Claire Fallon ’10 is a books and culture writer at HuffPost, but if you’re a fan of ABC’s hit reality show The Bachelor, you might know her as one of the voices behind the podcast Here To Make Friends. Every week, Fallon and her co-host, HuffPost senior women’s reporter Emma Gray, recap the drama from the latest episode of The Bachelor. “I love The Bachelor and I also have more complicated feelings about The Bachelor,” Fallon says. So they started the podcast in 2015 and have now covered 12 seasons of drama from The Bachelor franchise.
The premise of The Bachelor is that about two dozen women compete for the love of one male lead (its sister show, The Bachelorette, follows about two dozen men competing for the female lead’s love). But it’s so much more than a matchmaking reality show: “The great thing about The Bachelor is being able to have a dialogue about dating, relationships, social norms, friendship, and all of the dynamics you see play out on the show,” Fallon says. And thus, Here To Make Friends found its purpose.
The Bachelor formula
“People love predictability, they love a formula, they like knowing that they’re going to see narratives play out in a way that validates their understanding of how things should play out. That’s sort of comforting. It’s a very formulaic show, but it breaks the formula in ways that prevent it from feeling obsolete. It also creates that ‘rat pressing a lever’ thing where you’re like, ‘I never know when it will actually be the most dramatic episode ever, so I have to keep watching.’ I think people are fascinated by relationships, what it looks like to fall in love, and what people actually want from a partner – what they say they want compared to what they show they want through their behavior. There’s just something so bizarre about it, it’s just sort of uncanny.”
Three more podcasts to check out this month
1. BARRY LAM *07 kicks off the third season of Hi-Phi Nation, his philosophy-themed podcast, with episodes about predictive policing and algorithms in the criminal justice system.
2. On his eponymous interview podcast, TIM FERRISS ’00 speaks with author SUSAN CAIN ’89 about the challenges of overcoming fear and embracing creativity.
3. Novelist METTE IVIE HARRISON *95 explores the creative process, the publishing industry, and more in the second season of Write Brain.
Love it or hate it
“What’s interesting to me is I think some people love [The Bachelor] for the exact reason that other people hate it. People will say to me, ‘how can you watch it? It’s so retrograde, it’s so sexist, it’s so generic,’ and I’m like, ‘those are probably the reasons that I do enjoy it.’ It’s a way of talking about problems in the world that I really like talking about and am interested in, and it provides sort of a little petri dish case study to talk about a lot of problematic things. Because it distills these social values that are very divisive down to this very appealing formula that’s very difficult to look away from, it’s like inviting people to have either a strong identification with it or a strong reaction against it. And some people do love it because they love marriage and they love romance and they love watching women be catty to each other, and some people hate that, and some people, like me, are perversely fascinated by it. But to see those problematic things reified on TV is really disturbing to a lot of people, and that also makes sense.”
Talking it out
“It’s really important to be an active and critical consumer of media, and not just allow yourself to be fed narratives or some feed of entertainment that you’re not really thinking about carefully. People do enjoy spending time not just consuming cultural products but digesting them, and a great way to do that is to listen to people having a conversation about the different dynamics at play, the plotlines, how editing might have changed what we saw. Podcasts are something you can have a mental dialogue with. I think people have a lot of strong opinions about shows like The Bachelor, and it’s very soothing to hear people voice those opinions, to feel like you’re not alone in having certain reactions or concerns.”
“It’s very easy to throw up a recap podcast, but we thought in order to have a more specific piece of analysis every week, it would be good to set it apart from other conversations. We wanted to talk about feminism and we wanted that to be clear to listeners. We didn’t want people to come in thinking that we were going to be goofing on girls’ haircuts and instead we’re talking about the patriarchy. We’re very interested in being aware of inequalities and of people’s privileges and of the way that patriarchal forces shape not just our day to day lives but also the media products that we consume. We really wanted to think deeply about that and we wanted to help other people think more deeply about it. To talk about The Bachelor without talking about how heteronormative and sexist and weird it is, to us, would be really unnatural.”
Interview conducted and condensed by Anna Mazarakis ’16
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