Dr Jodes unpacks the ‘drama’, the unbearable sadness of bad gin dates, and why Dr Matt needs a bit of the humanities to solve the Mystery of the Dogcunt Incident.
Somehow, we’re already in the third week of our close encounter with Dr Matt, the Space Bachie! We’re approaching what I like to think of as the ‘shit-gets-real’ stage. This is where we’ve been introduced to our cast of characters, we’ve got a pretty good handle on who everyone is (even if there are still people getting eliminated at rose ceremonies you could swear you’ve never seen before in your whole life), but real emotions are starting to get involved. That investment is going from cursory – I’m interested in you because you’re the Bachelor and the structures of this show are forcing me to be interested in you – to personal: I’m interested in you because you’re Matt and I might actually fall in love with you.
I like the shit-gets-real stage for a lot of reasons: I mean, so much of my scholarly work focuses on emotion that obviously I like it when those emotions come to the forefront. But it also tends to give rise to one of those Bachie buzzwords we’ve all heard so much: ‘drama’.
So in tonight’s pre-recap nerdle (no, you will not pass Go and collect $200 and go straight to the bit of the recap where I actually recap the episode, you will sit here and be educated, damn it), I want to talk about this word ‘drama’. What does it mean, and why is it so inescapable?
Pinning down what it actually means is quite difficult, tbh, because of its status as a Bachie buzzword. I talked a little about semantic satiation when I unpacked ‘hopeless romantic’ for you last episode. ‘Drama’ has also fallen victim to this phenomenon, where the word is overused so much it’s robbed of much of its specific meaning.
It’s kind of synonymous, though, with ‘conflict’. In the Bachieverse, ‘drama’ arises whenever someone or something is in conflict with someone or something else. Two contestants deciding they hate each other, for instance, is ‘drama’. One contestant making a nuisance of themselves and everyone getting hacked off about it is ‘drama’. Someone getting selected for a date and someone else not agreeing with it is ‘drama’. If someone’s unhappy, you can bet that ‘drama’ is to blame.
Every so often, you hear a Bachie or a contestant long for a ‘drama-free’ day or date or week. (Our Space Bachie did this in the second episode, actually, when he went on that archery group date – and very unusually, he apparently got his wish, because they showed none of that date on screen.) All they want to do is be chill and get to know people! To just be in the moment and drink wine! For things to be easy!
Spoilers: that archery date aside, things are never drama-free in the Bachieverse.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this show lives for drama. The reason why is obvious: stories without conflict are dull as dishwater. Hence, Matt’s archery group date not getting any screen time: if there’s no drama, no conflict, no complication, there’s nothing to drive the narrative forward.
This is doubly true in romance, where we need conflict to propel the narrative. If someone told you a love story that was just like ‘yep, these two people met, decided they liked each other, decided they were in a relationship, and now they are’, you’d be fairly underwhelmed: because there’s no conflict. If you hear ‘yep, these two people met, but she’s about to leave for a job overseas’: suddenly you’re hooked, because we’ve got an obstacle. There’s immediate conflict, and it drives the story forward: is she going to stay? is she going to go? will s/he go with her? is it too soon? will they be forever star-crossed?
(Please take a moment to appreciate that Osher Gunsberg level space pun. That’s why they pay me the aggressively medium dollars, guys.)
This is one of the reasons why Pamela Regis argues in A Natural History of the Romance Novel that one of the eight essential elements of the romance narrative is the ‘barrier’. Indeed, she argues that it is one of the most important features: ‘[t]he barrier drives the romance novel’ (2003, 32). This lines up with what Denis de Rougemont argues in Love in the Western World, except he takes it a step further, arguing that romances actually generate obstacles. ‘Unless the course of love is being hindered there is no “romance”,’ he writes (1945, 52). That is, without obstacles, the love story doesn’t exist.
The Bachie franchise is made for conflict. However, sometimes I think they focus on the wrong kind. What’s being teased and drawn out all this week is conflict between the women. In particular, we see – or we will, when I finally get to the recap part of the recap – conflict between Abbie and Monique. All this is captured under the umbrella of ‘drama’, which here takes on another meaning. ‘Drama’, of course, has a specific theatrical meaning, and suggests something which is constructed and/or staged. Part of Matt’s job this week is to penetrate the drama – the various narratives that he’s hearing – and find the truth beneath.
Ahem! Digression! What I actually wanted to do was criticise the franchise. What I think really hooks audiences is conflict specifically in the love story: that is, conflict between the Bachie and the contestant. When the show focuses on inter-contestant shenanigans, that focus is shifted. We’re not telling a love story any more: it’s a different kind of ‘drama’ being staged.
