If the phrases "reality TV" and "The Bachelor" have zero appeal to you, a piece in the June 20 edition of The New Yorker about reality TV and The Bachelor is perfect summer reading.
The piece, by the same author who wrote a 2012 biography of David Foster Wallace, spotlights the work of Portland-based feminist Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and her Lifetime television program, UnREAL, which takes as its subject matter the cruel ways reality TV manipulates contestants.
Shapiro should know. For three years, she worked as a producer for The Bachelor, and in that time she did many, very nasty things to contestants to make them respond with more emotion when the cameras were rolling.
Shapiro, who used to come to work in shirts that said things like "George Bush, Out of My Uterus," admits in the piece, for example, that she once lied to a contestant that the Bachelor was going to give her a rose so that she would be more upset when he actually gave it to another woman.
"The show lived off the intensity of the contestants' feelings, and to help the women focus on how much they wanted to be with the Bachelor the producers took away their phones and other links to the outside world," writes author D.T. Max. "The ambitions and the frustrations of the contestants flowed freely, fueled by the alcohol, and Shapiro found a dysfunctional home. She was oddly energized by the sordidness of her task. … Shapiro was a feminist sadist, punishing her unenlightened sisters."
The piece also includes an amusing turn as it chronicles Shapiro's move in 2005 to Portland, where she was "planning to farm kale, sing folk songs, and re-start her life."
At a subsequent job at Wieden + Kennedy, Shapiro found support to create what would eventually become UnREAL, her television sendup of The Bachelor.