Just be honest and call it “the patriarchy”, lads.
Bula! Once more unto the Bach, dear friends: it’s our third night in a row, and the end is still not in sight for this week.
(Please ignore the sound of suppressed sobbing. It’s definitely not me.)
Before we get into tonight’s recap, I want to talk a little about a Twitter discussion that was happening yesterday. Australian Bachie host Osher Gunsberg tweeted (I’m quoting from a few different tweets here and stitching them together, much as a Bachie producer might string soundbites together), ‘[l]ots of people asking me about a non-het bachelor (as they do every year). I AM ALL FOR IT,’ but ‘[t]he trick is how to get jeopardy/compelling drama that translates easily to a broad audience. Any show has to be compelling to get numbers. How to replace the jeopardy of scarcity in a non-het format? That’s the trick.’
…turns out I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about romance and reality TV, so you want ideas for a queer spin on the Bachie franchise? I’ve got some thoughts.
The problem of jeopardy
The prefix ‘hetero-‘ in the word ‘heterosexual’ means different, just as the prefix ‘homo-‘ in the word ‘homosexual’ means ‘same’ (for other uses, cf. ‘heterogeneous’ and ‘homogeneous’). The Bachelor/ette– meaning here the franchise proper, rather than the Paradise varietal – relies on that difference for its format. It assumes that people are attracted only to the opposite gender, so if you have one man and twenty-five women, then all the women will – because of the hermetically sealed nature of the environment – have to compete for the man. The argument against a queer Bach is that all the contestants would fall in love with each other instead of the Bach because there would not be that rigid boundary of difference, and thus the drama™ would disappear.
On the surface: sure. But let’s dig a little deeper.
Big news, friends: turns out bisexuality exists? There is absolutely nothing stopping bisexual contestants from entering the Bachie mansion at present, and absolutely nothing stopping them falling in love with each other. This happened in the Vietnamese franchise in 2018, and the internet was obsessed with it for a hot minute there. And of course, we cannot forget that it happened in our very own Australian franchise back in 2016 – remember Megan Marx and Tiffany Scanlon from Richie’s season?
When contestants have fallen in love, it’s been newsworthy. It’s been a talking point. It’s been that kind of watercooler television that Channel Ten is surely craving. Would there be a bigger chance of contestants falling for each other instead of for the Bach in a version of the franchise that wasn’t so deeply heteronormative? Sure…
…but is that necessarily a bad thing?
Let’s interrogate that concept of jeopardy for a second. I’d contend that there’s even more jeopardy there. You know how every Bachie comes in and stands in an outdoor shower and is like, ‘I’m just so petrified this won’t work and I’ll end up alone’? Imagine if there’s a genuine doubt there. Imagine if there’s a concern that the contestants might not want the Bachie because they’ve found a better option elsewhere. Wouldn’t that actually raise the jeopardy – and cause us to ask some interesting questions about why the Bachie in particular has been positioned as the romantic protagonist?
Also, you know how rose ceremonies are typically not very interesting until you get to the last rose and there’s drama over who’s going to get it? Imagine the suspense you could build if there was a real chance a Bachie would ask ‘will you accept this rose?’ and a contestant said ‘no, I’ve fallen in love with someone else’?
Osher, in some of his other tweets, asked for comp titles for queer dating formats. I’d point to Finding Prince Charming (2016), which replicated the Bachelor format but with all gay men. It’s worth noting that, if one was very concerned about replicating the current format closely, none of the contestants fell in love with each other.
The problem of scarcity
A lot of the suggestions I saw on Twitter for a twist on the Bachie franchise with queer contestants focused on Paradise. I agree that would work well, and work easily, and would be great television – and already has precedents with the couple-that-almost-was of Alex and Brooke last year.
But let’s think about the main franchise. Let’s say you’ve read what I had to say above and were like, ‘that’s hot nonsense, Jodi, people only want to see the Bach fall in love, and haven’t you even thought about the fact that the contestants spend all day every day with each other and only see the Bach for like five minutes? Of course no one would want to be with the Bach.’
Okay. Then there’s an obvious solution there: you don’t put all the contestants in one house.
I’m not saying that you need to put them in lockdown in isolation necessarily (though those of us who are living alone in the time of corona certainly have a lot of practice with that). It would probably require some very strict social media usage rules – which the franchise already has – but the contestants could just live at home and go about their daily lives, except for when they were on dates.
Imagine if the contestants never really encountered each other – they only encountered the Bach? Or if they only encountered each other at cocktail parties and rose ceremonies? Sure, you’d lose a lot of the interpersonal feud dramas that happen when people are all up in each other’s business 24/7, but a) you’d refocus on the romance, and b) you could get so much drama out of the fact that the other contestants would be desperately curious about each other’s identity. And also c) when you sent them all to Paradise the next year and they finally did get to hang out 24/7, the drama would be EPIC.
Oh, and it turns out…
…that a friend of mine who is ex-Bachie franchise and I might have come up with a framework for a take on the Bachieverse with a queer protagonist on the back of a napkin after a few wines in a bar last year. And then we might have written it up as a (low-budget!) pitch. So I might have been thinking about this for quite a while.
Ahem. Anyway. Let’s head back to the straights (I think?) on the beach and see what shenanigans they’re up to tonight.
We begin tonight with a new arrival. Enter:
Jackson (Angie’s season): the pie man! He didn’t really have many distinguishing features about him other than that he was the heir to a pie dynasty, but he seemed nice enough. Amazed his dad has let him away from the pie factory again, tbh.
