Taylor Loyd arranges a charcuterie board every Monday night.
It’s a ritual, an obligation. She’s invested in Madison P. — a brunette from Auburn, Alabama — and her journey toward Peter’s heart.
Loyd’s friends join her in her room each week for cheese, crackers and their weekly episode of "The Bachelor." The group makes it a point to read tabloids throughout the week to be sure they’re caught up on all the gossip.
An ABC reality show now on its 24th season, "The Bachelor" casts 30 women to compete against one another with the incentive of a cash prize and a diamond ring. This season, the show centers around an airline pilot, Peter Weber.
The show has become a cultural phenomenon for UNC students. Friends, sorority sisters, roommates and bar regulars gather around the television on Monday evenings to see which contestant will get the coveted rose and which will be asked to pack their bikini and leave the cocktail-filled mansion.
“At the end of the day,” Loyd said, “they are supposed to be there to fall in love with Peter or have a moment of self discovery.”
The show offers an exaggerated version of reality, Loyd said, which is what she and her friends like about it. Some are long-term fans and and others — like Loyd — became hooked after earlier seasons were added to Netflix.
“As college students, we are caught in this weird balance of craving affirmation and stability, while wanting to have fun and not be tied down,” Loyd said. “'The Bachelor' magnifies that balance.”
Loyd said the popularity of the show is due in part to the way it parallels the choices and behavior of young people. Still, she said, viewers mostly come for the drama.
Local Chapel Hill businesses have begun to use the popularity of "The Bachelor" as a money-making opportunity. Two weeks ago, the Carolina Coffee Shop staff asked themselves what would happen if they played reality TV on restaurant screens instead of sports games.
Carolina Coffee Shop’s now-official "Bachelor Mondays" offers customers 50 percent off bottles of wine and multi-screen viewing of Pilot Pete’s dating life.
Lizzy Campbell, a sophomore and waitress at the restaurant, said Carolina Coffee Shop would like to become the gathering place for students’ weekly viewing parties.
“Watching the show with other people is so much more entertaining,” she said.
Campbell said her own housemates also host a weekly viewing event.
The show's popularity is evident on social media, too. UNC Barstool, a popular humor account on Instagram, posted a video last week of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers simultaneously watching the show and the Florida State basketball game.
Harrison Locklear, who was featured in the video, said he and some of his brothers regularly watch "The Bachelor" with members of the Kappa Delta sorority.
Locklear gave some of his opinions on the latest season: he said he supports Madison P., found it funny when Victoria F. started crying and never liked Natasha.
“She isn’t there to marry Peter,” he said.
However, first-year Ugochi Alozie, who fits the show into her schedule every Tuesday on the Hulu rerun, said she has always been fond of Natasha.
“She’s not afraid to call Peter on his bullshit,” she said. “Natasha’s not like other girls, the ones who are obviously fake.”
Despite the popularity, some students have concerns about the way "The Bachelor" narrative treats women.
“This show is purposely pitting women against each other for entertainment,” Campbell said.
Kelley is her favorite contestant, Campbell said. She said she appreciates Kelley for calling out the ridiculous process of the show on camera.
“It feels almost dystopian that we all watch this guy date, like, 17 women and we can’t get enough of it,” Campbell said. “It feels so strange that we watch the show and thoroughly enjoy it.”
Alozie said that even though some students won’t admit to liking the drama, theatrics are the key reason people watch the show.
Loyd and her friends, for one, are already speculating on the finale episode.
“It’s going to be pretty crazy,” she said.
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