Here for the white reasons : examining identity, representation, and fan-producer relationships within the Bachelor franchise

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Date

2022-05-06

Authors

Veltri, Kellie Nicole

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Abstract

This thesis attempts to explain the complicated nature of fandom of The Bachelor over its two-decade history and explore how members of Bachelor Nation attempt to reconcile their fandom with the franchise’s shortcomings. Despite the franchise’s long run, little academic research has been conducted on its depictions of racially diverse contestants, as has been done for other reality television programs. In addition, the series’ longevity in a changing television landscape and continued popularity in the face of multiple well-publicized controversial events both on- and off-screen calls into question what it means to be a Bachelor fan. Using a combination of textual/image, paratextual, and quantitative analyses, I interrogate how The Bachelor reached a point of high fan engagement and awareness about its built-in issues, as well as how fans have used the technologies that has evolved with the show to try to influence it and its contestants. I employ two case studies in this effort: a quantitative investigation of the hometown visits episode of Season 18 of The Bachelorette, which demonstrates how marginalized fans discuss nuanced issues of representation on the show, and an analysis of paratexts produced and interacted with by each person and group involved in the 2021 The Bachelor winner Rachael Kirkconnell’s antebellum party scandal, which ultimately ended with the resignation of host Chris Harrison. The latter study investigates how groups in disparate positions of power, namely fans and producers, use the same online tools for different purposes, as well as how and when producers of the series interact with fans and respond to their concerns. Ultimately, I argue that while the franchise has made some progress in representing more diverse voices and experiences in recent years, at least in part because of fan activist efforts, there is still much work to be done, as it continues to center Whiteness throughout nearly every aspect of the shows.

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