Dr Jodes deconstructs the term ‘hopeless romantic’ and suffers through a photo shoot of the ‘greatest love stories ever told’ (spoiler: not that great, not that lovely).
I’ve got into the bad habit of beginning all these recaps with a very long, meandering romance nerd musing, because I have so! many! opinions! I cannot promise that I’ll stop doing this, because of the number and volume of said opinions, but I’m going to try and keep this one short. In tonight’s episode – specifically, at the group date – Matt describes himself as a ‘hopeless romantic’, and I want to talk about what this actually means.
This phrase is a cliché. I’m sure we’ve all heard it before, and probably not thought about it much. Because it’s a cliché, it’s achieved what’s called semantic satiation, where a phrase has been used so much that all the meaning has bled out of it. But if we actually think about it, the two halves of the phrase seem curiously incompatible. How can you be both ‘hopeless’ and a ‘romantic’?
Romance is, in many ways, a narrative of hope. This hope is multilayered and polysemous. There’s the hope that we really can find our person, the one who’ll be our perfect match. There’s the hope that no matter how many obstacles you have to overcome or how much shit you have to go through, things’ll still turn out all right in the end. Indeed, these two kinds of hope are linked: it’s when you find your person that things’ll turn out all right. Of course they’ll be all right – even if they aren’t, objectively, all right – because your person’s there. That’s the promise of the Happily Ever After.
We can make a case that the intersection of romance and hope is actually relatively recent. The intersection of romance and life in general is comparatively recent in Western society: it’s only when companionate marriage became a societal ideal that the idea that you could meet the right person and things would turn out all right started to gain a lot of currency.
And this narrative really started to roll in the twentieth century when the self-help industry began to boom. Previously, instead of advice about how to work on your relationships and make them better, the dominant non-fiction literature about relationships (almost entirely marriages) was conduct books: that is, prescriptive texts about how to behave. Hsu-Ming Teo calls self-help in the twentieth century ‘the new gospel of hope’ (2006, 191). Self-help promised an improved life, rather than just a set of rules. In the twentieth century in America we saw a rise in the idea that ‘to develop [your] individual potential, [you] need a supportive, intimate relationship with [your] spouse or lover’ (Cancian 1990, 1): an idea that, as Teo notes, spread to Australia through self-help books, this new gospel of hope.
So: romance is in essence a hopeful genre. How can a romantic – presumably someone that buys into romance – be ‘hopeless’?
‘Hopeless’, in this sense, takes on a slightly different meaning than just the inverse of ‘hopeful’. Instead, it means ‘incapable of change’. I did a cursory search for scholarship on the term ‘hopeless romantic’, and it appeared a few times in medical journals, because ‘hopeless’ here is synonymous with ‘incurable’ (eg Dunn 2005, 148). The hopeless romantic will not give in to cynicism: instead, they continue to believe – against all odds and all evidence – that this perfect, true, romantic love is real. They are hopeless because, confusingly, they refuse to stop hoping.
I quoted in my recap last night from Dana Cloud’s article on The Bachelor, where she writes that it ‘invites two kinds of investment simultaneously: the pleasure of the romantic fantasy and the pleasure of irony in recognising the fantasy’s folly’ (2010, 414). The second part of this is the opposite of hopeless romanticism. The hopeless romantic refuses to see the folly of the romantic fantasy: instead, they continue to believe.
We, as the audience, are not necessarily constructed as hopeless romantics when we watch The Bachelor. Indeed, most of the recap culture around the franchise (including mine a lot of the time, if we’re being honest) is deep into that ‘pleasure of irony’ that Cloud mentions. But what is important is that the people within the diegesis – the contestants, and especially the Bachie – need to be hopeless romantics for the show to deliver on its promises, which I talked about in my recap of last night’s episode.
In the first episode, Matt said that he wanted to be the Bachie because he’s a man of science and the evidence proves that the process works. While we have a higher success rate here than elsewhere, I don’t think we can point to our Bachie couples as achieving any kind of scientific statistical significance. By saying that he’s a ‘hopeless romantic’, Matt is, in many ways, contradicting this original statement. A hopeless romantic believes in the romantic fantasy despite the evidence. It’s faith, not science.
…that leads us into another discussion about the entanglement of love and religion, but we’ll leave that for another day. TL;DR: ‘hopeless romantic’ is not quite as contradictory as it sounds, but Dr Bachie saying he is both a hopeless romantic and that he’s doing the show because of EVIDENCE AND SCIENCE just might be.
Okay! That was not short! Sorry! Recap! Let’s do it.
We start off with a single date. Last night, Monique was awarded a single date by…like, I don’t know, being the best at having a conversation with Matt? Tonight, the date pays off.
Look, she and Dr Bachie appear to have a really good time. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is objectively a bad date.
- He picks her up in a Ferrari. Sing it with me, people: EPIC TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE.
- He takes her to an airplane hangar. YOU GUYS, EPIC TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A FUCKING DATE.
- These planes are tiny prop planes that they use for aerobatics! The instructor guy spends like five minutes explaining how the vomit bag works to Matt and Monique! This is the one bit I will allow was good, purely because this is Book Thingo, home of the romance vomit list!
- Matt and Monique are seated in separate planes. SEPARATE PLANES.
- This is such a big deal it deserves two spots on the list. GENERALLY YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE TOGETHER ON DATES, YOU GUYS.
- They proceed to try and shoot each other down? Like air force jets? Because WWII jet fight reenactments are sexy now? OMG YOU GUYS LITERALLY WHAT.
