Does The Bachelorette Have a Whaboom Problem?

What social media data can tell us about the show's complex relationship with villains

A few weeks ago, an episode of the Bachelorette ended with a Whaboom. One of the show’s most outrageous contestants, Lucas Yancey, was sent packing without so much as a dramatic outburst, much to the delight of the audience, who had already grown tired of his antics after the premiere. This dismissal raised a natural question for us: Is Yancey’s departure a sign that the show’s producers made a mistake by planting a villain in the first place? Could they have better served their fans by not including him amongst the suitors at all?
Understanding what your audience wants is crucial for many businesses today. This is especially true when the success of your business relies on people tuning in week after week, keeping your ratings up, and sustaining your production on the air. The entertainment industry benefits tremendously from making decisions based on its audience’s preferences. It’s audience insights that let producers of The Voice know that an emotional backstory can help draw out contestants’ time on screen, and the writers of Keeping up with the Kardashians know that the more family infighting, the better.

During the premiere, Rachel was being greeted by fellow lawyers, doctors, and athletes galore. Until, Lucas “Whaboom” Yancey showed up and instantly identified himself as this season’s “unfit” choice for Rachel. Lucas’ most unique characteristics were his battlecry AKA Whaboom, a screenprinted t-shirt of his face, and his intoxicated shenanigans. It became evident to many viewers that even though Rachel deserves much better than a “Whaboom”, that the Bachelor team was at it again with the same cheesy storyline tactics.

Fans react to “Whaboom”

The Bachelor and social go hand in hand as every week, viewers post their opinions and entertainment media writes episodic reviews. These reviews and posts can be a goldmine for programming editors at ABC to help them better understand what matters to viewers and what they can’t stop talking about from the footage that week. By using keywords and hashtags that mentioned the show AND Lucas’ trademarked catchphrase, we could easily uncover how viewers truly felt about his big entrance.
Knowing that the initial conversation surrounding Rachel’s new season was overwhelmingly positive, the emotions involving the new, questionable, villainous character provided a stark contrast. While a large majority of posts are classified as Neutral, the array of emotions is split between all six categories.
The most notable emotion facing Whaboom is Anger (which is significantly different from previous villains on the show as Corinne only received 22% and Chad 21%). Social media users were not shy about sharing their hatred towards this cast member. Often using explicitly charged sentences, the most common words from angry users were “annoying”, “pissed”, and “stupid”. This portion of the audience felt like they were on an episode of Prank’d and expressed that Rachel deserved much better than a loud, overgrown teenager. Among those unimpressed and enraged was the one and only, Olivia Caridi, who was the proclaimed “villain” on Ben’s season (which says a lot).

When analyzing the less popular emotions, Sadness, Disgust and Fear, we saw that social media users called Whaboom words like “monster” or “joke” and described him as “disrespecting” or “creepy”. Loyal viewers to the franchise took this casting ploy as a personal attack and began criticizing the producers for wasting their time. Many fans felt that Rachel had a better head on her shoulders than to keep Whaboom around on her own.

But what about the Joy? This emotion accounts for the second largest segment of emotion related to Whaboom, so some portion of the audience must have enjoyed his gimmicks, right?
Wrong. *Spoiler Alert* Lucas “Whaboom” Yancey did not receive a rose on the third episode and was asked to leave the show. There was no “To be continued…” following his elimination and he did not exit the limo to try to argue his way back into her heart. He simply let out one last “Whaboom” before going home for good. For the first time in Bachelor history, the villain tucked his tail between his legs and accepted his fate.
Did the Bachelor’s producers catch on to how disliked Luke actually was? Or perhaps even the producers believed they could not endure another one of his battle cries? Either way, the Joy that comes from The Bachelorette and Whaboom stems around his exit. Fans were proud of Rachel for stepping up, being the boss she is, and refusing to fall into the Bachelor frustrating writer’s trap any longer.

So for the first time in recent Bachelor history, the villain ploy failed and had the exact opposite effect of seasons past. Instead of viewers tuning in on Monday to see what types of foolish things “Whaboom” was about to get himself into, it made them negatively react to the beginning of the season as a whole.

Rachel doesn’t need a villain

Couldn’t this have been avoided by the producers with some simple social media analysis? As early as the middle of March, when Rachel’s season was announced, the producers could have begun planning for successful ratings through audience insights. They would have found that 46% of the conversation involving Rachel expressed Joy and that words like “#behappy”, “congrats”, “class”, and “deserving” were most prominent. These insights could have helped the casting process as viewers specifically asked for respectable, serious, intelligent men to represent the bunch. They also could have predicted that “Whaboom” was not going to be what the audience wanted or needed.

For a show that has been around since 2002, encountered numerous scandals, dramatic exits, villains, and spin-offs, it is important that producers listen to their audience in order to stay relevant. Typically, the same similar plotlines and clashing of various personalities all living under the same roof keep viewers tuning in for more season after season, but producers need to be aware of any abnormal patterns to keep from upsetting their cult fanbase. Social media analysis is the simplest, and most successful, strategy in accomplishing this due to the high supply of social media users live-tweeting their feelings while watching new episodes. If producers had collected this information prior to the airdate (or at least directly after the premiere) it would have been evident that their age-old tricks would not produce the same results as in the past and that the line-up of men should have included more Kennys, Deans, and Peters.

But with the villain gone, fans can only cross their fingers that producers will refrain from pulling any other unwanted stunts and that Rachel will be able to find her true love on primetime. It’s time for social to move onto more important topics, such as creating hashtags around their favorite suitors and betting on Rachel’s forever date.
For more information on how social data can help inform television marketing strategies, listen to our webinar with NBC Universal here.

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