Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure is a deep dive into The Bachelor franchise by Amy Kaufman, a journalist who used to cover the show for The LA Times until ABC asked her to stop because her coverage was "too negative." In addition to Bachelor dirt, Kaufman also gives the reader a history of television dating shows, showing us how and why Mike Fleiss was able to make one of the most watched shows in history when he created The Bachelor. Plus, Kaufman gives us the scoop on what happens to most contestants post-show these days, and the book is peppered with snippets from celebrity fans of The Bachelor explaining why they like the show.
Kaufman was recently a guest on Here to Make Friends, a HuffPost podcast about The Bachelor, promoting her book, which is how Susan and Emily heard about it. They share their opinions about the book after the cut.
Emily: So yeah, I am addicted to Bachelor Podcasts. I actually had to cut down because I was like, damn, I'm spending so many hours per week listening to people dissect two hours of meaningless television. Here to Make Friends is now my main Bach pod. How about you?
Susan: Same. I love Here to Make Friends. Definitely my favorite one. I used to listen to Will You Accept This Podcast? from Bustle, but I think Here to Make Friends is a more insightful podcast. I recently picked up Bachelor Party podcast and have been loving that too.
Emily: Sometimes I listen to the Ben and Ashley I. podcast, but I usually disagree with them. And I hate that their producer lady always butts in and starts talking, because her opinions are THE WORST.
Susan: Bachelor Party is great for behind-the-scenes stuff because she often interviews producers and people like that in addition to contestants.
Emily: Oooh that's cool.
Susan: Yes. A few weeks ago she spoke to a former Bachelor producer about what makes good reality TV. Definitely right up the same alley as this book. He's also the creator of Jersey Shore so he knows his reality TV shit.
Emily: So speaking of Bach Casts, I found out about this book when the author Amy Kaufman was a guest on Here to Make Friends. How's about you?
Susan: Me too! And I immediately pre-ordered it because of course I did! I didn't realize how involved in the Bachelor world Amy Kaufman had been in previous years. I recognized her name from Twitter though.
Emily: I had no idea who she was, tbh. I just love any book that promises juicy behind the scenes Bachelor stuff. I've also read Andi Dorfman's book and of course Courtney Robertson's book because that shit was juicy.
Susan: Oh my goodness. Courtney Robertson's book. I listened to it, as well as both of Andi's. I love some good Bachelor gossip and revelations! And Courtney did NOT hold back. I wish more people like Courtney were interviewed for this book, actually.
Emily: Seriously. So what is the premise of this book really? What is it promising? Is it mostly promising juice? Or is Kaufman going for something else?
Susan: I felt like her interview on Here to Make Friends did promise juice. They were talking about STDs, for crying out loud! But I think it isn't what she's going for. I think she's going for real journalism and an exploration of how this show has charmed the pants off of all of us. But the promise of juice is what's selling the book, I think. Do you agree that's what she was going for?
Emily: Yes, totally agree. I came for the juice and was asked to stay for a journalistic examination of a phenomenon.
Susan: Yeah. But, a lot of that examination was interesting. Mostly the parts that examined how feminism and the Bachelor franchise are and are not compatible. Did you like those parts? I thought she presented some good arguments from both sides of that fence. I, of course, still think you can DEFINITELY be a feminist and love the Bachelor for what it is.
Emily: I thought it was interesting that she called out the articles that examined why feminists like The Bachelor. Or arguing that The Bachelor is feminist, because I was like damn Susan wrote one of those.
Susan: Even I know that not *everything* on the Bachelor is totally kosher with feminism. But the show and its spinoffs are also not wholly incompatible with feminist thought. At least that is an interesting discussion. I could have done without some of the history lesson though... Until we get to Mike Fleiss anyway. That dude is interesting as hell.
Emily: Yeah an early chapter breaks down the history of dating tv shows. I was a little annoyed she didn't bring up my favorite... Elimidate.
Susan: ME TOO. I can hear the Elimidate intro music in my head. I was glad she brought up Next though. Next was some wild stuff. It was interesting to hear how the cultural norms have shifted in the audience who views these shows. I never thought of the Bachelor as "chaste," but she does show in this section how the Bachelor paints a very idealized picture of pretty pure romance and not a lot of real sex.
Emily: But Elimidate was like my after school candy. Yes, I'm still talking about Elimidate.
Susan: The disparity between the ideal we see on screen and the behind-the-scenes stuff is why I need MORE JUICE.
Emily: Yes totally.
Susan: Did you think there was enough juice to sustain you? Any favorite bits of juice?
Emily: Okay yes. Let's talk about the juice.
Susan: And we're not talking OJ Simpson.
Emily: RIGHT. The majority of it is stuff most avid Bach media consumers will know already. Like, we know Juan Pablo told Clare that he enjoyed fucking her. We know that Courtney and Ben had issues offscreen because of her villain portrayal on the show.
Susan: We knew that Josh was super mad that Andi and Nick slept together.
Emily: But some of the juice that stood out to me: Producer Elan sort of coaching Courtney during the commercial break at the Women Tell All. I would have liked to see more of that.
Susan: Yes, I loved the Elan stuff. I bet he has done way more of that, and producer manipulation juice is what I am here for.
Emily: I also loved when Clare talked about Juan Pablo dancing in front of the mirror during their fantasy suite date.
Susan: LOL. Juan Pabs WOULD dance in the mirror.
