The Best (Fake) Contestant On ‘The Bachelor’

Molly Hawkey is on this season of The Bachelor — well, sort of. What Hawkey has been doing reaches Andy Kaufman levels of brilliance: The 37-year-old actress from Westchester County has been editing herself into the show, all from the comforts of her own home. You may have seen her stepping out of the limo, to which Bachelor Ben replied, “Interesting dress.” Or maybe you saw her in another episode crying about how she still hasn’t told Ben that she froze her eggs for him.

Of course, she wasn’t actually there, but does it really matter? After all, when it comes to reality TV, who gets to decide what’s real and what isn’t?

To help provoke conversation around this question, Molly has brilliantly made herself a seamless part of the show, relying on the program’s signature devices, like cheesy music (“That’s how the show manipulates us into feeling things — with music,” she points out) and yellow banners to announce contestants’ names, ages, and jobs.

In the “trailer,” her blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances are so seamless, you’d be forgiven for thinking the segment wasn’t doctored at all:

The ease with which she’s inserted herself into the show sheds light on the machinations of reality-TV programming; The Bachelor’s producer manipulations are so well known, there’s an entire TV series, Unreal, satirizing them. “Now that I know how to edit, I can see how easy it is to create a storyline and manipulate it to mislead the audience,” Molly reveals. “I’m much more skeptical now while watching The Bachelor because I notice moments all the time that could potentially be false.”

In later faux-episodes, Molly features herself more prominently, and slyly challenges other conventions of the show. Take her “Meet the Contestants” segment, in which she’s described as the “oldest contestant”:

It’s no secret that reality TV, and The Bachelor franchise specifically, has a sexist ageism problem. Between 2010 and 2014, the average age of male contestants on The Bachelor was 31.2, while the average age of the female contestants was 26.3. On The Bachelorette during the same time period, the average age of men was 29.1, compared to 26.2 for women. Meanwhile, on a recent season of Bachelor of Paradise, a 34-year-old female contestant was called a “cougar” and an “old lady”, and a contestant said of women ages 30 and 31, “So they’re just like drunk and will do whatever they want with anyone because . . . they’re old.”

“I’m making fun of myself,” Molly says of making her age a part of the gimmick. “And the idea that 37 is old . . . I don’t want to be embarrassed that I’m 37. I don’t want to have to conceal my age.”

In a later episode, Molly cries about how she still hasn’t told Ben that she froze her eggs for him, introducing an element of reality (for women at least) not often found on the reality TV show. Molly tells me this was rooted in some stigmatization she’s faced; “Guys are like, (disgusted voice), ‘Uhh, what is that?’” she says of announcing to men that she’s frozen her eggs. “I don’t think any of this stuff is worthy of awkwardness.”

Her recent take on the infamous “Fantasy Suites” episode, meanwhile, pokes (gentle) fun at filmed overnight dates that favor romantic cheese over the sometimes messier realities of first-time sex with a new partner:

In inserting the reality — and specifically, the reality of womanhood — into a show that’s been justly denounced for viewer manipulation and sexist undercurrents, Molly’s videos are more than entertaining; they’re one of the closest things “Bachelor Nation” has to meaningful commentary.

Mostly, though, they’re just meant to be good cheeky fun. “That’s a thing about my life, I’m dark and sad,” Molly says, “but I’m always giggling about it.”

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