The marvellous misadventures of the sentient emoji
Oh my god, we’re Bach again, because Channel Ten just can’t resist pouring buckets of episodes of this show on our heads, like we’re teen actors and this is the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. Take a deep breath, because we’re going in.
…after I write a mini-essay after something tangentially related, that is. Just like you have to wade through a bunch of personal thoughts before you get to the recipe on recipe blogs, here you have to wade through my academic stylings to get to the recap.
We ended last night’s episode with things almost coming to fisticuffs between the men, and Ciarran and BMX Matt aggressively pressing their foreheads together in that way that means something’s about to happen (but probably not kissing, alas). Because of that, I thought I’d spend a little time on men, fisticuffs, and romance, and the role fighting has played in the history of heterosexual romance.
You all know the King Arthur story, right? We often think of this as a Dark Ages story – if there was a historical Arthur, then he was probably kicking around in, like, the sixth century AD – but the Arthurian legend as it has been passed down to us is a bit more medieval. Specifically, a lot of the story came out of French medieval romance traditions, which were deeply informed by a notion called courtoisie, or, more commonly, courtly love.
I don’t have time to go deep into the history here (let’s just say that it’s interesting! and courtly love probably existed more in theory than practice!), but according to Louis-Georges Tin, prior to the emergence of courtly love in the romance traditions of the twelfth century, the relationships valued most highly in Western society were homosocial bonds between men (2008, 3-5). Tin argues that the impact of that cultural transition is often underestimated, and it still might not entirely be resolved: he argues that a lot of scholars ‘largely ignore the decidedly confrontational transition from a feudal culture characterised by male friendships to a courtly society characterised by heterosexual love’ (2008, 16-17).
If you’ve seen a representation of courtly love, chances are a) it’s Arthurian, and b) it involves jousting. Think Lancelot tying Guinevere’s hanky to his sleeve and fighting as her champion in jousting tournaments or whatever. He was fighting as her champion, and this was an expression of love. The whole idea of courtly love was that it was expressed from a knight to a woman of high social standing, but that she should not reciprocate (indeed, reciprocation was positioned as destructive – Lancelot and Guinevere really fucked up). Instead, he fought for her selflessly and as an act of chivalry.
Most of the cultural baggage behind courtly love has fallen away, but this idea of fighting as a woman’s champion has remained. We might argue that Glenn has stepped in this role for Alisha a couple of times in Paradise (while also allowing her time and space to fight her own battles – something courtly love did not allow for!). However, this association of men and heterosexuality and fighting has also mutated in other ways: specifically, fighting over women, because even though courtly love had some nice aspects it took place under deep patriarchy, and women were positioned as objects.
Remember how Louis-Georges Tin said that society has never really adequately recovered from that shift from placing homosocial male relationships at the societal pinnacle to revering heterosexual romantic love? The stupid little shitfight that the lads of Paradise had last night is, I think, a perfect example of that. Ciarran and Timm aren’t offended that Matt pursued Renee and punching on because they’re acting as Renee’s champions. Rather, they’re offended that he violated the bonds of their homosocial bond by placing heterosexual love ahead of it.
In short: ‘the bro code’ is an expression of an extremely old paradigm in Western culture, and one that we still haven’t adequately managed to reckon with. And it’s a space in which women are not just unwelcome but kind of irrelevant – even if the fight is nominally ‘about’ them.
Are we all feeling good/depressed about the links between last night’s roll around in the bin juice of toxic masculinity and a great unresolved issue at the heart of Western culture? Cool beans. Let’s get on with the recap.
First, let’s check in with the main players from last night’s toxic boy brouhaha.
Ciarran: not a care in the world, frolicking around in the water with Kiki, who he apparently dickmatized into not caring about the Jess thing.
Matt: apologising to Renee for getting involved in #drama.
Timm: …showing signs of emotional maturity?
Caveat: I’m not sure how ready I am to buy into these signs of emotional maturity. Anyone who watched Angie’s Bachelorette season and then this season of Paradise has clearly been hurt before.
But Timm paces around and around for a bit, and then goes and grabs Britt. ‘This place isn’t good for me, Britt,’ he tells her. ‘I’m not myself here. But I would regret it so badly if I left here without you. Will you leave with me now?’
Britt doesn’t hesitate. ‘Absolutely,’ she says. ‘If this is going to work on the outside, then we’re not going to work that out in here.’
It has been absolutely mystifying me all season what someone as cool and normal as Britt has been seeing in Timm – but maybe this occasional flash of emotional literacy is why?
(God, the bar is low. So unbelieeeeeeeeeeeevably low.)
And then they apparently just… leave. Without telling anyone. Thank god Jamie’s already been eliminated, or there would have been scenes.
But we don’t have time to think about that! There’s a new entry. Meet:
Mia (Richie’s season): I have literally no memory of her at all. Not one.
