Thursday, May 24, 2018

Getting Bache-Literate: The Need-to-Read List for Fans of ABC's Bachelor Franchises

For a significant portion of the television-watching American public, this upcoming Monday night can't come fast enough. Plenty have already set their DVRs to celebrate the occasion, and planned watch parties or ordered floral arrangements to go along with it. My youngest sister and I have been sending each other a flurry of social media posts a day, and already have chocolate-covered strawberries lined up as our snack of choice with which to view the proceedings.

Because Monday night, of course, marks the premiere of the most recent season of The Bachelorette. 

I've been watching The Bachelor's various franchises for a while now. It was never a household fascination during my formative years - other than a brief stint watching Jake Pavelka's disastrous season  - but instead, an obsession I cultivated in college: despite the annoyance I feel at it playing into stereotype, there really was nothing quite like huddling up in front of the lounge television, post-chapter meetings on Monday nights, with my sorority sisters. 

The thing about learning to love The Bachelor in this way, was that it wasn't just dipping one toe in the water and deciding whether I liked the temperature... it was doing a full-on cannonball into the deep end, at the goading of my wonderful friends. My entry into the fandom was swift, and immediately immersive. 

Over the space of my four years in college, I went from having only a modicum of knowledge and one season under my belt, to cheering on eight total Bachelors and Bachelorettes - Sean, Juan Pablo, Chris, and Ben, as well as Desiree, Andi, Kaitlyn, and JoJo - and sinking further into the world of group dates, hometowns, fantasy suites and final roses than I ever thought possible.

True to form, I've also read several books, found trustworthy sources for behind the scenes info, and got hooked on two podcasts. Because loving The Bachelor isn't just being a part of a fandom, it's a lifestyle. And like any lifestyle, I needed to master the accompanying literature.

Here are the books - including two new releases - I think are filled with all of the history, gossip, and glamour (or lack thereof) true Bach fans need to read, in order to prepare themselves for what Chris Harrison will inevitably tell us is the "most dramatic season yet" of The Bachelorette

Amy Kaufman's Bachelor Nation

Amy first rose to Bachelor prominence as a reporter for the L.A. Times, but when her access was revoked due to her slightly snarky episode reviews, she made sure to voice her feelings on Twitter instead. Having amassed a following specifically for these reasons, she can frequently be found during the on-season, tweeting play-by-play commentary to the show as it airs. It's this tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, quick wit, and industry knowledge that makes her so appealing in short-form communication, and helped get her a book deal.

And boy, does she not disappoint. Not only does she examine the history of the show itself - as well as its producers, schedule, and genre background - with the rigor and breadth of a seasoned journalist (which she is), but at no point is the point ever lost that she is, at her heart, a fan of the show. She can get bogged down by the sordid details of exactly how television sausage gets made, without losing a taste for it. It's one of the reasons fans of the show would love this analytical examination of what makes one of America's most beloved television phenomenons tick: the history and culture is laid out bare for judgement (and oh boy, do we judge), but in a way that seasoned viewers can recognize and appreciate as something akin to their own fascination. It's not enough to love something... you have to know how it works to truly understand it, and Amy dives deep.

Look here for not just a collection of meaningful fragments of Bachelor history from across many years of popularity - highlighted from legitimate publications, to tabloids, to the many memoirs that have come from the show - but also communication with recent stars and television personalities, brief testimonials from celebrity fans who love to watch, and many, many rememberances of notable episodes past. Amy separates the truth from the hearsay, and lays it out with as much context she can muster from the infamously close-lipped cast and crew.

Andi Dorfman's It's Not Okay

Almost exactly a year ago, I published a post about books recommendations for fans of reality TV, and this memoir - written by Andi Dorfman, the attorney-turned-Bachelorette who originally appeared on Juan Pablo's season - more than warranted a place on the list.

While her sophomore effort, A Single State of Mind, is out now - detailing the dating scene after Bachelorland- it focuses less on the television show, and more on her life in New York. Her first NYT-bestseller, though, is all about dishing on her life in the spotlight of the franchise, complete with behind-the-scenes glimpses and some not-so-glamorous moments after the cameras stopped rolling.

