I’m not optimistic about the casting of this season overall, which looks like a loaf of white bread has come to life.
We might have said farewell to the Honey Badger, but our journey into the wilds of Bachie-land is not over! It’s time for another adventure, this time with a lady at its centre: it’s time for The Bachelorette.
This time, our heroine is Ali Oetjen. She’s 31 years old, and in Bachie terms, she’s been twice unlucky in love. (She also was engaged between her two Bachie outings, and those didn’t work out, but apparently, in the diegesis of the show, they didn’t count…?)
Ali finished third in the inaugural season of The Bachelor in 2013, starring Tim Robards (now married to his winner, Anna Heinrich), where she was given the crazy edit: she was the lady who fell way too hard in love way too fast. Then this year on Bachelor in Paradise, she fell for American import Grant Kemp, and they left the show as a couple. She moved to LA to be with him, but it fell apart very quickly, and she was announced as the Bachelorette in the show’s finale.
This was to the chagrin of many — Ali did not prove herself to be terribly interesting in Paradise, even though she had a solid four men pursuing her (Michael, Jarrod, Mack, and Grant all went after her at one point or another). But even though I was among the many not thrilled with the casting, I’ve decided to be cautiously optimistic. Nothing can be as bad as the Honey Badger, right?
What I’m not optimistic about is the casting of this season overall, which looks like a loaf of white bread has come to life.
I’ve written before about why Bachie’s penchant for casting all white people is bad — see here, when I wrote about this in the context of Matty’s season. But in short: who we see in a love story is representative of who we think is worthy of love. If all we see are white people (or straight people, or able-bodied people — you can map this onto most axes), then that’s the image that becomes ingrained in people’s minds: only white people are deserving of love, only white people are capable of love. And considering that love is situated at the pinnacle of Western culture –it’s one of our highest ideals, and our capacity to love is figured as an intrinsic part of our humanity — reinforcing this idea is basically reinforcing white supremacy.
Do better, Bachie. Usually when I write this I follow it up with OMG HIRE ME, but in this case, don’t hire me. Hire some people of colour, FFS.
Okay. Let’s get into the recap.
The opening of every season is always really interesting, because if they do it well, it sets up a) what the Bach wants in a partner, and b) the overarching narrative of the season.
Sometimes this is really vague, but this season does a reasonable job at making both clear. The narrative they’re developing is that Ali has historically bad judgment, largely because she falls in love too fast. She falls for ‘bad boys’ because they’re all sparkle and shine, but that’s not what she wants now: instead, in her own words, she wants someone ‘good and kind’.
Interestingly, though, the series trailer seems to set up that Ali is going to fail again. We get a close up on her saying ‘goodbye’ while a tear rolls down her face, and then bending down and openly weeping.
This is an intriguing manoeuvre, but I’m almost certain it’s a fakeout, designed to bounce off the romantic failure of the Honey Badger’s season. They set that season up as OMG THE BADGE IS GONNA FALL IN TRUE LOVE, only to rip the carpet out and be like LOL SURPRISE NO HE’S NOT. Here, I think they’re going for the opposite. They want the end of the season to hit hard — for us to expect tears, but to get a surprisingly satisfying happy ending.
As far as a strategy goes, I’m not convinced it’s a bad one, especially if they can set up a convincing love story along the way. If they can set up a point of ritual death (Regis 2003) — ie a point where it looks like the central couple can never be together — but then end it surprisingly happily, that might end up being a really effective narrative, and a good capper on a season that no one has expected to be terribly captivating.
If we get two seasons of romantic failure back to back, though … ouch. That’ll be interesting.
But that’s a while off. Before we can get to the end, we must get through the beginning.
The first night is always a bit of a dramatis personae, as we meet all the characters we’ll be spending time with for the next several weeks. Some notable people on tonight’s red carpet include:
Charlie: One hundred percent the winner, if this season ends up having one. He gives Ali a journal, because he tells her he wants them to be ‘on the same page’, and even though this whole concept makes me viscerally recoil, she loves it. Like, she loooooooves it.
Robert: An Italian stallion who brings Ali tomato passata. She says that she’s always wanted to do the ‘tomato thing’, perhaps because she — like all of us — imprinted on Looking For Alibrandi as a teen.
Ivan: Very tall. I’m concerned they might use ‘tall’ as his personality, just like they tried to make Sophie’s personality in the last season of The Bachelor ‘loves water’. He dances unprompted for Ali, which I can only imagine takes some of the fun out of having the power to order men to dance for you.
Nathan: Tells us, smirking, that ‘girls love [him]’, then outlines all the things he hates, which is basically, women, as far as I can tell. He then goes on to tell Ali he loves all of those things, so he is clearly a) a lying liar who lies, and b) one of our villains.
Bill: Stammers and stutters his way through a confession that he ‘wasn’t born Bill. I was born something else’ — cue ad break. When we return, he reveals that he was born ‘David’, and Ali exhales a sigh of relief that he’s ‘not a woman’. So much unnecessary and uncomfortable transphobia that they just did not need to emphasise the way they did. Don’t make me regret being cautiously optimistic about you, Oetjen.