Mia is trying to scope out who’s single when – gasp! – a date card arrives! It’s all happening! Everyone expects the card will be for Mia or yesterday’s newbie Keely, but it’s not: it’s for BMX Matt.
Obviously he takes Renee, and obviously Ciarran grumbles about it. Timm might have showed a few signs of emotional maturity, but it’s tumbleweeds when it comes to his terrible little friend.
For their date, Renee and BMX Matt go and fly a heart-shaped kite. They have a lot of trouble, which leads to a lot of ‘oh no, I can’t get it up’ jokes, and ‘oh no, what if this kite is a symbol for our relationship!’ concerns, and look: this date probably cost three dollars, and it’s one of the best dates the franchise has ever planned in terms of concept. You don’t need a helicopter or a superyacht – you just need a metaphor.
(I have written this many times before, but Bachie: hire me as a date consultant. You don’t even know the things I could do for you.)
And it looks like the kite might have been a very accurate metaphor. ‘Are we ready to go full steam ahead?’ BMX Matt asks.
‘I don’t know,’ Renee replies. ‘It’s hard, you know? With Ciarran watching?’
Back on the beach, I can’t believe I’m saying this but: something good is happening for Pagliacci Brittney?! She and Jackson the pie man throw a footie around, and then they go and have a lil picnic, and then they have a great pash, and Brittney does this thing where she effortlessly switches hands with her champagne glass halfway through, and it’s honestly iconic. What a heroine she’s turned out to be.
Obviously now that Jackson the pie man has realised that she is his heroine, he has to break up with Cass. ‘Yeah, I don’t care,’ Cass says icily. ‘Whatever.’
Reader, I suspect she does care. I suspect she cares a lot.
Someone else who cares a lot about being broken up with but is pretending she doesn’t is Keira. Alex finally gets up the courage to break up with her, and she’s like, ‘um, you’re breaking up with me? I thought I made it clear I was breaking up with you?’
But Keira is also rose-savvy, and she’s worked out she can bully Alex into just about anything, so even though Alex and new entrant Keely are a little bit into each other, she sets off on a Scare Alex Into Giving Keira A Rose quest.
(I have a major editing question here. All the conversations Keira has with Alex are very one-sided, and… are they editing Alex’s half out, or does he just not believe in sentences?)
The first step in Keira’s plan is to announce to everyone (especially Keely) that HEY ALEX IS DEFINITELY GIVING ME A ROSE, YOU GUYS! Glenn the island therapist, king of de-escalation, promptly asks Alex if this is true (it isn’t), and when Alex is like, ‘uh, um, Keira, did you, uh, tell everyone I was giving you my, uh, rose?’, she’s like, ‘well, that was the impression that I got! how isn’t the memory that you have?!’
But: plotlines collide! Keira isn’t the only one scheming for Alex’s rose.
‘Alex, I’ve been into you from the start,’ Cass tells him.
This piece of dialogue is placed right after a talking head where she’s like ‘yeah, Alex? not for me’. We don’t know when this was actually filmed, of course, but if I was teaching juxtaposition to some high school English students, this would be the example I’d use.
‘…what?’ Alex says faintly.
Maybe they are editing Alex’s sides of these conversations out. Maybe he does believe in sentences. Maybe he is actually loquacious and a spectacular orator. But the Alex that’s being presented to us – the Alex that these women (who have clear personalities, even if they don’t come across as especially nice) are fighting over – is basically a smiley face with a man-bun.
And that’s what the cocktail party boils down to. After Scot and Mia effectively couple up (they paddle a giant flamingo inflatable out to sea and IDK, they might still be lost there, they did not get much camera time afterwards), we’ve got three women – Keira, Cass, and Keely – all vying to get a rose from a sentient emoji.
Let’s take a quick survey of their approaches:
Keira: pick someone that makes you happy! like a friend! oh! we’re friends! pick me!
Keely: hey, I like you. Keira put me off, but I’m not scared of her. I think we could be something.
Cass: Keira’s frightening, hey? You should definitely eliminate her.
It seems clear which way this is going to go, right?
So: it’s the rose ceremony. It all progresses the way you expect it to. Brittney gets the first (!) rose from Jackson the pie man. The couples fall into place: Ciarran and Kiki, Conor and Mary, Glenn and Alisha, Scot and Mia, BMX Matt and Renee.
That just leaves Alex. And…
…‘Keira,’ he says.
I have to assume Alex had a thought process here. Like, he’s a sentient being with consciousness. Of course he had a thought process.
Did the show tell us what it was, tho? Absolutely fucking not. Lol.
That’s the end of this episode, but: if what you really need in your life is even more of my spicy takes, I recorded a bonus episode of the podcast Nearly Beloved, where we talked all things Bachie. Check it out in all the pod places!
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.