Anyone who watches the Bachelor franchise these days — or any reality TV, for that matter — is well aware that everything they see is manipulated to heighten drama. But even the savviest audiences may not know when they are being duped by an increasingly common technique: Frankenbiting. And last night’s episode of The Bachelorette proved just how pervasive the practice actually is.
Frankenbiting is when editors piece together sentences from words or parts of different clips to make reality stars say something they didn’t actually say or mean. In the promo for the July 19 episode of The Bachelorette, and in previous previews for the season as a whole, we saw a particular clip of Blake Moynes, one of Katie’s frontrunners, say definitively that he’s “not in love” with Katie two different times. One is a clip of him in a talking head saying “I told her, I’m not in love with her,” which immediately cuts to Katie crying and running, and then another is on a couch, when he is seen telling her point blank, “I’m not in love right now.” Cut again to Katie crying.
The episode itself, however, played out very differently. Blake and Katie sat together on the couch as he explained how excited he was for hometowns, and how he was definitely on the path to falling in love with Katie.
“I’m not in love right now, but the way that we’re going it’s fucking inevitable," he said, smiling. "I know it’s coming, but I won’t lie to you either. I haven’t lied to you, I’m not going to lie to you: You just have to trust me.” Katie said she did trust him, didn't cry, and that was it.
Looking back on instances like these, it's clear what producers and editors did to manipulate the audio and make viewers believe a certain narrative that actually didn't play out. But this is a small example, and one can imagine how Frankenbiting can be used in much more serious, devious ways. In fact, more reality stars and show staff are coming out against the practice. In a recent Vanity Fair feature on Frankenbiting, The Hills' Spencer Pratt, for instance, said that he's still haunted by a clip that was edited to make it seem like he wanted to hit his now-wife, Heidi Montag. And many underpaid, overworked “story producers” who many shows intentionally exploit in order to "craft deceptively straightforward reality scenes" have voiced their discomfort about intentionally distorting reality.
"We turned [an unnamed reality star] into a villain, and then what happened was that’s how society or America or the world saw her," one such editor told VF about a harrowing experience they had. "And they were awful to her. She had to go on a redemption tour for years. I felt awful, because you want to be like, ‘This girl is actually not that person at all.’”
Even though we expect high drama on shows like The Bachelorette, there's a difference between intensifying a situation and fabricating it. In an instance like Blake's, yes, what happened was harmless, but as with any powerful tool like editing, we'd rather not wait around to see how someone can be truly hurt by an abuse of power.