The Bachelor can be hard to criticize. For starters, the show is reality television, a dumb-by-default category that eludes criticism thanks to its apparent idiocy. Why scold something that doesn’t even pretend to be high or even middlebrow? Still, there are voices that puncture the silence — especially lately, as the show makes minor efforts at entering the 21st century. One of these voices is Bachelor Clues, an Instagram account that focuses less on the clues and more on the show's major trespasses.
On Bachelor Clues, Chris Harrison is “the Dark Lord Harrison.” When contestants leave the show, Bachelor Clues describes them as “consumed,” and every contestant’s Instagram follower count is tacked on their foreheads, a clear and present measurement of their growing clout. Bachelor Clues’ edits are vicious — eyes turn into laser beams, and, on this Instagram page, nearly every contestant looks like they’re about to vomit. In one recent post, the contestant Caelynn Miller-Keyes is depicted with pupilless eyes and blood dripping from her mouth.
“Lie for me and live forever in Paradise,” the text of the post reads. Contestants trade in “PTCs,’ or Personal Tragedy Cards, when the going gets tough, and they all insist that they are there “4TRR” — For The Right Reasons. It's as if the Joker is running a Bachelor fan account.
It’s a weirdly alluring account, one followed by some Bachelor stars, like former Bachelor “fuckboy” Dean Unglert and new mother Bekeh Martinez, and more than a few of the show’s producers. Colton Underwood, the current Bachelor, blocked the account a while ago after a post mocked Underwood’s dog, Sniper. (On a barely-related side note: Underwood is apparently following right-wing provocateur Tomi Lahren on Instagram.)
The person behind Bachelor Clues, who prefers to remain anonymous, is adamantly anti-Bachelor. “It's a hard thing to watch. It's getting harder and harder for me to watch it,” they told Refinery29 in a phone interview. Despite that antipathy, they still watch the show every week.
“I like making the little memes,” they added. “They make me laugh. I hope that in some small way it's me screaming into the void that, like, this show is actually super fucked up. And we should all be aware of that.”
Ahead of the show's impending finale — and fence jump! — Refinery29 spoke to Bachelor Clues about The Bachelor, Underwood’s virginity, and, yes, what Trump has to do with it all.
Refinery29: This is one of few Bachelor Instagram pages that is explicitly dark. Why is it so haunted?
Bachelor Clues: “Because the show is dark. It's, in my opinion, the most misogynistic, racist, homophobic show on television. I think a lot of people discount it because it's reality TV, and they think it's innocuous, and they relegate it to just cheap entertainment, but we now live in an era where reality TV is American culture. It gave us the current president, who also operated in a kind of insidious manner.”
I think The Bachelor operates on a lot of similar terms. We all watch that show, and we think, 'Oh, it's just fun, and these stupid people are doing whatever.' But in 23 seasons, there's never been Black Bachelor, there's never been a gay Bachelor. It promotes these very traditional ideas of gender roles and what romance can be. All that kind of stuff, which is very insidious.”
There have been a lot of conversations recently about the show’s politics, but in general, people aren't usually this openly critical of the show.
“No one was that critical of Donald Trump! And I really think it was the exact same thing. It's just a way to propagandize these terrible belief systems that, at this point in history, we're trying to get past these things. As hard as we can. And they just keep sticking around, and some of it is on us. It's like complacency: 'Oh, I just think it's a joke. I don't take it seriously.' It's like, but, it's been on the air for 23 seasons.”
This season has been particularly weird.
“It's getting worse with every season! The fact that they use virginity as a plot point. They did it with Ashley Iaconetti, too. When she arrived in [Bachelor in Paradise], I remember a conversation between her and Chris Harrison — aka, the Dark Lord Harrison — the first thing he asked her was, 'Well, let me ask you, have you gotten to second base?' She was reduced, in that moment, to whether she had had sex.”
But you watch the show every week?
“Yeah, I have two other maniacs I watch it with, one of whom I'm writing a book with, that's about the nature of the game of The Bachelor. Because I do think it is at this point just a game to get Instagram followers. The book that we're doing is essentially a how-to guide for any contestant to become the next Bachelorette.”
What first made you start to question the show?
