I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain by Courtney Robertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I didn't plan on reading this book. Full disclosure here - while my sisters organize parties and DVR episodes, I'm not invited. Because I keep asking questions like, "So why do we not like her?"
That said, I did watch the Final Rose episode with my sister and friend. I also saw snippets of Women Tell All. I had also caught snippets of conversations in real life so I knew that Lindzi was the favorite and Courtney was the mean girl. Regardless of those snippets, my biases going into the book were fairly minimal in terms of if I did or did not like any of the contestants.
This is not a Revenge book. It isn't even a book to rehaul Courtney's public image. It was simply the story of Courtney's introduction to boys, a brief lead up to deciding to do The Bachelor, and her perspective of what happened on and off the set. Ultimately, it was a more moving book than I anticipated.
First of all, Courtney is articulate and expresses herself well in written form. No amount of good editing can compensate for a bad writing style so kudos to Courtney for that. I did not find that her story was a vehicle for character assassination. I believe she was telling more than what was was aired and cemented my belief that reality shows are so heavily edited, the editors tell a completely different story than the one that played out on the "set." Courtney does not deny that she said mean things. They all did. Most people compromised their basic tenets while on the show. The accommodations were often cramped, they were sleep deprived, and driven in a competition to win the man, their true love.
Eye roll here.
Just to be clear, the content of the book, Courtney's inside look at The Bachelor will be eaten up by the Bachelor Nation. My problem is not with the book, the authors, or any of the contestants. It's the show. This was further cemented in my mind after reading this book. Obviously, I have issues with the premise of the contest; a competition for one true love based on a minimal amount of contact and meaningful conversation. The producers have over-the-top ideas and real people, yearning to be in a meaningful, lifelong relationship, carry it out. The emotions are very real to the Bachelor and the contestants. But they are shamelessly manipulated and exploited by the producers.
Another clarifying moment for me (not by Courtney) is that the every one of the contestants and the Bachelor are chosen for the season partially for their traits and what interest they can provide for the show (free publicity if a sex tape shows up) but also for their vulnerability. They are mostly beautiful, charismatic people carrying broken pieces of themselves, looking for a magical spell to make them whole. Sure, who doesn't want to believe in Cinderella and being made complete and whole, all past wounds healed, by a soul mate? Only problem is that it's not realistic, particularly if your expectation is to fall madly in love forever based on staged interactions while all conversations will be filmed by 15 cameras from different angles then edited for dramatic effect for 8 million viewers to judge.
What Courtney does is unveil the secrecy of the show. The girls' cell phones are taken. They don't get contact with outside world. No computer or television. They are cut off from people they know then bunk together. They are restricted in their movement. On the other hand, there is plenty of food and alcohol which nearly always spells trouble. There are breakdowns, tears, yelling, trash talking, and a lot of hangovers. There is bullying. The politics indicate that whoever gets a Rose that week, gets an invisible target on their back. There are also sweet friendships. The real deal is that every one of them is human, vulnerable and terrified of being exposed as a fraud. Although not explicitly described this way, Ben is included in this category of humanness.
This is not a clean read. Do not allow your teenage daughter to read it. The people on these shows are often excessive in sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and the elusive common sense. Reading this book is a grown woman's guilty pleasure.
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