Most avid reality television fans don’t watch their favorite shows because they’re actually realistic. To truly enjoy them, you have to often suspend your disbelief, and just accept that sometimes drama is heightened, lines are fed, and it’s no coincidence the other side of the line always picks up their phone.
This is true for the Bachelor franchise, where fans know all too well that delivering a turbulent reality dating show requires behind-the-scenes help, and strategic orchestration from the show’s infamously heavy-handed producers. Most of those strategies are the secret to the show’s success, and something the Bachelor masterminds keep close to their chests. But despite a loose acceptance of a not-so-real reality, fans have started catching onto the editing methods used by producers. During Katie Thurston’s recent season of The Bachelorette, longtime viewers began to identify where the show’s producers and editors appeared to slip up. Some moments were sus but amusing, while others left viewers feeling not only uneasy at the misinformation, but also completely lied to.
Season 17 of The Bachelorette in many ways proved just how pervasive the practice of Frankenbiting is within the franchise. Frankenbiting happens when video editors piece segments of different clips to make reality stars say something they didn’t actually say or mean. One of the most egregious examples of this technique happened when contestant (and eventual winner) Blake Moynes was shown two different times in promo clips saying he “isn't in love” with Katie. When the episode with the dramatic declaration finally aired, viewers realized that his words were sliced together in order to convey a different meaning than depicted in teasers.
But that wasn’t the only instance of Frankenbiting fans found. “I’m usually not the best at noticing when dialogue is spliced but this week’s episode was OTT [over the top],” said one Reddit user after the Week 5 episode. The viewer noticed the pitch of Michael A.’s voice noticeably changed when he said Blake’s name while talking about who had roses going into the cocktail party, indicating that two separate sentences he said had been combined. In the same episode, Hunter “snorted” in a talking head (also known as an ITM, or “In The Moment” interview), without moving his face. “I rewinded numerous times and listened with my eyes closed and it’s clear as day that these sound bites are cropped in from elsewhere,” the user continued. “I’m taken aback by the shamelessness of this editing. Also kind of embarrassed if it’s always been this way and I’m just now noticing.”
Paying attention to the cohesiveness of a contestant’s pitch and spacing can help viewers identify Frankenbiting, while some fans believe that listening to the show with headphones is particularly revealing. If using headphones to identify editing manipulations sounds extreme, it’s because it is. But justifiably so — no one likes to be fooled. The bloopers from the season also give a sense of what’s often cut from scenes, as well as what’s manipulated by producers. Highly skeptical fans abide by the adage: “If we don't see it leave their mouth, there's a high likelihood it's been spliced or Frankenbitten.”
This is certainly not a new practice — in fact, the Bachelor franchise has gotten in a bit of hot water for it before way back in the early 2000s. But the fact that edits are getting so sloppy that casual viewers are noticing should be some sort of red flag. Plus, cyberbullying has increased around the franchise, which means these behind-the-scenes abuses of power have a real potential to hurt.
The use of Frankenbiting was exemplified by the show’s treatment of Hunter, as many fans noted. A Reddit user surmised that when Katie gave Thomas the boot, editors wanted a new villain so badly that they essentially “cobbled” one together. “They just rearranged the two times he said ‘aggressive’ over and over again in different contexts and configurations until he sounded psychotic,” they wrote. Others agreed, saying that Hunter’s most striking moment, when he said “I was aggressive on the date, and then I got a rose, so that's going to be my strategy from now on" sounded “super cut up.”
The Bachelorette’s quest to have a villain reveals how slippery the Frankenbiting slope can be. When used in more serious and devious ways, it could potentially ruin someone’s reputation and paint a false narrative. In response, reality stars and show staff have increasingly come out against the practice.
In a recent Vanity Fair feature, a “story producer” who was once tasked to create a villain — not at all unlike Hunter’s situation — expressed discomfort about intentionally distorting reality and seeing the real-life consequences after the show aired.
"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," they said. "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.’”
In fact, Katie herself tweeted about the power of editing in reality TV after Hunter was eliminated and started receiving backlash from internet users critiquing his attitude on the show.
“Remember you only get to see a portion of who these men are. For example, you probably didn’t know Hunter has #Tourettes. So I encourage everyone to think twice before commenting negative things about these men,” she wrote.
Beyond Frankenbiting, many have started to notice that deceptive practices even extend to episodes with live studio audiences. Writer and YouTuber Allison Raskin posted a clip from Katie’s “Men Tell All” episode in which she and a friend in the audience are seen reacting to footage of Jason Tartick’s proposal to Bachelorette co-host Kaitlyn Bristowe. However, she points out that the clip of her reaction is actually from former Bachelor Ari Luyendyk, Jr.’s “Women Tell All” episode — in 2018.
Speaking of “Men Tell All,” fans recently learned that when it comes to the Bachelor franchise, nothing is truly “spontaneous.” Connor B., aka Cat Guy, was notoriously eliminated from the Bachelorette running because, among other reasons, Katie implied that he was a bad kisser. During the special, a dejected Connor B. said after the show aired, h hit up a few of his exes to ask if he was a “trash kisser.”
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a woman in the audience told Connor B. he was “adorable,” and “can’t be a bad kisser,” and offered to come up onto the stage to find out. They kissed, and he gave her a rose. Ah, the spontaneous thrill of live TV!
However, after the episode, Bachelor gossip account @bachelornation.scoop uncovered a casting call that was looking for a woman to do exactly what played out in the special, down to the exact script of lines: She was a plant.
It’s hard for anything to be truly real when there are cameras involved — let alone when there are ratings to boost and audiences to please. And for the most part, many editing practices are put in place for the enjoyment of the viewer, and don’t cause harm to those involved. The Bachelor franchise has perfected the art of skirting the line of taking things too far — take Katie Morton’s “traumatizing experience” of being tricked into taking off her ring and confronting her fiancée on live TV — but it’s only a matter of time before a producer or editor crosses the line, and Frankenbiting victims bite back.