This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

January-February 2018

Is love on a deadline? According to The Bachelor, yes

A look at the reality TV show from Suzannah Showler's Most Dramatic Ever

Suzannah Showler

Time bends on The Bachelor. For one thing, its passage is parsed in weeks, as if love’s progress was some form of gestation hitting developmental milestones, scaling up from lima bean to lemon to dragon fruit. And within this episodic unfurling, contestants suffer the effects of time turned lopsided. Bachelor time is like chewing gum: it can be plied (between producers’ fingers) into something stringy, attenuated, stuck on itself one moment, the next squashed into an indigestible rubber pebble that will haunt your colon for seven years.

For long stretches of filming, every hour is an off-hour. Denied anything to watch or click or scroll or read, contestants kill time in the Bachelor mansion with what remains to them: eating, drinking, and saying more than they mean to. In contrast with this surfeit of leisure time, minutes spent in the direct presence of the show’s lead are scarce. Referred to as “one-on-one time”—sometimes even shortened to just “time” because everyone knows what kind matters—contestants arrive on set hungry for it and stay never quite sated. It’s the one resource every contestant, no matter what other advantages they might possess, needs in order to conceive and develop romance. As one contestant puts it: “Time is the most important thing in this entire process. You don’t get time—you’re going home. Because how is any relationship going to form if you don’t have time?”

Excerpted from Most Dramatic Ever: The Bachelor © SUZANNAH SHOWLER, 2018. Published by ECW Press,

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