Let me first preface by saying I am not willingly a member of #BachelorNation. I was just minding my own business on Monday nights, trying to catch up on homework. My roommates had other plans.
I live in a very small apartment, in a very small apartment complex. In fact, most of my good friends also live in the small apartment complex, and most of these friends were already invested in Colton Underwood’s epic quest for love last fall. For a reason unbeknownst to me, my small apartment was nominated for the weekly viewing of The Bachelor.
Minding my own business was not really an option anymore. As the weeks drew on, I too became invested in the scripted lives of these people I had no emotional connection to. While I had friends who believed everything that happened in the Bachelor Mansion was real, I was fully aware this was trash TV and could very well be orchestrated by producers and outside investors. Regardless, I was convinced I was only watching it because it was so entertaining.
But watching The Bachelor turned into watching The Bachelorette, which turned into watching Bachelor in Paradise. This laughable TV show quickly became a year-long investment.
It was a normal Tuesday evening—watching the Bachelor in Paradise two-day finale. Summer was winding down, and I was waiting to see which couples would get engaged and stay for the live studio interviews in between.
I don’t know whether it was the lights, the live studio audience, the raw backstage footage, or the love stories the whole nation seemed to be invested in, but it hit me—the Bachelor franchise is no different than Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian trilogy, The Hunger Games.
Now, hear me out, I’m fully aware that The Bachelor doesn’t involve children or murder, and the law is not forcing anybody to participate. But looking at the elimination of contestants, the media, the portrayal of “love,” and the investment of the public, the TV show is almost identical to the young adult novel.
First of all, the contestants of The Bachelor (and all its companion shows) and the tributes in The Hunger Games participate in a game-like event where their lives are televised and they must fight to be the last one standing. Participants are either sent home or eliminated until there is an individual deemed the winner. The games then cease, at least until the next season rolls around and it all happens over again with new participants.
In both the TV show and the book, previous winners are often brought back. Bachelors and Bachelorettes from earlier seasons are often brought onto airing seasons of the show, typically for current members to confide in. Victors of the Hunger Games become mentors for the next year’s tributes. Katniss Everdeen’s mentor, Haymitch Abernathy has a famous quote where he describes how participants in the Hunger Games “never get off this train.” Here, he’s describing how even though Katniss and himself both made it out, they keep being dragged back into the franchise and have to relive it all over again. It’s always going to be a part of their life.
One of the main plotlines in The Hunger Games is the need for Peeta and Katniss’s love story to be believable. They’re told the public will latch on to a believable love story and they will gain support from viewers. The only plotline in the Bachelor franchise is a good love story, because if people don’t buy it, they will struggle to get support from viewers.
Participants in The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise are completely cut off from technology. There is no internet in the houses and participant’s phones are taken from them the day they begin the journey; they’re not allowed to contact their family at all until they get home. Even books are limited—the only book participants are allowed to have is the Bible. They aren’t allowed to eat the food on the dates and are even encouraged to eat before the date because the public wants to see them talk about love, not eat.
In both scenarios, the public is fully invested. There are live shows with interviews and people who pay to see celebrities. People claim they “went through the journey” with the participants and grew emotionally attached to them and their stories. Engagements, weddings, arguments, emotional breakdowns—everything is broadcast for the entertainment of the viewers. Participants are celebrities, whether they’re forced into the spotlight or not.
I may not have always been a Bachelor fan, but trust me when I say my middle school reading experience provided me with an extensive knowledge in dystopian fiction. The Hunger Games is a work of fiction—a post-apocalyptic story meant to be a commentary on society. But it’s similarities with reality TV is a commentary in itself, and it proves the “Bachelor” franchise to be disturbingly dystopian.
Leah Wright is a senior studying professional writing and English with a concentration in creative writing. She is pursuing a career in editing and publishing, but hopes to eventually become a published novelist. When she isn’t in class, she can most likely be found on the field with the Spartan Marching Band Color Guard, or rehearsing with an independent winter guard that competes around the country.