“I used to watch this show kind of frivolously with certain friends of mine, or I had a couple exes who were really into it, and I think it was probably the first time I really saw it. At some point, I think it was Sean Lowe's season, he was going up in a hot air balloon with — I forget her name now — Brit maybe? At any rate, the way they presented that was, they show you a giant wide shot of a hot air balloon too far away for you to see who's actually in the basket. And they have the audio and whoever is in the basket with him talking about whatever. They cut to a low angle shot, shooting up into the basket of the hot air balloon. And I don't know if it was laziness, but in the bottom right corner of the screen, you could see grass and plants. They were faking it. That, to me, was like, 'Wait a minute, what am I watching here?'
The only real thing in the show is that people want Instagram followers and they want to win the game. And I think the season of The Bachelor plays out almost like a sports season — the preseason is when you announce that you're going to be on The Bachelor, and then you have to go into debt buying 20 dresses and working out and getting a personal trainer and stuff. And there's the regular season, which is week one through six, which is all the group dates, one-on-ones, etc. And then there's the playoffs, which is hometowns and fantasy suites. And then there's the Super Bowl, which is when it's down to the last two.”
Do you ever think that people on the show are actually falling in love?
“Absolutely, I think it happens. At its basic level, The Bachelor is this kind of Battle Royale — an incredibly traumatic experience for everyone involved. I think you probably form a kind of bond. Certainly, I think real connections have been made. But the rules of the game have established themselves far more clearly. You know at a certain point [that] you're going to have to start elevating your personal connection. 'I'm starting to fall in love with you,' 'I'm falling in love with you,' 'I'm in love with you,' you know the moment you have to say those things. You know the moment you have to reveal your personal tragedy card. These are all components of the game.”
I’m curious about these photo edits. How do you come up with them?
"Usually it takes a while for it materialize in my head. Maybe three or four episodes into a season. But once I kind of get the essence of someone, I try to fuck with their faces a little. Do whatever to make it funnier to me.”
Are you using Photoshop?
“No, I just do it on my phone. I have a whole bunch of [apps] that I use. I have one for — I guess I have two for text. I have three that I use to fuck with their faces and stuff. I have an all-purpose one called Pixar that I really like. And that allows you to change the dimensions of the pictures and add little png files and stuff.”
Have you ever been approached by anyone involved with the show?
“I've been blocked by a lot of different people on the show, including Colton. Every season, when they announce who the contestants are for the next season of the game, I do one [post] for each of the contestants that includes a visual reference to whatever they're talking about in their People magazine article about, like, their favorite foods or if they like dogs or horses or whatever. It's the inauguration of that season of the game for me. I did one for Colton that made fun of his dog, because he calls his dog Sniper. I made fun of — I forget exactly what it was — but it was like, 'I think murder is so cute that I named my dog after a sniper.' He fired back at me almost immediately in the comments. He was like, 'Or it was a tribute to our troops.' So, I fired back at him and said, 'Sorry dude, I thought the highest honor I could pay to our men and women in service was to name my dog after one of their jobs.' Some troll-y thing like that. He blocked me immediately.
Some of them block me. I've had some contestants DM me to say they think my stuff is funny. I've had conversations with people here and there, which is cool if they have a sense of humor about it.”
Can I ask who DM'd you?
“This season, Nina Bartula DMd me before the season even started to be like, 'Oh, you're so funny. Go easy on me.' I'm pretty good-natured about it, honestly, I feel. But maybe not. Then, you look at the Instagram and it's all Satanic and people's mouths are bleeding and shit. Maybe I'm not that good-natured about it.”
What gave you the idea to put Instagram followers on the foreheads of contestants?
“I just started doing that this season, because it became clear to me that this was the true prize of the game. That's really what the show was about. It became important to me to track that. Like, if something happens on the show, what kind of bump do you get? `Like, this season was — gosh, who was the episode one villain? — Catherine, I think.”
“And it was just because she had a villain edit in the first episode. By the second episode, she was no longer the villain. But it didn't matter. Because as soon as a villain is identified, everyone wants to follow them.”
"I haven't. Unfortunately, when Bachelor's in season, I'm making like five to ten of these memes a day compulsively. It kind of takes up my entire TV viewing experience."
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.