Basically, if I were editing this show, I’d focus a lot more on drawing out the conflict inherent in each of the love stories being told. And it’s clear there’s some there! Matt and Abbie, for instance, have clear physical chemistry – as the glasses-fogging, lipstick-smearing makeout sesh last week showed – but he’s 32 and she’s 23! That’s conflict! (Or at least I think it is, because as I wrote in my recap of the premiere, everyone under the age of 25 looks like a student to me!)
Jean-Claude Kaufmann writes that ‘for someone who wants to be in a love story, the story is just as important as the love. There must be a setting, characters and, above all, a plot’ (2008, 62). When the show gets caught up in telling stories about conflict between contestants, they miss the opportunity to endow those love stories with plots: which to me, seems like an odd storytelling decision, because I can guarantee you that would create ‘drama’ galore.
…all this said, the drama tonight is pretty entertaining, and this is an all-time amusing episode that is, for me, headed straight to the pool room. Read on to find out what actually went down.
We begin tonight’s episode where the last one ended: all the ladies are pretty pissed off at Abbie, because she got it onnnnnnnnn with Dr Bachie at the last cocktail party.
There seems to be a couple of different reasons for this, which I think highlight different parts of the Bachie social contract:
- The women are pissed because Matt kissed Abbie at a cocktail party, ie. when everyone was present, rather than in the more isolated space of a single date.
- The women are pissed because Abbie makes it clear it wasn’t just a kiss. Instead, it was a repeated pash situation (which Monique goes so far as to characterise as ‘hooking up’).
- The women are pissed because Abbie’s being ‘boastful’, which I found a really interesting word choice: ie. she’s not being discreet about the whole situation at all.
Things only get worse when Abbie gets the single date in this episode (after all the contestants get shipped off for a few days to a resort in, like, Gosford). Monique in particular is mad, and she’s specifically disappointed in Matt rather than Abbie. This makes sense, tbh, but it’s also framed as her being troublesome and problematic.
This single date with Matt and Abbie made the worst part of my personality come out: that is, the part of me that is a massive wanky snob about booze. Let me list off my complaints:
- This is a gin-themed date, and you know what gin they give them? Fucking Bombay Sapphire. You can spend $7865 on a viscerally disgusting chocolate bath, but you can’t fork out a few extra bucks for some decent gin? Come on.
- Matt and Abbie proceed to stomp on citrus to make juice to add to the gin. Why not just do a wine/grape-stomping date? That’s clearly what they want to do.
- They don’t even THINK about what botanicals would go well with their shitty gin.
- When they get to their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, are they drinking gin? No. They’re drinking wine. i) Way to team with the theme. ii) They’re going to ruin their palates.
I understand if you never want to speak to me again. I know I’m unbearable.
So: the happenings on this date. When they’ve stomped on the citrus, Matt sticks a spoon in it and scoops up some juice, and is like, ‘now you have to try some, Abbie’! and she hesitates for a second, and is all like, ‘sure!’
Matt, not being a total monster, throws the spoon away immediately and is like, ‘girl, do you seriously think I would make you drink foot juice?’ But it was drowned out by me screaming at my television NO NO ABBIE NO I PROMISE YOU THAT YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO DRINK FOOT JUICE FOR ANY MAN! THIS IS SOMETHING YOU WILL KNOW WHEN YOU ARE SLIGHTLY OLDER THAN TWENTY-THREE!
She and Matt get along so well. But bro… she’s 23. You know those tutes you taught (or labs you demonstrated in? IDK how science works)? SHE’S STUDENT-AGED, MY DUDE.
This said, their chat on the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation is really nice – she reveals some stuff about her upbringing, and they have great conversational chemistry, and they don’t touch the cheeseboard, which we now know means things are going great. I’d be all in on it if she wasn’t so young.
…but then we get to the hot tub.
Firstly, I want to note that it’s only the fifth episode and we’re already at a hot tub. This season is very horny.
Secondly, this is where some of that ‘drama’ I was talking about starts. ‘Matt, Monique has been criticising you for kissing me at that cocktail party,’ Abbie tells Space Bachie. ‘She called you a dogcunt and a disrespectful pig.’
That last is a direct quote, btw. I initially thought the word was ‘dogfucker’ – it was bleeped – but it was even more #straya than I could have possibly imagined. This fucking show, you guys.
Matt, of course, is very troubled by this, and the next morning, drinks coffee solemnly from a mug so huge that I was like, ‘oh, yep, that’s an academic, he’s one of us for sure’.
Dr Bachie is so perturbed that the usual group date is subbed out for something he calls a ‘lowkey truth session’ (a truly cursed phrase). Here, everyone sits around and read questions off cue cards: eg. what is more important to you? sexual chemistry or intellectual stimulation?
(The responses are very interesting, by the way. I wish I had this as raw data. Oh! the analysis I would do!)
One lady that’s ticking all of Matt’s boxes is Chelsie, and he takes her aside for some alone time on a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. And…
…you guys. They are the cutest fucking nerds I have ever seen.
