The Bachelor Goes to McDonald’s: A Curious Case of Product Placement

As a reality television junkie, I am constantly belying the naysayers of this esteemed genre about the extent to which reality television is, in fact, a portrayal of reality. My case has been carefully honed over a decade of binging every show from Survivor to Vanderpump Rules as I have expounded upon the realness of the Real Housewives and the magical, infinite romances of The Bachelor. My faith in the system, however, has been rattled of late as a recent instance of ill-advised product placement has me in what can only be considered an existential reality television crisis. 

On a recent installment of The Bachelor, Ben Higgins, the titular man about town, escorts one of his lady friends to McDonald’s where they work the drive thru, eat Egg McMuffins and pretend like Ben isn’t dating 25 other women. Significantly, this date occurs after Ben spent prior dates flying the skies on a helicopter tour and boating to a private island in the Bahamas, situating this trip to McDonald’s in curious juxtaposition with the opulence of his previous dates. As The Bachelor has spent 20 seasons building a brand predicated on the superficial trappings of romance and luxury, one might think a proprietor of, say, formal attire, champagne or even fake eye lashes, would make a better marketing partner than the likes of a not so strategically placed Filet-O-Fish. Instead of selecting a sponsor more aligned with their brand, however, The Bachelor joined forces with McDonald’s, which effectively placed Ben eating a Big Mac 30 short minutes before changing into formal wear, drinking champagne and handing out roses. Color me a snob, but I feel a tuxedo and a red carton of French fries are a mismatched duo. So mismatched, in fact, that I spent more time questioning the blatant product placement than wondering who would receive the final rose.

It was bad enough when Ben appeared in a McDonald’s commercial during the airing of The Bachelor, but to have Ben actually take a date to the golden arches disrupts the expected tonality of the program, thereby presenting a gap in the otherwise seamless reality constructed by the show. This disruption, in turn, forces audiences to stop and question not only the seeming inconsistencies in the narrative, but the degree to which The Bachelor is actually a simulation of reality. As such, this partnership has actually done The Bachelor a disservice as the juxtaposition between the brands works to crumble the façade that the events unfolding on screen are unscripted, genuine occurrences.

Ultimately, this misguided attempt at integrated marketing has broken the fourth wall, dispelled the magic, and I can no longer be convinced of the reality of Bachelor-borne love. My belief in the realness of reality TV has been unraveled and I blame it squarely on McDonald’s, poor product placement and Ben, the bachelor, for partaking in this charade.