It’s February, I’m scrolling through my Instagram Explore feed, and I stumble upon a post from the account @bachelorclues. It’s a picture of the star of this past season of The Bachelor, Peter Weber, standing next to the show’s host, Chris Harrison, only there are skeletons engulfed in flames, a pentagram background, and Peter’s pupils are replaced with black holes. A scream escapes my mouth as I start furiously scrolling through the rest of the account.
In Bachelor Clues’ world, Chris Harrison is “Dark Lord Harrison,” a cult leader who preys on contestants’ suffering for viewers’ entertainment. Peter’s baby face is morphed to resemble an infant, and blood dripping out of the mouth, fire, and pupil-less eyes are all reasonable edits for every contestant’s photo, until she is “consumed” (sent home), entering a fresh Hell for all of eternity: Bachelor Nation, an ever-growing pit of former contestants turned Instagram influencers and C-grade celebrities.
I instinctively like, follow, and share the account and its corresponding podcast, Game of Roses, with all of my friends. I’ve become the newest fan of an underground Satanic Bachelor meme page.
Mass media sites featuring Satan-less Bachelor coverage call @bachelorclues a “batshit parody Instagram,” describing it as if “the Joker were running a Bachelor fan page.” To some degree, those descriptions are accurate. @bachelorclues is not an Instagram account for the average Bachelor fan. You know, the ones who believe that people go on The Bachelor to find true love, or the ones who think that The Bachelor is just innocuous, mindless reality TV with no consequences.
However, we have a reality TV star for president. We can no longer afford to dismiss the most popular reality franchise of all time as mindless.
It’s not mindless at all. Everything we see on screen is an intentional, even carefully planned choice made by a producer, director, or advertising executive, and those choices convey particular values to the audience. Ultimately, reality television is not the inconsequential, innocuous escapism we so desperately want it to be.
@bachelorclues is an Instagram account dedicated to those truly masochistic individuals who hate-watch The Bachelor: the ones who see the values the show truly conveys—racism, misogyny, and conservatism. This account is for those who Bachelor Clues and his podcast co-host Pace Case consider “complicit,” the ones who see all of the show’s transgressions, understand how much influence the show has, and watch it anyway. @bachelorclues is for the people who see The Bachelor as absurdly Satanic and dark as these memes make visible.
Some of The Bachelor’s transgressions are obvious, even to those who have never seen the show: it pits women against each other in competition, the producers manufacture drama in order to give us more interesting television, and it promotes antiquated marriage traditions.
Then there are the transgressions that former contestants share after their time on the show: the women are not allowed to read books, watch television, call their families and friends, or stay updated on current events. A former producer of the show admitted that the producers keep track of contestants’ menstrual cycles to target them when they are at their most vulnerable. Professionals have likened these tactics to “CIA torture techniques,” arguing that the show’s atmosphere induces Stockholm Syndrome. Over a dozen former contestants have attempted suicide since the show’s inception in 2002.
Yet, there are particularly sinister aspects of the show that exhibits The Bachelor’s deep roots in white supremacy, homophobia, and misogyny. These are the truths that Bachelor Clues and Pace Case work to share through their Instagram account and podcast.
They criticized ABC on behalf of their abysmal treatment of a sexual assault that occurred during filming in 2017, in which a woman was too intoxicated to give consent and was ultimately raped while cameras were rolling.
They exposed photos of a contestant modeling for a White Lives Matter clothing company, a finding which gained so much traction the contestant felt the need to make a public apology.
They shared evidence that producers intentionally cast a racist man on the season with the first Black bachelorette as a natural means to create drama, despite the serious trauma that would inevitably cause.
They employ the term “brown ceiling” to refer to a POC’s barrier to fame on the show, and they even have a running tally for days the Bachelor franchise has gone without a Black bachelor. 6,600 days and counting, if you’re curious.
While The Bachelor pulls in eight million viewers a week, most of them hoping to witness true love blossom on screen, I, like Bachelor Clues and Pace Case, observe suffering, heartbreak, mental torture and manipulation, and a massive corporation profiting off it all.
So, yeah, the Satanic Bachelor memes really affected me, okay?
When I found the @bachelorclues account and Game of Roses podcast, the bloody, inferno-like images of Chris Harrison gave me a surprising and unnatural sense of relief. For years, there were dozens of moments when The Bachelor made me uncomfortable, moments that made me question why I was watching the show at all. But I shrugged it off, poured another glass of wine, and reminded myself that all reality television was stupid, and The Bachelor was no exception.
In some sense, we all do that, don’t we? Yet regardless of which show is your “guilty pleasure,” the people behind the camera are always making intentional claims about the show’s values and what constitutes reality—often claims that are racist, homophobic, classist, xenophobic, or misogynistic.
The overabundance of “mindless TV” has created a type of apathy among viewers that can easily translate towards all media, Bachelor Clues argues, citing the 2016 presidential election as his primary example.
Reality TV is part of the reason why people champion a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic—but entertaining!—national leader. To many Americans, Trump’s comments, actions, and tweets are not surprising. His opinions are not new, or unique. In fact, we’d seen it all before, right on our TV screens.
After you realize how dark shows like The Bachelor are, Satanic memes don’t seem so outrageous.
Once I began to think like Bachelor Clues and Pace Case, the gnawing feeling in my gut subsided while I watched The Bachelor. Instead of sitting there, complacent and apathetic, I started questioning everything: each shot’s edit, the voiceovers, the confessionals, the dates. I became conscious of what was happening on screen in front of me, what values the network was promoting, and what kind of messages they sent to me each Monday night.
Even though Bachelor Clues’ intention was to “destroy the show,” he’s come to accept the fact that The Bachelor isn’t going anywhere. So, he’s going to keep making his memes and try to “destroy” the way the audience views The Bachelor, the same way he destroyed my interpretation.
works at a punk rock burger bar in Philadelphia, PA. In her free time, she drinks coffee, reads classic literature, and watches reality television.