When I first looked at the bios of the contestants before the show, I immediately picked Chelsie as the winner (as did the bookies). She’s a chemical engineer, she’s twenty-eight: it all makes sense on paper. But then, after that initial oxytocin tattoo situation, she disappeared – I don’t think she spoke at all last week – so I thought they were trying to shove her to the back of the narrative, and I wasn’t so sure.
Not now. I’m all in on these nerds. She reveals that she brought a textbook with her about waste water management, and Matt ribs her mercilessly, and he’s all like, ‘talk nerdy to me,’ and HEART EYES, MOTHERFUCKER. I love them.
He doesn’t kiss her, though. The whole Dogcunt Incident has him flustered and now, he says, he’s wary about kissing the women.
I can’t believe that I’ll probably be referencing the Dogcunt Incident in these recaps for years to come. The Australian franchise is truly a gift, you guys.
The Dogcunt Incident also comes into play on the next single date (there’s another one! what’s happening?!) when Matt takes Helena to an oyster farm.
You know how after every date I’m like UGH BACHIE, JUST CALL ME TO CONSULT ON YOUR DATES, I CAN HELP YOU? They didn’t need me on this one. They had it totally under control.
Matt and Helena aren’t eating oysters. Instead, they’re basically doing IVF on one to create a pearl, which is framed by their guide Steve as ‘baby-making 101’. Normally, I’d be like ‘we all know it’s super romantic to bring a guy named Steve on your date, amirite?’ but I can’t even be mad this time, because it just leads to a series of wacky sexual innuendos as Matt and Helena try and artificially inseminate this oyster.
And then, when they get to their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, Matt gives Helena a set of pearl jewellery. Whichever producer came up with ‘the Bachelor gives a contestant a pearl necklace’ must have been so proud of themselves.
What Matt doesn’t give Helena, though, is a kiss. Instead, we get a series of images of him looking wistful and thinking about the Dogcunt Incident while staring into the middle distance as tinkly piano music plays, in what might be the clearest example of the clash between the American romantic culture inherent in the franchise and Australian anti-emotionalism in history.
Also, the date gets super awks as soon as Matt pointedly doesn’t kiss Helena, which really tells us some things about our scripts for dating, tbh.
Then it’s time for the cocktail party, and you know what happens: DRAMA.
Because it’s DRAMA, let’s script it like one.
MATT takes ABBIE aside
MATT: Did Monique really call me a dogcunt?
MATT takes MONIQUE aside
MATT: Did you call me a dogcunt?
MONIQUE: What? No.
MATT: Okay cool.
MONIQUE: This whole situation isn’t fair, though.
MATT: Would you call the situation…a dogcunt?
MONIQUE stares blankly
MATT fetches ABBIE and brings her over to MONIQUE
MATT: Will someone just reveal to me the truth of the Dogcunt Incident so I can stop feeling guilty about macking onto all these hot ladies?
ABBIE: She said it!
MONIQUE: I didn’t!
ABBIE: She said it to Rachael!
MATT fetches RACHAEL
MATT: Did Monique call me a dogcunt?
RACHAEL: Yes…as a joke.
And then Matt talks to, like, every single lady, and gets a million different variations on the narrative, and his poor astrophysicist brain gets all confused.
Look. The sciences are great. You need to be pretty fucking smart to get a PhD in astrophysics. But what he’s trying to do is comparative close reading, and you know what you need for that? The humanities, baby. #fundthearts
This all culminates with Matt gathering the women together like he’s Miss Marple and he’s about to do a dramatic denouement and solve the Mystery of the Dogcunt Incident, but because he is bad at close reading, all he can ultimately say is ‘THIS HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUS WASTE OF TIME’ and walk away.
Finally. FINALLY. After literally weeks we’ve had the infamous walkout. And all it took was Schrodinger’s Dogcunt.
It wasn’t much of a walkout, though, because he walks right back in after the ad break to do the rose ceremony. All the way, it seems like he’s going to eliminate Monique…
…but then he walks out again (DOUBLE WALKOUT, my goodness) to have a moment of earnest anxiety, and instead, he ends up keeping Monique and eliminating ukulele Julia.
I’m quite surprised by this, tbh. Not so much by the fact he kept Monique – as if the producers aren’t going to make him take her and Monique on a two-women-enter-one-woman-leaves Thunderdome date – but by the fact he eliminated Julia. I got the impression he quite liked her when he first met her…but even a PhD in romance doesn’t make you infallible at predicting this narrative, it seems.
Until tomorrow: let’s just take a moment to reflect on the fact that this whole episode of this very romantic romance show hinged on the word ‘dogcunt’, and respect that while this show is often problematic, it is also sometimes a true gift.
…while you’re reflecting, why not check out my YA paranormal romance Valentine series? The third book, Misrule, has been out for six months today, and it’s full of all different kinds of #drama.
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.