“Congrats Lace! You’ve made the crazy list!” Season 17’s Bachelor Sean Lowe tweeted Monday, January 4th, during the season premier of The Bachelor. He wasn’t alone in his sentiments either. People all over who were watching were quick to label the contestant named Lace as “the crazy one.”
And, at first, I couldn’t help but agree. From the moment I started to hear a slight slur to her words on the first night, I knew we were in for some drama (well, obviously). But after I spent (a sad part) of my summer obsessing over the new Lifetime show UnReal, I couldn’t help but think of one very particular scene while watching week one of The Bachelor.
UnReal follows Rachel as she gets back in the producing game for a Bachelor-esque reality show, appropriately called Everlasting. Basically, Rachel’s job is to make good TV. She must gain the contestant’s trust, and then often ends up manipulating them into saying or doing something crazy, so the show will get good ratings. In the first episode of UnReal, where they are filming the first episode of Everlasting, we meet the cast of ladies who will all be competing for the heart of one man. While the ladies are interacting with each other, with the prodding of producers like Rachel, we see what’s going on behind the scenes: a board with a picture of all the contestants’ pictures, with labels beneath them. And when one of the girls inevitable gets a little too drunk, and starts to say things she’ll maybe regret, she’s labeled the “crazy” one. The girl who can’t wait to knock all the others down? She becomes the “villain.” The labeling continues, and the producers do their best to bring out these stereotypes in the girls all season, because it’s not reality TV without a little prodding, right?
And on episode two of this season’s Bachelor, we see another stereotype emerge from Olivia, the villain. “Olivia is getting dangerously close to Crazy town,” Lowe tweeted last Monday night, along with thousands of other viewers. And once again, I found myself agreeing. Olivia was flaunting her rose, stealing Ben away from other women, and generally just behaving like a high school mean girl. But then I thought of UnReal again. Because of all the producers’ manipulation, the “crazy” contestant started misusing her prescription meds, and after that, all hell broke loose. Lives were ruined, and it was all because of a reality show.
While I realize that UnReal is in fact a scripted drama, one of the creators, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, used to actually be a producer for The Bachelor. She is, in a sense, Rachel. And so, yes, some of the events that happen on UnReal are a little extreme, and haven’t actually happened on The Bachelor, but what remains are the roles of the producers. It’s not hard to believe that when one of the contestants starts crying or going after another girl, one of the producers is right there, egging her on. When a contestant is plotting the takedown of every other person on the show, a producer is behind the camera, whispering in her ear how everyone is talking about her behind her back.
Because it may be called reality television, but we have to keep in mind that very little in it is actually real. The people, for example, are one of the aspects of The Bachelor that are very, very real. They’re girls, just like you and me, who had something happen to them in life that lead them to this point—reality television. And ranting on Twitter or Facebook about how crazy, stupid, ridiculous they are really isn’t what we should be doing. Just because they’re on TV doesn’t mean they deserve to be tormented about how they’re acting—however long it took in the studio to edit in some drama, or how many producers it took to convince someone to drink that third glass of wine. They’re women. They’re moms, sisters, daughters, aunts, coworkers, and they’re human. They’re culpable to being manipulated, and they’re going to make mistakes, just like you and I. So before you tweet about how “batshit crazy Lace is,” remember that what you’re seeing may be more UnReal than real.