Since 2002 ambitious love seekers have made their journeys the center of attention for America’s entertainment. Viewers have watched their [multiple] relationships blossom, leading up to that very special moment that most of us hope to experience – a proposal. It began with The Bachelor which was later joined by The Bachelorette and other spin-offs alongside it. The franchise known as Bachelor Nation is filled with love, lust and drama. And with the drama being too mind boggling to process sometimes, it’s hard to think that it isn’t staged. So we ask the big question, is it always real? Or is it possibly UnReal?

I Spy With My Little Eye

With 19 years of so called “love stories” it’s common to think that there’s nothing more to learn from Bachelor Nation. However, what you see isn’t always what you get. Viewers have become curious about the behind the scenes work – the true foundation of the show. And thanks to books, interviews and eagle eyed fans on the internet, we have been able to learn what really goes into building a scene. From the rose ceremonies, same dress “coincidences”, “spontaneous” skinny dips, to ‘I love you’ and more, it’s all systematic. Well, a good percent of it at least.

We understand that words from previous contestants and Bachelor Nation groupies might not be enough to believe that. But what if a former producer, someone who has crafted the show herself, wrote it to be true? 

Some Rules of the Game

There has been a lot of talk about the ridiculous rules that both the lead and contestants must follow when filming the show. For example, only being able to use the word “journey” when discussing their quest for love. If they use the word “process” they allegedly have to re-film the scene using the proper lingo. However, in the most recent season, 25, it seems like they got a bit lazy with that rule. 

What about the rule that doesn’t let them eat the meals they are given on their dates? Yea, the food on the show is strictly a stage prop (although it’s real food), it cannot be consumed. Everyone is fed before the televised dates because chewing on camera is seen as unattractive. Interesting how producers want viewers to believe that the love is natural but yet, something as natural as eating a meal is not allowed.

Ready for this next one that’ll knock you off your chair? Leads get paid a whopping $100,000 to be on the show, live in paradise for eight weeks and meet the potential love of their life. According to InTouch, season 8 Bachelorette, Emily Maynard was paid $250,000 thanks to her world class negotiating skills. Crazy to think that some of us pay to be on a dating site in hope to get a direct message response back. How do we negotiate out of that monthly bill?

And there’s plenty more [rules] where that came from.

Contestants Who Have Spoken Out

Season after season of welcoming in new contestants, multiple men and women are exposed to the building blocks which make The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. And with so much curiosity surrounding what goes on when the cameras are off, it’s only right to assume that eventually someone would expose the details. Now of course everyone must sign a contract that basically wires their mouth shut. But, once that contract ends they gain the ability to speak again and you better believe that they do. I mean, how else do you expect them to make the big bucks?

With the tough time that comes alongside trying to land a job after being on the show, most contestants go on to be social media influencers, podcast hosts or authors. All three outlets which have now been used to expose Bachelor Nation secrets. 

And while some choose to get down to the dirty details with grace, assuming because it’s a safety net to avoid being sued, some take a different route. For example, Dylan Barbour who recently lashed out on Twitter. He began the conversation by tweeting “Cancel ABC and the Bachelor kinda wanna air out their dirty laundry mom got me riled up.” He then encouraged his followers to ask questions that he willingly answered. And while he shared a lot, like we’re talking A LOT, one of most stand out tweets was what he concluded with. Barbour wrote “My last thought: They need you until they don’t. Each person is a pawn in a larger scheme, and they do not have contestants’ best interests in mind. Mental health is not a concern. Multiple people develop issues post-show, and they do nothing to help. If anything, they fuel hate.”

Producers Have a Voice Too

Bringing us to the final segment that settles curiosities and also just builds more – UnReal, a hit Lifetime series co-created by Sarah Gertude Shapiro, a former Bachelor producer. The series is basically a show within a show. It discloses the crafty toxic nature that breeds American reality TV from the producers perspective. Characters Quinn and Rachel don’t just yell action and cut; they make it their job to turn real people into puppets for entertainment and high ratings. As a viewer, you experience Everlasting producers, contestants and leads encounter mental health abuse, nationwide embarrassment, fake love, and more. With Shaprio’s wish for people to understand the power behind reality TV, she held nothing back when exposing the truth and consequences that come with it. 

UnReal is loosely based on Shapiro’s personal experiences as an associate producer for the Bachelor franchise and claims the show to be entirely fiction. However, Constance Zimmer who plays the notorious Quinn told The Hollywood Reporter that “everything [on UnReal] is an exaggeration of the truth.” Hec, her character was even created off former Bachelor producer Lisa Levenson.

What Details of ‘UnReal’ Mirrored ‘The Bachelor’?

Depending on which former contestant you listen to, the truth of the show varies. Experience is everything. For example, the contestant producer relationship. A former contestant, Olivia Caridi, revealed that Bachelor producers will pretend to be your ‘best friend’ to gain your trust just like they do in UnReal. She shared “There are five or so main producers who each have a certain amount of girls.” She recalled how her producer acted like a “best friend” to her but ultimately manipulated her behind-the-scenes. Olivia continued on to share, “There are people from the franchise who have remained friends with their producers, but I will never speak to [my producer] again… I wonder how they sleep at night, honestly.”

However, not everyone feels the same. Some contestants have a different mindset on the relationship with their producer. And I’m sure being edited into a favorable character helps them leave with more peace of mind too. One anonymous [former] Bachelor contestant shared in a Cosmopolitan interview, “You get to be so close with the producers. I have stronger relationships and friendships, overall, with my producers than I do with the other contestants. They’re your therapist, the only people you can really speak to open and honestly. You know that to a certain extent you’re being manipulated by them, yes; you know that they’re being extremely sweet and sensitive because they need to get a certain reaction from you. But you do get to a point where you ignore it and you’re just like, this is my friend and I’m just talking to my friend, I don’t even care. It’s really weird and it’s honestly something that you can’t even understand fully if you’re not in that position.”

And all of the nitty gritty details inbetween varies between seasons as well.

Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s Truth

Refinery 29 shared an interview with the producer herself where she basically explains ‘why’. And as much as some may wish for UnReal to be a complete breakdown of what really happens on the other side of The Bachelor, she assures her audience that it is 100% fiction. She explains that Rachel, one of the main characters, was inspired by the inner conflicts she dealt with during her time working on The Bachelor. She shared The show is a battle for Rachel’s soul from start to finish. And while the germ of the idea was based on a time in my life — as a writer, I chose that time in my life to write about, very much because of the depth of conflict within me at the time.” Shapiro being a feminist herself, she included that aspect into Rachel’s character saying “She says she’s a feminist, but her life’s work is to advance misogyny. And exploit other women. It was a great place to start from.”

All in all, real or unreal, the series explains the life of a producer. So lastly Shapiro shared, “The producers are edited out of interviews, they hide behind furniture to stay out of shots. So, I think it’s fun for people to see their life explained. I don’t think a lot of people even know that ‘producers’ like Rachel and Quinn exist and are essentially ‘writing’ and ‘directing’ some of their favorite shows.”

So, is Bachelor Nation UnReal? Make your case. You can watch The Bachelor on ABC and Hulu. And you can watch UnReal on Hulu.