN: They will bring up things from your past, like your past ex-boyfriend. And they'll say, you know, like, your last relationship didn't work out because you weren't emotionally open enough.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELOR")
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I did bring down a lot of my walls I think probably more than I ever have with anyone else. But it's hard for me to open up because I am afraid that I could be heartbroken again.
KAUFMAN: Well, here you are. You have a chance to really tell the bachelor how you're feeling. Every other woman here has said I love you, and you haven't done that yet. And that's what really ruined your last relationship. Do you want to be in that situation again? You know, I think you should open up. You should tell him I love you. You know, something like that is how it would play out.
HOLMES: Yeah. I would say in your book more of the problematic behavior by producers, if I can call it that, involves seasons where there's a bachelor and a bunch of women as opposed to a bachelorette and a bunch of men. It seems to me like at least publicly people talk like we're becoming less tolerant of, you know, women being exploited in the entertainment industry and less tolerant of kind of manipulated reality. How does this show continue to be a going concern under those circumstances?
KAUFMAN: Yeah, it's fascinating. You know, there's been some discussion this season about how does "The Bachelor" continue to function in the #MeToo era? And yet, there's still 5 to 6 million people tuning in every week, you know. And we've seen in the past year "The Bachelor" franchise go through some struggles regarding these issues. There was a scandal last summer on the spin-off, "Bachelor In Paradise," where there were issues of sexual consent and alcohol sort of influencing maybe behaviors in sexual situations. And then I covered a lawsuit where a producer from "The Bachelor" sued the production company and some producers for what she said was sexual harassment on set. A lot of this stuff is out there, and yet, we know there is problems with the environment on set and doesn't really bother us.
HOLMES: Yeah. You know, you talk about your own viewing experience, which is that, you know, you watch the show. You were sort of on good terms with the show as a journalist and also a viewer. And you still, after all of these things that you learned while reporting the book, still watch it. And, you know, there are people in the book who talk about why they are fans of it. And everybody seems to come down in sort of the same place, which is I know it's awful, but I still want to watch it. And I'm wondering whether - not in terms of excusing it as a feminist or excusing it as a guilty pleasure or whatever, but if you've come to believe that people are being harmed and manipulated, is there anything that they could do on this show that you could discover about it that would make you say, you know what, I'm not going to support this enterprise?
KAUFMAN: Oh, God. Yeah. I mean, the truth is when I really sit down and think about what's happening on the show behind the scenes, I don't feel good about watching it. But that's not the stuff you're thinking about when you plop down in front of the television, you know? It's very easy for me to say these are two people willingly in this situation, and maybe the romantic relationship won't work out. But if it does, is that really so bad? But no, there are a lot of issues that are coming up on that journey to the end, you know.
And I feel - I feel complicit when I tune in every week and I see an image of a certain kind of woman who "The Bachelor" is sort of saying this is the woman who is worthy of love, a woman who is generally white, really thin, tan, blonde, has a, you know, whatever. This is all tricky stuff. And I think the main thing I want to get across in writing the book is that you don't need to stop watching the show. I don't want "The Bachelor" to end. I just think we need to be more mindful about how we're watching it while we have the show on and have the exact kind of discussions you and I are having to see if the show can evolve in some way.
KELLY: That was Amy Kaufman, author of "Bachelor Nation." She spoke with NPR's Linda Holmes.
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