Jules: Enters on a segway wearing his infantry medals, has a moustache, looks like he would call you ‘milady’.
Ben: Gives Ali a purse made from a kangaroo scrotum.
Paddy: Is extreme trash. He talks so much Ali can’t get a word in, and when she tries, he just talks straight over the top of her. Won’t shut up about how ‘fit’ Ali is, and rhymes this with ‘tit’ in a poem he recites TO HER FACE. Tells other men to ‘jog on’ a lot.
Dan: A farming type who enters with a baby lamb. Took me a while to work out who he looks like, but I cracked it: Bernard Tomic.
Damien: Over the age of forty.
Pete: In real estate, a ‘pretty confident guy’ who talks an uncomfortable amount about how much he loves women’s arses.
Todd: Enters wearing a plastic suit of armour, which seems very silly, but he is VERY handsome, so Ali doesn’t seem to care much.
All of these introductions take place next to an ornamental pond, and I would like to register my extreme disappointment that Ali did not push one single man into it, Man O Man style.
Once all the men have entered, Osher sets out what’s going to go down at the cocktail party. There’ll be a rose ceremony at the end of it, as usual, but there’s also a first impression rose on the table. This is the ‘wild rose’. The possessor of this rose can, at a time of their choosing, steal a single date from another man.
‘BRO CODE!’ a bunch of the men begin shouting.
…this is going to be a tiring season, isn’t it.
I’ll start the betting on how many times we’re going to hear the word ‘dog’ used as a verb as a result of this wild rose at a conservative 4798340918320492804398403294032. Send your bets to me on Twitter at @JodiMcA.
Along with ‘bro code’, if you had ‘here for the right reasons’ or ‘testosterone’ in your Bachie drinking game, then this cocktail party would have got you very drunk, very fast, because both are thrown around liberally.
One of the central loci of these phrases is an intriguing developing feud between Nathan and Paddy, aka our two villains. Dickhead clearly recognises dickhead, because these two do not like each other at all. Nathan is angry that Paddy has interrupted his time with Ali. Paddy is angry that Nathan has been talking shit about him. It ends in a dickwaving stoush which is not very interesting in and of itself, but considering villains tend to run in packs in this show, offers some unusual narrative possibilities. It could be weirdly satisfying, watching these two villains destroy each other, if that’s the direction that this goes.
…although should Paddy get eliminated, or possibly shot from a cannon into the sun, I don’t think anyone should complain. He’s bellowing at the top of his lungs about how ‘fit’ Ali is, and going on about her various body parts, and it’s gross. One of the other dudes (Damien, the oldest and presumably symbolically wisest) takes him aside and tries to have a word with him about what a shit he’s being, but it just doesn’t get through at all. ‘Jog on, mate!’ Paddy crows.
I don’t think it would have got through to Paddy no matter what language Damien was using, but it makes me sad that none of the men in this show — including the oldest and symbolically wisest — seem to have the word ‘objectification’ in their vocabulary, even though they clearly recognise what it is. Sigh.
There are some more charming bits, though. Ali seems to really like Bill — they have a sweet conversation. Also weirdly sweet is the fact that Jules confesses to Ali that he has a tattoo on his arse, and, when she asks to see it, he gamely shows her.
I’ve watched a lot of this show, across multiple territories, and I’m fairly certain that this is the first time I’ve ever seen a dude get his arse out on night one. There’s always new ground to till on this show.
Ali also has a chat with Charlie which is quite telling. ‘So … would you move for love?’ she asks casually, which is a super normal question to ask when you’ve known someone for about three hours.
I’m torn. Part of me wants Ali to chill a bit (like, lady, you have all the power here, play the field, sow your oats!), but then I also really like that she wants a dude to move for her — she’s not going to upend her life for a dude again.
She takes at least SOME of my advice to chill, because she doesn’t give the wild rose to Charlie. Instead, she gives it to Bill, citing his openness in their initial conversation as the reason.
And then — SHOCK HORROR GASP — in full view of everyone, Ali snogs Bill’s face off. This is so unusual for Australian Bachie, where not only has there historically not been first night kissing, but cocktail party kissing of any kind has been frowned on.
But then, this might be a particularly personal corrective for Ali: on her season of The Bachelor, she tried to kiss Tim on night one, and he recoiled like she’d just offered him poison. If the preview for tomorrow night’s episode is to be believed, Ali is going to be a serial cocktail party snogger. I’m fascinated by this move away from the established boundaries of the Australian franchise here — surely that has to be conscious.
At the rose ceremony, I had my fingers crossed that one of the two feuding villains might get eliminated, as they both do seem extremely vile, but this is The Bachelorette, and there’s no way the producers would let their Bach get rid of their drama-causers so early. They get the last two roses, but Paddy and Nathan will be coming back to be dreadful another day.
Tonight’s victims are two dudes we heard exactly nothing from, but one of them (kangaroo scrotum Ben) is a bit of a Honey Badger lookalike. I can only imagine that they put him in there precisely so Ali would eliminate him on the first night and give us all some much needed catharsis.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.