Spoiling Anything With His Spoilers
Stephen Carbone, the Dallas-based blogger who runs the site Reality Steve, is the leading historian of The Bachelor. He got his start writing about the show in 2003, emailing Bachelorette recaps to friends, before eventually launching his own blog. Then, in 2009, someone close to the show tipped him off to the surprise ending of season 13 — when Jason Mesnick dumped his chosen winner on-air in favor of the runner-up. The scoop won him credibility, and Reality Steve, with the help of his sources, has managed to spoil every season since. Carbone says that the site became his full-time job in 2011, and gets between 8 and 10 million monthly page views.
Why do you think people like spoilers about The Bachelor?
I think a lot of people now have accepted the fact that this show really isn’t about two people ending up getting married. After 30 completed seasons, I think they just come to accept that it’s not a big deal that we know what happens at the end because it’s probably not going to work out between these two anyway. We’re just going to watch for who the crazy girls are, who the drinkers are, where the drama is, where they travel to …
So it’s not really even remotely about the fairy tale of finding love anymore?
Now, I think everybody knows how much coverage this show gets in the tabloids, and these girls probably grow up reading these magazines, and they realize, “If I go on this show and if I last a significant amount of time, I can end up being in these magazines,” and then you know, everybody knows now that if you make it far enough, you have a chance to be the Bachelorette, and now if you just get cast on the show, you now have a chance to make it on to a second show, which is Bachelor in Paradise, and if you end up winning, all the perks that come with it, the media tours, the TV appearances as the final couple. I mean, every single one of them will publicly say, “Well, it’s just not working out in the dating world. I figured I might as well try this,” and that’s just a cover-up for basically saying, “I want to build my brand, and I know I can build my brand because I’ve seen so many other girls from this show do it.”
UnREAL — the fictional show about reality-TV producers — is such a big hit this season, and I’m wondering how fictional it really is.
UnREAL was basically a depiction of what really happens on The Bachelor. The stuff about producers being told you need to work on this girl, you need to get her to open up. And producers battling with each other for their “girls to come to the forefront” and stuff like that, that absolutely happens. If you are a good producer, and you know how to produce girls and guys, you can work your way up the chain. I don’t think there’s bets going on, money exchanged between producers and the executive producers, but if you’re good at what you do, and you get results, you will be rewarded for it whether it means a promotion or extra time off or whatever. That was one aspect of UnREAL that was dead-on. I give these producers all the credit in the world because we’re 31 seasons in. Everyone seems to know the show is kind of fake, and they get you to say and do things that you maybe wouldn’t do in a normal situation, but you see it every season. They know what they’re doing, and they’re good at what they’re doing.
Why do you think people still watch the show when they know that it’s kind of fake?
I just don’t see it any different than why you’d watch Scandal and Grey’s. It’s a drama. It’s dramatic television.
What is something that would surprise me about the way the show gets made?
I think most people realize that reality TV isn’t real, but I still don’t think that they understand how fake it is. I mean, almost every conversation is contrived or manipulated. It’s not a real conversation even if it’s just you two sitting on the back porch at the mansion talking about something — because you were told to do that beforehand. You might have been told, “Hey, go interrupt her talking to him, and start talking to him about this.”
There’s also the editing. Like, they didn’t say those words in succession but the show made it seem like they did. They just spliced it up. You could have the first part of a sentence you said in week one spliced with the second part of a sentence you said in week four shown in an episode of week six, and it’s just like, “That’s not real.” You never said that. You never said those words in that succession, and you never said it in that episode-six instance where they showed it. So it completely takes everything out of context, and they can essentially make a whole story line out of it.
The show is kind of like a game. The girls and the guys who know how to play the game get the most playing time. If you’re just someone that isn’t going to stir the pot, isn’t going to do anything crazy, it doesn’t make you interesting for television, and you’re probably going home. You know, it’s not like the show says, “Okay, Ben, you’re eliminating this girl, this girl, and this girl.” But they certainly nudge him in certain directions.
Are there any couples where you believe it was genuinely love?
I will say I think the women who are on The Bachelorette take the show more seriously. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one guy out of 19 married the final girl that he choose, but three out of 11 women have, and the relationships from The Bachelorette that did break up, they seemed to last longer. I just think the guys are more like, “Okay, be with 25 chicks that the show chose for me and pick one. But I know the second I get off this show, I was just the main man on a show watched by 8 million people a week. I’ve got so many more options out there.” It’s almost impossible not to let your ego grow a little bit as the lead because for two and a half months, you’re the star of a network television show and people are waiting on you hand and foot. I just think it gets to the guys’ heads more than the women’s heads.
Sean is the only guy that married the girl he chose at the end. They seem happy, and now they’re having a baby. You know, that was one I definitely didn’t predict. I didn’t see it between them. I thought they were too different. He was a southern churchgoing Baptist guy, and she was this liberal vegan from the Pacific Northwest. They were definitely opposites, and they somehow matched. So congrats to them.
It seems like a pretty hard way to start a relationship.
These people really don’t know each other. They’ve had a couple one-on-one dates maybe. They’ve had a hometown date. They had one overnight date. Jason has talked about this. He said in one interview that when he was on his flight back from New Zealand with Melissa, he said to himself, “I don’t even know what she does for a living.” This is someone he was engaged to. The amount of time that you actually spend with the person that you get engaged to after two and a half months, it is so minimal that it’s almost laughable. When you add everything up, maybe it’s a total of 48 hours, 72 hours? If I met somebody, and I started dating them, every day we’d be in contact with each other whether it was sending a text or talking on the phone or seeing each other. Over the course of two and a half months on the show, not only are you not texting this person every night before you go to bed, he’s going on dates with other people. This is so not the way to start a relationship. That’s why people like Sean and Catherine, they’re the exception.
And then there’s the fact that it’s a competition.
As a contestant, you’re just going to say everything you think the lead wants to hear. You’re going to say everything to appease to them, and then once you get into real life, it’s like, that’s when the relationship starts. So yeah, the engagement doesn’t mean anything on this show. They want to put on a good show and people want to see an engagement, I think. People don’t want to invest 11 weeks in a television show to see at the very end, “Yeah, can we keep dating?”
Do you like the show?
Yeah, no, I mean, if it wasn’t my job, would I watch it? No. I look at it as a job now, as opposed to before I had spoilers. It was just a show I watched for two hours on Monday, wrote a column about, and never thought about it again until the following Monday night. I didn’t have to. Now, I write three columns a week. I’m taking mail, I do a live chat. It’s my job.
Okay, don’t spoil it for us but give us some hints about this season.
I mean, if I didn’t spoil it, it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out, you know, who he likes and who he doesn’t like. I mean, everyone who gets a one-on-one date is someone who obviously, for the most part, is going to last because he wants to spend more time with that person. If I went back over every season, the first person they show coming out of the limo is always somebody integral to the season. There is a method to their madness.
But it’s not always so predictable, right?
Not always. Ben was really taken by the girl who gets the first-impression rose. You'd think she'd easily get a one-on-one date soon thereafter. But she doesn't and that doesn't sit well with her. But in episode 7, the remaining six girls go to Warsaw, Indiana, Ben's hometown, and only one of them gets a one-on-one date to meet his friends and old co-workers. Which is a very good sign that she might be the one he's on his knee proposing to in the end.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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