Emily: Because while I assumed that's probably behavior this douche would exhibit, I didn't know. But yeah, I think in part because of UnREAL, I expect producer manipulation juice to be juicier, because it's so amped up on that show.
Susan: Yes, same. UnREAL has spoiled me. It was kind of cool to hear similarities between the male-female producer team in UnREAL and Mike Fleiss and... that lady whose name I can't remember. I was into their juice too. Speaking of Clare though, I'm glad she was interviewed. I wish we could have heard from Nikki as well. There's gotta be more on Juan Pablo out there. And Jake Pavelka. Vienna should 100% be in this book dishing stuff.
Emily: Oh yeah, there were so many clear parallels to UnREAL in the history of the production team. Like, before Kaufman even said anything, I could say "Okay, that's the Quinn producer. And that's Rachel." Guys, UnREAL is a really good show.
Susan: Yes. Go watch if you have even minimal interest in the Bachelor franchise.
Emily: My dad loves it and he doesn't watch The Bachelor at all.
Susan: Go, Dad!
Emily: But it's so funny because he knows I love the Bachelor, so after this recent Bach finale, he called me like, "So I heard what Arie did! That's crazy!" So cute. He's trying to engage.
Susan: That just shows how pervasive this show is though!
Emily: Oh yeah. It's basically front page news.
Susan: Especially after something like Arie's finale.
Emily: There was a parody of it on SNL. So good.
Susan: I loved that parody. That SNL would parody it in their cold open speaks to the ubiquitousness of this crazy dating show that we somehow can't stop watching. Even when the lead is Arie. Aka "Car Hunk."
Emily: I like this. I love that.
Susan: Oh, wow. That's Lauren B. and Arie, folks.
Susan: So once Kaufman gets past the juice (or, rather, juice lite) in this book, we get into some post-Bachelor stuff for cast members. Like appearances, Instagram ads, etc. I was not here for this. I'm just not interested in the dynamics of how these people sell Flat Tummy Tea. It's not interesting.
Emily: No, that's when this book started to feel slow to me. I did find it MILDLY interesting how much Ashley I. gets paid to do an Instagram post. And I was super jealous. But I didn't need a chapter about it.
Susan: Right? That would be nice. Especially when it takes almost no effort and the posts are basically written for her. But beyond that, it's a pretty boring section of the book. And not just because it isn't "juicy." Because it also isn't really diving into the phenomenon that is America's undying love for this show. At least connect it to that.
Emily: Yes. Let's workshop this ending. What would have made the ending of this book more satisfying to you?
Susan: I guess diving into the disparity of what we see on screen versus what actually goes into creating what are essentially the "characters" on this show. Show me psychologically why we fall for this very obvious manipulation season after season. What do you think?
Emily: I totally agree. I want more of a deep dive into the archetypes on this show. But maybe we're asking for a book from someone else because Kaufman is a journalist, not a psychologist.
Susan: Fair enough. But she can interview psychologists and give us enough of what we're craving, I think. I'd rather read that than hear why random celebrities are fans between every chapter. Most of their reasoning wasn't even articulated very well. Though, I love Paul Scheer and his fandom for this show.
Emily: Yeah the celeb interjections did nothing for me.
Susan: It felt like "Look! Even celebrities like it!" Yeah I don't care about Donnie Wahlberg or whoever. I don't need his validation.
Emily: Right. This book read like a really long Internet article to me, which was satisfying at times but at times I was like wow this is a long Internet article.
Susan: Overall, it felt like the book maybe just tried to do too many things and lost track of its purpose. I think if it focused more on audience and cast manipulation, we'd get juice AND psychology. And feminism.
Emily: Yeah, just focus on the things WE like, authors.
Susan: Basically. Really, any stronger sense of focus on a single angle would have improved it on the whole, I think.
Emily: I agree. There was a lot of meandering.
Susan: I was kind of left asking "So what?" at the end, which I didn't expect.
Emily: Yeah I felt like I could have stopped with 30-20 pages left and still get what was going on.
Susan: Which reminds me, I read about another Bachelor-related book, so maybe that's what we check out next and see if it's more satisfying. Because even though this wasn't everything I wanted it to be, I'd still read another Bachelor book.
Emily: Oooh, I'd be down A little Bachelor book club? When are we reading Chris Harrison's masterpiece though?
Susan: Girl yes to the book club! No to the Harrison book though. And Sean Lowe's book. The book I'm talking about is called called Most Dramatic Ever: The Bachelor by Suzannah Showler. It's an essay collection, so it'll give us a little different flavor.
Emily: Oooh interesting. Any last thoughts about this book?
Susan: I gave it 2.5 stars.
Emily: Yeah, I'd agree.
Susan: And I still love Clare.
Emily: Clare is awesome. I hope she and Benoit are very happy together. [GUYS, WE JUST FOUND OUT TODAY THAT CLARE AND BENOIT HAVE SPLIT AND WE HERE AT #BSG ARE DEVASTATED!]
Susan: They are Bachelor Nation's greatest hope. [LOVE IS DEAD!]
Emily: Truly. Also Kaitlyn and Shawn. I love when Shawn guests on Kaitlyn's podcast. They're so cute.
Susan: Everyone else, take a moment. Say your goodbyes.
Susan: Including us. BYEEEE!
Would you like to see Susan and Emily review more Bach books? Did you read Bachelor Nation and agree or disagree with our thoughts? Let us know in the comments. We love you!