If Bachie is Australia’s Bingley, where are the Austen heroines?
It’s Bachie-with-Jodi time again! So remember how I decided Richie was the new Mr Bingley a few episodes ago? I’ve been thinking a bit of how we position the ladies in terms of Austen, and it’s a bit depressing, honestly.
I read this article today, and I pretty much agree with it. This season of Bachie has been a bit dull, and it’s largely because we haven’t had an opportunity to encounter the women’s personalities in any real way. By this point last season, we had a much better sense of who people were; in particular, we had characters like Snezana and Heather standing out. (I passionately shipped Bachie Sam/Heather, and it broke my heart when she was eliminated.) We had, in short, heroines; we had narrative figures we could follow.
We don’t really have that this season. This is not to say that the women innately have less personality — there’s some, like Olena, for instance, that I feel could shine if given the opportunity — but they certainly haven’t been given the chance to show it. The only woman standing out from the pack in any real way is Keira, our villain (Mary Crawford? Isabella Thorpe?); the rest have kind of blended together in an amorphous blob. It’s hard to find a romance you can root for — even when you have a unicorn man like Richie as your hero — when you can’t find your heroine. We have a Bingley, but we have no Jane, no Elizabeth, nor any other Austen heroine: the women have essentially been reduced by the construction of the show to so many Louisa Musgroves, desperately trying to impress a man and doing their best but never venturing far into the realms of the memorable.
And it’s bumming me out. Sigh.
Speaking of ‘bumming me out’, we open this episode with a group date, and it is not a good one. Not at all. Whoever is planning the dates this season is doing a pretty shitty job, and I don’t think they know their audience very well. Spoilers, Bachie: your audience is predominantly female, and I don’t think they’re that into seeing women forced to humiliate themselves to compete for love.
Sometimes, the competition in these group dates is fairly oblique, but not in this one: it’s an Olympics-themed date (except they clearly haven’t paid the dollars they need to say the word ‘Olympics’, because they carefully omit it). The women must compete in a series of three events, and the winner gets special alone time with Bachie Richie.
The first challenge is fairly innocent, as far as challenges go: it’s archery, with heart-shaped targets. And yeah, while I’m not into the competitive side of this, it is at least playfully drawing on romantic tropes. Archery and romance have long been intertwined through mythologies like Eros/Cupid and his arrows, and there’s also a long cultural tradition of cool female archers spanning from Artemis/Diana to Katniss Everdeen.
(If they HAD to have a competitive date, couldn’t they have gone with a Hunger Games ( i | A ) theme? Richie is a huge Peeta. I’d watch a competitive date where multiple badass women did aggressively awesome archery while he, like, baked a cake or something.)
But challenges two and three have no basis in romantic tropes, and seem to be mostly designed to make the women seem ridiculous. In the second challenge, they have to race each other in those giant plastic zorb ball things. (The only excuse to be inside a giant plastic sphere is re-enacting the video to Kate Bush’s Breathing ( i | A ). No other reason will suffice.)
And the third is even worse: they make the women wrestle each other while wearing kangaroo suits.
I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this, but there is no romantic trope I am aware of that involves wrestling while wearing kangaroo suits. And this is a topic on which I am, shall we say, not uninformed.
Deliberate humiliation — particularly of the performative kind — is something we see in our cultural narratives of romance, usually done in a playful way: think of the scene in 10 Things I Hate About You ( i | A ) where Heath Ledger’s character Patrick ‘sacrifice[s] himself on the altar of dignity’ and sings to Julia Stiles’s character Kat. But the difference there is agency: Patrick chooses to sing to Kat. It’s not required of him. It’s no wonder that Keira — who is basically functioning as a stand-in for the disgruntled audience member at this point — is incredibly unimpressed.
The winner of the Problematic Not-Olympiad is Faith. She and Richie get some alone time, and their conversation is so generic that it’s not even worth recapping: it’s all ‘connection’, ‘chemistry’, ‘journey’, ‘here for the right reasons, etc, etc.
Oh, and they agree that last night’s panopticon baby date was ‘fun’, even though I suspect Faith was trying to push Richie a little by asking him what he was actually trying to achieve with it. (His answer is mumble mumble I want to be a dad one day mumble.) Would that she were allowed to do the pushing, break out of the amorphous blob of Musgroves, and be permitted to have a personality.
Speaking of amorphous blobs, the next date — a single date — is a bit of an amorphous blob. The dates this season are just not well planned at all. On this date, Richie and his chosen lady — Kiki, in this case — take a helicopter ride over Sydney Harbour, then go have dinner in a garden somewhere.
That is LITERALLY the most generic Bachie date I can think of. The helicopter is the token symbol of the particularly capitalist fantasy of love that Bachie constructs — performing much the same role as it does in Fifty Shades of Grey — while the dinner offers opportunity for the pair to communicate.
Sadly, however, these communicatory intervals (which can be quite vibrant in some seasons of Bachie) have been distinctly dull this season. They always are near the beginning, when no one knows each other very well, but it’s getting a bit ridiculous now. The most we get out of Richie is the phrase ‘I am lonely’, which … well, it isn’t really much of anything, really.
There is much discussion, both on the date and back at the house, as to whether Richie and Kiki have a ‘spark’. This is, I should note, speaking to quite an old-school vision of romance: one in which love is something that befalls you, something that happens to you that you can’t control. Steadily, over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we’re moving towards a model where love is something that happens between two people, something you can nurture, improve, and grow. And when Kiki comes home with a rose, post- a conversation in which Richie declares himself ‘impressed’ with her, it represents a bit of a discursive triumph for this newer version of love over the older one. #knowledge
The cocktail party is pretty uneventful. Keira wears a red jumpsuit and tells Richie that she doesn’t think he thinks much about her. He flounders for something to say and comes up with, ‘I think about you more than you think,’ and then suggests they reprise their dance from their ballroom mini-date as a kind of desperate Hail Mary.
Oh, and Alex is really sad that Richie is talking to women who are not her. She has apparently never watched this show before. Maybe she is not a Louisa Musgrove after all. She’s moving towards Lucy Steele territory: passive-aggressively staking a claim to a man.
The eliminee at tonight’s rose ceremony is Sasha, the Russian woman best known for nibbling her rose at the inaugural ceremony. Farewell, Sasha. You seemed like you had a personality and could be pretty fun, but we didn’t really get to see it. Au revoir.
Next week: intruders are coming! Last year, it genuinely felt intrusive. This year, it feels a bit like a relief. May we get a Dashwood or a Bennet among them.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.