Turning the Perverse Nature of ‘The Bachelor’ Into Art
By AMANDA HESS AUGUST 2, 2017
Love “The Bachelor” but hate yourself? Duck into SleepCenter’s cramped Chinatown basement art space on Wednesday for “Here for the Right Reasons,” an endearingly scrappy one-night show where artists will try to process the disquieting implications of their “Bachelor” fandom.
“I think in a healthy society, ‘The Bachelor’ would be illegal,” Artie Niederhoffer, a curator of the show, writes in an artist’s statement penciled on one of the gallery’s walls. She adds: “Gotta get my fix while society’s still sick.”
Ms. Niederhoffer, a freelance writer, and Janie Korn, an illustrator, both 29, started watching the show in 2012. At first, it was a joke. Then, it wasn’t. Their group texts with a mutual friend became consumed with “Bachelor” relationship analysis and speculation about behind-the-scenes producer manipulation. They found themselves drawn to the toxic hetero spectacle in the same way that some women read murder books to subconsciously deal with anxieties about violence. “It brought together this sisterhood,” Ms. Korn said.
These days, it’s easy to recognize “The Bachelor” franchise — the 13th season of “The Bachelorette,” featuring the series’ first black lead, is currently careering toward its inevitable rush-proposal ending — as a vacuous project complicit in various crimes against humanity. (Among them: the subjugation of women; the exploitation of the mentally ill; the perpetuation of racial stereotyping; and the advancement of corporate synergy.) But it’s even easier to blow two to three hours a week watching it.
“We want to examine why people like us watch the show,” Ms. Niederhoffer said. “The things they put the women through are horrible, at times. It’s kind of nice to watch, in a perverse way.”
In “Here for the Right Reasons,” more than a dozen New York artist-fans exorcise their own “Bachelor” issues. The video artist Liz Zito slips into the persona of an obsessed fan, painting the erstwhile bachelor Nick Viall as a merman on a seashell-lined canvas, then trying to sell the portrait to Mr. Viall over Instagram for $10,000. Her direct message to Mr. Viall, displayed alongside the piece, investigates the show’s aggressive rebranding of the Wisconsin software salesman into America’s most enduring eligible bachelor. (Mr. Viall has starred in four seasons of the franchise, including “Bachelor in Paradise,” appearing increasingly beefy in each iteration.)
“It projects a majestic aesthetic, which falls in line with your television persona,” Ms. Zito writes in her sales pitch, adding, “I’m not a weird psycho fan, I’m just a really good artist.” He does not respond.
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