bachelor nation

A Bachelor Fan Account Crunched the Numbers on Matt James’s Controversial Season

Matt James, the franchise’s first-ever Black Bachelor. Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC

Bachelor fans got a wake-up call this season. If it wasn’t clear from the racism scandal that put host Chris Harrison on hiatus, the ABC reality series has a little diversity problem in its most diverse season yet. Instagram account @bachelordata has been tracking statistics like contestant screen time and IG follower growth, putting numbers to issues like representation and platforming that Bachelor fans have been talking about for years. The account’s founder, who goes by Suzana in the interest of privacy, began by posting her findings on the Bachelor subreddit, then switched to Instagram in February 2020, just before the pandemic put the series on lockdown and fans put the producers on notice.

Amid last summer’s racial-justice protests, Bachelor Nation — fans and former contestants — called for the show to reckon with its overwhelmingly white history, and producers responded with Matt James, the first-ever Black Bachelor. The show rounded up a record-breaking 25 women of color to vie for his heart, along with the obligatory 12 white contestants, promising to do them all justice. “We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and, most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television,” producers said in a statement last summer. “We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories.” But that’s not what the numbers say.

Now with more than 50,000 followers on Instagram, backed by a small team to help input data, and with support from fans on Patreon, @bachelordata has grown into a necessary resource for viewers who want the full picture. Vulture spoke to Suzana about how she gathers the stats each week and what they mean for the show’s latest reckoning.

When did your Bachelor journey begin, and how did that transition into tracking it? 
I started watching the show in college. I was bored in my dorm, looking for TV shows, and instantly got hooked. But my Bachelor data journey started in December 2018, just before Colton Underwood’s season started. At the time, I had just become a technology director [for a school district]; I was trying to learn how to use spreadsheets better, and nothing sounded worse than an Excel class. So I decided to start tracking Instagram followers manually every day while the show was airing to see what happened on the show that led to the most Instagram growth. Then it just kind of grew from there.

What inspired you to look at Instagram followers in particular?
It had been frequently discussed, like, how many Instagram followers different people had, and I think most people who watch the show know that these people go on the show now and become these big Instagram influencers. I was always curious, Why do some people become bigger influencers than others? At the time, I didn’t really have a way of looking at screen time. So I was like, if I can see one-on-one dates, what do those translate to in terms of followers? Group dates? Group-date rose? And just different things like that. I just started collecting that data every day after each week’s episode.

What goes into tracking all that screen time?
A lot. [Laughs] Now, I have somebody onboard that’s helping me every week, because when I first started doing it, I would wake up at four, 4:30 in the morning before work after an episode aired so I could start collecting the data. I just open up Amazon Video, where I buy the season, and it is a literal start-and-stop and an evaluation based on the criteria of who’s featured on the screen and then it’s manually written on a spreadsheet.

How has crunching the numbers affected your experience of the show?
I definitely look at it with a more critical eye now. I think the term that a lot of people use is franken-biting — I can tell when different segments are being pulled and the audio changes in terms of when it was recorded. Watching it back, I find so many more things when I rewatch it that I missed the first time around.

How many hours a week would you say you spend working on The Bachelor?
A lot. [Laughs] I’ve learned how to become much more efficient with spreadsheets, and that was the whole goal of this project, to learn how to use spreadsheets to help me in my day job. But for the sustainability of this project, it’s kind of been sink or swim. I’ve had to learn how to be efficient with my time and how I do things on a weekly basis. If I had to guess, I’d say probably upwards of eight to ten hours a week.

What has it been like getting involved in the Bachelor Nation community on Reddit and Instagram?
I definitely attribute a lot of my learning to the community side of it. I think one of the best things I hear out of it is that the work I’m doing is what people are discussing in their group chats about the show or, you know, in their Slack channels at work. That’s really special to me in terms of how I feel about the show and my involvement in the Bachelor community. I do get a lot of messages as well that aren’t so kind, which can be difficult to process. It’s been eye-opening to see a little glimpse of what some Bachelor Nation contestants get, especially when you speak out on controversial topics, right?

Yeah, I think the fans of Bachelor Nation take a lot of heat when it comes to controversies. In your view, how does the data alter the way we look at the fans in the wake of scandals?
I think numbers are hard to dismiss when you have concrete numbers in front of you, like Instagram followers and discrepancies between white people and people of color on the show and how they are being followed on Instagram, but then really being able to look back at it with a lens of screen time and lack of screen time. This is really the first season we’ve had numbers to point to whenever we do talk about these tougher conversations. I’m just happy that I can provide those numbers and provide some context for people to go off of when they discuss things like screen time, the lack of opportunity for people who go on this show, and how it’s edited.

How have you seen those conversations bubble up in the wake of this season? 
People were really excited about how historic this season was in terms of casting, especially after the executive producers put out their statement last summer committing to showing more diverse love stories. The data this season is especially relevant because people feel like we didn’t see what the producers promised us. I expected drama just like every season, but I think this season was focused more on drama. We finally got data on that this year in terms of what that screen time felt like and who we were seeing.

Right, the women of color who are in the top have some of the lowest screen times of the series. 
Instead, we knew stories and backgrounds of people who left in episode three more than we did our final four. The data doesn’t lie. When you post that featured screen-time data and people are asking, “Who is the person who got the most screen time?” and people literally can’t remember her, I think that goes to the story lines and how they’re being edited.

It’s hard to say, but how do you think spoilers and ongoing controversies affect stuff like the follower growth data?
Ever since I started following it, you could see a sizable influence on Instagram growth in terms of the early episodes. So you’d see whoever was rumored to be making it far grow faster. But we still need to go back to be able to collect that screen time to see the influence there. Luckily, we have it all well documented, on when spoilers dropped and their Instagram growth on what dates, that we’re going to be able to look at that.

Early on in the season, there were rumors that Rachael Kirkconnell was going to make it far. And early on, people were like, “Why is this person gaining so many Instagram followers when we’ve hardly even seen her on our TVs?” I don’t love that spoilers are out there because then it’s hard to point to exactly what’s happening on the show that’s leading to what growth, but it’s inevitable.

With the season wrapping up, is there anything in the data we can look out for to guess the new Bachelorette?
Actually, one of the biggest indicators is the first date. So if you look at who receives the first one-on-one date every season, we had Hannah Brown, Becca Kufrin, Clare Crawley; we had Ashley Hebert, we had Ali Fedotowsky, we had Jillian Harris. Especially as you trend further back, you can see that has the highest chances. This season, I believe it was — I should know this off the top of my head — Bri! What happens at the “Women Tell-All,” I think, is a big indicator. We definitely see who gets put in the hot seat, how that edit goes, and how the fans respond.

The official Bachelor Nation Instagram follows you. Do you wonder if the producers are tracking the data through your account?
I hope so. I hope they’re looking at the data because I’m sure it’s useful for them to look at their screen time and see what impacted the series and what had people talking.

A Bachelor Fan Account Ran the Data on Matt James’s Season