Tuesday, March 20, 2018


A version of this review previously ran in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

How did a reality-based television show that pits 25-30 media-defined perfect people against each other to "win" (i.e., become engaged to) a person of the opposite sex after six weeks of "dating" capture the cultural zeitgeist? There are varied answers to that question, but the one unshakable fact is that The Bachelor franchise (The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, etc…) is still going strong in its 16th year (35 seasons of bachelors and bachelorettes combined).

In her expose, Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure, Los Angeles Times staff writer Amy Kaufman, herself a proud devotee, delves into the hows and whys of a wildly popular guilty pleasure. Kaufman interviewed former contestants and production members to provide first-hand behind-the-scenes details about what goes on during pre-production, under the lights (and sometimes the covers) and in post-season fallout.

There are many intriguing facets to reality television and Kaufman skillfully hits a sweet spot between breadth and depth. Bachelor Nation provides insight into the beginnings of reality dating shows, their evolution over the decades and how an audience of tens of millions rationalizes its dedication to a genre that mostly horrifies critics.

Knowing her audience, Kaufman smartly provides salacious details fans yearn for while still addressing complex issues such as historical male and female stereotypes, the somewhat inherent conflict between female viewership and feminism, producer manipulation and the role dopamine may play in how events unfold. A must for members of Bachelor Nation, Kaufman's work will also appeal to students of the sociology of television.

STREET SENSE: A fun and interesting look inside reality dating television, its fandom and fallout from the point of view of a pop culture professional and genre insider.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: So what's going on here? Are the contestants who go on the show--and the millions who watch them--really so wildly different from the so-called average young American? I don't think so. Because while the rules of the dating world may be shifting, the media--for better or worse--still propagates the idea that your worth as a woman is cemented when a man loves you enough to marry you...Then, on the other hand, there's all this single-ladies stuff and a celebration of independent women and not necessarily needing a man...I think women are straddling a set of contradictions here that are much greater than [those that] many generations had to navigate.

I laughed out loud at this tidbit (mostly because it's so damn true) from one of the short guest entries by celebrity viewers:

It's kind of awful to watch the show. And it's the thing I most look forward to every week. It's fucked up. ~Amy Schumer

COVER NERD SAYS: What other cover image would work here? Smart, clean, eye-catching. This is great cover work, particularly when, considering the subject matter, it could so easily have been way overdone.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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