- The promise of the vomit bag is never delivered on. IT WASN’T CHEKHOV’S VOMIT BAG AT ALL.
Just call me, Bachie. I can help. You need me.
Afterwards, on their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, they have a chat. This was really interesting, actually, because they’ve got common ground: they’ve both worked FIFO in mines (and hated it), so they had something to bond over and talk about. That meant that the conversation flowed pretty effortlessly, and they had a fairly natural banter.
Monique got a rose, and she got a pash, and they didn’t touch the cheeseboard, which as we all know is a sign that the date has gone well (as sad as that makes me). But this time, Matt went in on the right-side head tilt angle rather than the left, and…I need to stop thinking about this head-tilt study. Nothing good will come of it.
Next up: the group date! It’s later than normal, but we’ve finally got to the traditional photo shoot group date. This time, the shoot is for TV Week, and the theme is ‘the greatest love stories ever told’.
Apparently all the greatest love stories ever told are fairy tales and Shakespeare? I have some issues with TV Week’s corpus selection here, to say the least.
First up, there’s Snow White. It would be very easy to make a crack about how this is actually a pretty dodgy love story, but it’s mostly about a cast of ancillary characters with the romance really only popping up at the end, so realistically, it’s pretty apt for Bachie. This particular shoot is notable for the fact that they clearly tried to send house villains Nichole and Rachel off the deep end by casting them as dwarves, but they both dealt with it pretty well.
The second fairy tale is Cinderella, and…oh no no no, Bachie, no.
They cast Emma – a white woman – as Cinderella; and Mary and Sogand – two of the only women of colour in the house – as the stepsisters.
At least this somehow ended with Mary ripping her shirt off and Sogand nearly snogging Matt in front of everyone? I’m not convinced anyone involved really knew the plot of Cinderella, but…that’s something, I guess.
(Seriously, though, Bachie? You can’t be doing this kind of shit. It’s aggressively uncool.)
Third is Romeo and Juliet, with Matt and Cassandra. Cassandra is…a person? Who has been in this before? And she calls Matt ‘a modern day Romeo’, conveniently forgetting that Romeo was a horny teenager who broke up with his girlfriend, fell in love with the first 13-year old he caught sight of across a room, and committed suicide about five minutes later?
Ahem. Anyway, this is nothing, and we won’t have to remember who Cassandra is much longer.
Finally, Vakoo, Abbie and Matt do Antony and Cleopatra. Matt is Antony, Vakoo is Cleopatra, and Abbie is…some third point in that triangle who is not Julius Caesar. IDK.
This Antony is apparently extreeeeeeeemely horny for ‘random girl who just wandered into the room’ and not Cleopatra, because Matt spends basically this whole photo shoot just barely restraining himself from macking onto Abbie. And he manages to have all this sexual tension with her while Mary and Sogand are standing there and loudly commentating about said sexual tension well within earshot, which is frankly remarkable, if you ask me.
At the cocktail party, all of this comes to a head. They’ve apparently made a decision to introduce a lot of gimmicky business into these cocktail parties (I’m guessing to narratively create drama rather than having producers go ‘hey, get into a fight with that girl over there! you know you want to!’). This time, Osher comes in to announce that Matt is waiting in the orchard for one of two women. These two women are the ones he had the most chemistry with at the photo shoot, Abbie and Sogand. It’s the job of the collective contestant pool to decide which one will go.
They almost unanimously choose Abbie, because Sogand had that single date a couple of episodes ago. ‘Oh my god, I would never kiss him!’ Abbie declares to the gathered women. ‘I mean, you guys are all right here!’
Reader: she kissed him.
More than kissed him, honestly. This is one of the more in-depth pashes I’ve seen in Australian Bachie, especially at this early stage. ‘I had to exercise so much self-restraint during the photo shoot!’ Matt tells her, cleaning off his steamed-up glasses while she tries to wipe lipstick off his face.
I can only assume this meant that he recited the names of star signs to himself to calm down. She’s a Gemini, he hates astrology, you know the deal.
The other women are, predictably, all pretty salty about this pashing-at-the-cocktail-party situation. While the cocktail party pash is de rigueur in the US franchise, it’s not really done here: it’s a real social contract violation, in the way that a pash on a single date isn’t. (See, for instance, the Elora Incident.)
(Apropos of nothing: you know what I learned last time in the US, talking to some friends who read these recaps? The word ‘pash’ is distinctively Australian. Here I thought it was international. The more you know.)
There’s only one casualty at the rose ceremony tonight: Isabelle, the woman who made Matt do formalwear pilates on the red carpet in the first episode. But I would argue that there is another casualty, and that is our expectations.
All week, Channel Ten has been teasing that Matt is going to walk out of a cocktail party and it’s going to be OMG SO DRAMATIC. ALL WEEK. Incessantly. I don’t watch a lot of free-to-air, but I do try and catch my beloved The Bold and the Beautiful every day, so I must have seen these promos, like, 47 times.
Number of Matt walkouts? Zero.
Of course, it was heavily featured in the promos for next week, but…can we even trust that now? Can we trust anything? Will Matt even fulfil the central promise of the show and pick a girl at the end? Is he really an astrophysicist? Is he going to rip off his tall/dark/handsome face and reveal that he’s actually the Honey Badger?
Don’t play with your audience like this, Channel Ten. We still don’t trust you after what happened last year.
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: I write books as well as recaps, and there is also pashing in those (and definitely no Honey Badgers). If you like my writing, don’t forget to check out my Valentine series.
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.