Immediately, Jackson seeks out the lay of the land and tries to work out who’s single. He identifies two key options – Cass (who’s been exchanging friendship roses with Niranga) and Pagliacci Brittney (who’s in that whole weird thing with Jamie).
On that whole weird thing with Jamie: Jamie’s been very, ‘oh, um, we’re, ah, just friends’ whenever someone asks him about Brittney, but as soon as Jackson walks in, he’s all, ‘BRITTNEY AND I ARE A THING, THE END.’ He gets gently called out on it by several of his Paradise peers, but you can see the glint of panic in his eyes. The women have the rose power at the moment, and he’s worried that Jackson is going to snatch Brittney’s rose away from him.
But before this drama can unfold further, we have another new entrant! Meet:
Matt (Angie’s season): this is BMX Matt! I literally can’t think of him without the BMX prefix. Like, everyone was talking about Matt from Angie’s season before he turned up, and I was racking my brains trying to recall who he was.
BMX Matt enters with a date card, and it takes him about two seconds to decide who to give it to. ‘Renee, want to come on a date?’ he asks.
She delightedly accepts, but someone who’s not delighted is Ciarran. ‘I thought we were mates!’ he grumbles. ‘He should have come and talked to me before he took Renee on a date! That’s bro code!’
- I’m trying to think of a phrase I hate more than ‘bro code’ and there’s not much coming to mind.* Just call it ‘the patriarchy’ and be honest about it, lads.
- Do I even need to point out the irony of the fact that Ciarran has made his way through half of Paradise – and specifically, half of Renee’s friendship group – but somehow when someone wants to date Renee, he’s all, ‘I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DIDN’T ASK ME FOR MY SOLEMN BLESSING, MATE?’
Remember those times long ago when we were like, ‘Ciarran? What a feminist hero! I love how he thinks women are people!’?
Yeah, me neither.
Renee and Matt’s date is very cute! They ride a tandem bike (which I assume, as someone that knows nothing about bikes, is a BMX)! They drink red wine (WHYYYYYYYYYY)! They talk about how much they like each other (obviously they already know each other, remember that the majority of the drama is epitextual) and they have a mighty pash!
But Ciarran’s reaction to all of this is not very cute. ‘MATT IS A SNAKE!’ he seethes. ‘BRO CODE IS WHEN YOUR MATE HAS TO ASK YOU IF YOU’RE 100% FINISHED WITH THAT TOY BEFORE HE PLAYS WITH IT!’
Then Osher swoops in like an avenging angel to announce that the theme for that night’s not-MAFS dinner party will be ‘hey, have you heard about this concept called “double standards”?’. When the timing in this show is good, it’s very good.
Ciarran-wise, the dinner party goes about as well as you could expect. He’s all like, ‘mates respect the bro code!’ and Matt’s like, ‘I’ve known you for three months, and you’re not dating Renee any more, so… get it together, mate.’
And then just as we think we’re getting a thoughtful unpacking of how it’s bad to treat women as property, Jamie promptly goes and treats Brittney as property. ‘ALL MY ROSES HAVE GONE TO THE BIGGEST LEDGE IN PARADISE, I LOVE YOU, BRITTNEY!’ he says, and pointedly hugs and metaphorically pisses all over Pagliacci Brittney right at Jackson.
‘I hate that he’s treating me like his property!’ Brittney fumes, while Jackson’s pec twitches sadly.
Jackson does manage to pull Brittney aside later, and they have a sweet little chat. This is abetted a) by other Britt distracting Jamie by letting him manologue at her about he’s still horny for the departed island therapist Helena, and b) Jamie manologuing at The Boyz™ about he’s horny for Megan Marx and he hopes she turns up in Paradise, conveniently ignoring all of them being like, ‘… you remember how Jake yelled at everyone about friendship roses and left to be with her, right?’
But the easily distracted patriarchy in the form of a forty-year-old ex-firefighter is not the only force trying to break up the Pagliacci Pie empire. Cass is also Paradise single, and she’s got her eye on Jackson.
Although she might have another option! The next day, we get another entry:
Scot (Angie’s season): …IDK guys, he looks exactly the same as BMX Matt to me, just with slightly more eyebrow. He definitely wasn’t memorable in his original season.
Scot starts chatting straight away with Cass, and it seems like they’re getting on great! But then Jackson the pie man yoinks her away and gives her a back massage.
This leaves Brittney in tears. ‘I can’t believe Jamie has scared away a guy I actually like,’ she sobs.
But then! A wildcard last minute twist!
Cass, who’s been chatted up by both Scot and Jackson, tells Niranga, with whom she’s been exchanging roses, that he’s definitely not getting her rose this time. Approximately 0.02 seconds later, a date card arrives… for Niranga.
He looks around. He sees that the vast majority of women there are in established couples. ‘Brittney, you’re cool,’ he says. ‘Want to go on a date?’
And Brittney bursts into tears.
CLIFFHANGER! Catch you tomorrow, pals.
PS. I caught sight of the wine cap at the dinner party. They’re drinking Calabria wine – which is a Barossa winery, and thus shiraz specialists. I love Barossa shiraz, but it’s hard to think of a less appropriate wine for the tropics.
*maybe ‘Aussie battler’.
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: not only do I write about rose ceremonies, but I’ve written a book with a rose on the cover! If you like my writing (which, if you made it to the end of this monstrously long recap, I assume you do), don’t forget to check out my YA Valentine series, and you can always check in on me at my website: jodimcalister.com.au
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.