The Bachelor Is In A “Genuine & Real” Crisis

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
“Cheers to being real as fuck,” Alayah Benavidez announces at the midpoint of her Bachelor “Week 3” rollercoaster. If this installment of The Bachelor 2020 could have a more literary title, it would be Alayah’s words, as the episode investigates the validity of the 24-year-old’s TV persona. Even the former Miss Texas’ fellow contestants — including Hannah Ann Sluss and Shiann Lewis — signal that Alayah has captured the theme of the moment by gleefully yelling “Cheers!” in response. 
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Gone are the fears of who is on the ABC reality series “for the right reasons,” a buzzy phrase that hazily captures the possibility of disingenuous competitors. In its place is the more direct-sounding terror over which players are “genuine” and “real as fuck” in a game that is becoming more and more precarious by the minute. 
The Bachelor might be more powerful than ever when it comes to social media relevance and viewership, but all of that influence has also tossed the series — that is supposedly solely about the search for true love — into a crisis of character. After all, who can be “genuine and real,” to quote controversial contestant Madison Prewett, when a lengthy Bachelor Nation career, millions of Instagram followers, and all of the financial opportunities that come with both are on the line from the moment a contestant hops out of the limo? 
The examination of Alayah’s Bachelor motives begins less than 20 minutes into “Week 3’s” hour-and-24-minute runtime and dominates the installment from there. As Bachelor Peter Weber enjoys a date with Victoria Paul, the remaining contestants are left to their own devices at home. Alayah takes this time to throw on a pilot’s hat, cradle an impossibly well-filled glass of red wine, and sit on the island in the Bachelor(ette) mansion’s kitchen. 
“Everybody, like, sees me and thinks because of pageants … that I’m like this sweet little elegant, proper thing,” Alayah complains. “Bro, I get nasty. I’m, like, very good at putting on face when I need to.” 
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What Alayah doesn’t realize is that competitor Sydney Hightower is listening and visibly alarmed by Alayah’s admission. In a confessional that evening, Sydney accuses Alayah of being “all fake” and tells Peter as much the next day during the group date cocktail party. This is an allegation that tosses Peter into a tailspin, particularly since he lived through the two-faced hell of Luke Parker during The Bachelorette 2019. Peter is petrified by the idea of keeping someone like Luke in the mix as long as Hannah Brown did. 
Peter arrives at the “Week 3” pool party crestfallen and spends most of the day asking his women if they think there is merit to Sydney’s critique of Alayah. Multiple women, like Natasha Parker and Kelsey Weier (herself a pageant alum), agree that Alayah may be “turning it on” for the cameras. Victoria P. — another player from the pageant circuit — serves the death knell against Alayah during her one-on-one chat with Peter. Victoria claims Alayah asked her to keep their prior pageant friendship a secret from producers. To both Victoria and Peter, this is the same as lying. 
What no one wants to fully broach is why Alayah may be going through so much work to keep up appearances in the first place. 
The answer is that screen time success on the show translates to big opportunities once production is over. There are obvious next steps like Bachelor in Paradise invites for years to come or Instagram sponsorship deals. That latter road to financial improvement is the reason the “Week 2” Revolve group date felt so very cynical.  Women like fashion influencer Mykenna Dorn, who come to the show with massive social media clout, have been cultivating relationships with Instagram-famous brands like Revolve — or Shein and Lulusfor years. As The Bachelor funnels its contestants more followers, those women are poised to reap even greater deals with social media-first companies. Bringing Revolve directly into the show simply feels like cutting out the sponcon middleman.
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Then, there are the IRL experiences that can easily translate to bigger things if contestants play their cards right. The most obvious example is a trip to an event like Stagecoach, which can lead to sponsored content in the moment, Paradise storylines later, and an increase in follower count in the long run (all of which becomes an exponentially improving feedback loop). 
Victoria P. comes the closest to speaking openly about the current Bachelor Nation ecosystem. She claims Alayah “was really open to all the 'opportunities’ that will come after this,” whether she ends up with Peter or not. It’s this dark allegation that inspires Peter’s decision to send Alayah home that night. 
However, Pilot Pete does spend the episode focusing on one of the few supposed rocks in his cast: Madison Prewett. “She’s such a genuine person,” Peter tells cameras of Madison, using that official new buzz word. What Pete doesn’t know at this time is that his star contestant would be caught months later calling herself “genuine and real” on Instagram. The comment prompted a widely-believed fan theory that Madison Prewett thought she was using a self-created fan account for the kind words, but slipped up. The 23-year-old has seemingly denied the conspiracy and publicly “forgave” a friend for leaving the comment while still inexplicably logged into her account.
At point, the only “real” thing we know is that Instagram is eating The Bachelor alive.
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