While Dorfman might not be totally willing to give up the identities of the many people she encountered within the pages of this memoir, seasoned veterans of the franchise will have little problem identifying exactly who's who... especially when it comes to notable moments from her own Bachelorette season (and that "Men Tell All" special). Dorfman is still an attorney at heart, and just as to-the-point as she was on the show, so while she may be protecting identities by using numbers instead of names, you can count that her candor and personality still manage to shine brightly through this read.

Courtney Robinson's I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends

If Dorfman's recollections of her time with the franchise deliberately play coy with the identities of those with whom she shared a screen, then Roberston's veer sharply in the other direction. Unlike Andi, Courtney holds nothing back, choosing to name and shame the girls with whom she competed for Ben Flajnik's affections with relative impunity, calling out catty backstage behavior, two-faced made-for-TV friendships, and the struggles of living in close quarters with so many girls, with so much heartache on the line.

Throughout, she clearly establishes her protestations at being categorized as a Bachelor villain, while also admitting that the many choices she made on screen came from a place of insecurity, discomfort, manipulation, and in-the-moment brattiness. However, the context given throughout - around her upbringing in Arizona, her previous relationships, her interactions with production throughout filming, and her attempts to win over Ben - give the reality television lightning rod some much needed sense of personal ownership over those particular proceedings.

And with that comes a distinct branding point: this is absolutely Robertson's book, rather than anyone else's (despite the accompanying ghost writer). There is a significant sense of one side of the story being told... then again, that's mainly because Robertson is probably one of the few people from the franchise interesting enough to warrant her own book deal.

It should surprise no one - especially fans of the show's social media reflections - that the producer tasked with handling Robertson, as detailed in Kaufman's Bachelor Nation, was Elan Gale. In fact, out of all of the tabloid fodder, tell-alls, "true stories" to come out of the show, I feel like Robertson's book has reflected some of the most positive interactions with the production side of things... perhaps because a lot of her on-screen antics, and in-the-moment interviews, made it so easy to tell a compelling story. Maybe just not one meant for long-term love!

Elan Gale's You're Not That Great

So, why not focus on Gale's story, too? The longtime Bachelor franchise producer is a regular social media fixture on the Instagrams of many of competitors of the show, making his distinct hair and penchant for sarcasm a familiar presence to most dedicated fans. Due to his status as a member of production, Gale remains tight-lipped about Bach's creative process... but with his new book, maybe fans can get a glimpse at the mentality of the man who helps run it.

Focused around the idea that negative thinking can be just as powerful as positive thinking, and that people's difficulties in reaching their dreams are in part due to a failure in self-honesty, You're Not That Great (But Neither is Anyone Else) is probably a good fit for fans of Mark Manson's similarly subversive self-help book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***. Showcasing a stunningly blunt self-deprecating wit and evocatively descriptive take-downs, the book is sure to send a polarizing message to those who enjoy the self-help genre, particularly those like Jen Sincero's You're a Badass.

Personally, I didn't enjoy that particular book, and I found a lot more interesting content in Gale's endorsement of working past your own self-acknowledged flaws, rather than promoting the belief that the Universe is conspiring in your favor. His honesty in itself stretches far beyond just advice, and draws from his own personal experiences as someone who suffers from body dysmorphia and is a recovering alcoholic. 

It might not sound like this kind of a book has anything to do with Bachelor franchises - especially to casual fans - but it's when you factor in the holds the show clearly has on Gale's private and public lives, that the connection is more clear. Even his descriptions of his work take on a unique tint, when you consider the lifestyle of the man discussing them: for instance, his admittance to insecurities of taking his shirt off, while filming with very attractive people in a tropical locale, takes on a new and understandable meaning when you consider he's talking about Bachelor in Paradise. 

Are you a Bachelor fan? Have you read any of these books? Are you going to be watching the new season? Let me know, in the comments below!

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