RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S4 E01

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S4 E01
The Bachelor Australia Season 4
Background photo: Robert Sheie (Flickr)

Dr Jodes’s beloved Bachie recaps has a new home! Meet the new Bachelor — beta hero, sexy hero, perfect unicorn man. And what does it say about Australia that our ideal man is a Nice Boy With Washboard Abs?

Once more, the time of year when romance steals primetime television from people crying while cooking has come. Bachie season has arrived! Cue shower of rose petals!

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That means it is also Bachie recap season, and my recaps are back for 2016. They have a new home here on Book Thingo, but it’s the same content which — I hope — you enjoyed last year: some nerdling about romance and the way we construct romantic narratives sprinkled liberally through jokes and barely veiled shipping.

If you haven’t read my Bachie recaps before: I’m a literary historian, and my PhD focused pretty closely on the way we construct narratives of love and sex in popular texts, and the way this has changed over time. More simply, I am basically Dr Love (and will 100% answer to this name). So, as I’m sure you can imagine, I have rather a lot to say about The Bachelor and its sister franchise The Bachelorette. (Some of which, if you’re interested, you can read in this book, coming out later this year.)

The first thing I’m going to say this year is OMG I AM SO EXCITED THAT RICHIE IS THE BACHIE. If you didn’t watch last year’s The Bachelorette, then you missed out on a treat. Our boy Richie may have failed to capture the heart of Sam Frost — he came in third — but he certainly captured literally everyone else’s hearts. Including mine. Bless him.

Richie is a dude who belongs to my favourite genre of dudes: the sexy dork. ‘Sexy’ is pretty obvious if you’ve ever seen a picture of him, particularly if you’ve ever seen a picture of him shirtless: he is a perfect golden Adonis of a man with abs you could scrub your laundry on. He works as a ‘rope access technician’, which, as far as I can tell, involves stringing ropes and dangling sexily from them on or near oil rigs, possibly doing chin-ups at the same time. His abs would certainly suggest so: I’m anticipating that his abs might appear more than his (perfect) face this season.

Source: Hollywood Treatment (Kat’s note: Three for one. You’re welcome.)

But it’s the ‘dork’ part of ‘sexy dork’ that really made Richie beloved to the hearts of many. This is the dude who panicked whenever a pretty girl (well, Sam Frost, as the fact that there is only one pretty girl is kind of the point of The Bachelorette) talked to him. ‘Cool bananas,’ was his response to her enquiries on their first encounter, and many which followed … a phrase which became a hashtag, a meme, and has led more than one person to make ‘OMG I would like to see Richie’s cool banana’ jokes.

This is the boy who got embarrassed about how competitive he was at dodgeball. This is the boy that Sam took on a date to a local bingo day, during which they both dressed up as old people, and in which he — wearing his finest grandpa cardigan — breakdanced. And this is the boy who, when Sam pressed him to tell her about his feelings, got all tongue-tied and instead of saying ‘I’m falling in love with you’, managed to say ‘I’m falling in you.’

To put it in romance novel terms: Richie is not an alpha hero. Australia had one of those a few seasons ago in Blake Garvey, and it did not go well (Blake is the only Australian Bachie not still in a relationship with his winner, and is regularly referred to by the epithet ‘dirty street pie’).

No, Richie is a beta hero. He is an adorable dork who gets nervous when the girl he likes is around, who has a secret liking for dad jokes, and who will definitely listen to you talk about your problems. He isn’t the dark, brooding, moody alpha hero who will sweep you off your feet with his passion. He’s the boy next door who wants to talk to you as well as sleep with you, who will go on stupid adventures with you and have a great time, and who is a bit embarrassed and overwhelmed by how much he likes you. And he does this while having washboard abs.

Basically: Richie is a perfect unicorn man, and I’m so glad he’s the Bachie, even though I — like everyone else — wish I could date him myself.

(Yeah, yeah, I know this perfect unicorn man is what they want me to believe. I’ve seen Unreal. But adorkable beta heroes are my favourite, and I am buying what they’re selling.)

The fact that this is the mode of masculinity that the (predominantly female) audience responded to last year — that this beta hero is the Bachelor, theoretically the most desirable man in the country — says some interesting things about the dominant romantic narratives in Australia right now. So often, we hear the tired refrain ‘women only like arseholes’, but this is not what we’re seeing in The Bachelor. Arseholes — dirty street pies — get vilified. Nice boys — not Nice Guys, who whinge about how women won’t date them even though they’re so niiiiiiiiiice, but genuinely nice boys — are in. Australia chose a romantic hero, and it chose Richie Strahan: sexy, awkward dork.

And I think that’s kind of cool. But anyway: to the recap part of the recap!

The first night of Bachie is always about one thing: meeting the women (or the men, if we’re talking Bachelorette). There’s a montage of Richie being adorkable and cuddly and abtacular, and an admission that he’s going to get flustered, panic, and say something silly — oh Richie, bless you — and then they’re straight into it.

One thing I want to mention, though: when Richie is asked what he’s looking for in a partner, he responds with ‘partner in crime’ and ‘copilot’. The former is something that pops up a lot in popular romantic discourse (cough Tinder bios cough), and I find it really interesting. It signals a move towards an egalitarian partnership model of romance rather than one with a conquering — usually masculine — passionate force, but it also draws on notions of love from earlier centuries as subversive and potentially destructive. It’s only relatively recently, historically speaking, that romantic love has been viewed as constructive — as the building block of the family and society — rather than as a dangerous passion tearing it apart. ‘Partner in crime’ has both this constructive nuance but also the older destructive one, and it intrigues me.

Anyway. The ladies! There are many sparkly dresses and many iterations of ‘oh wow/crikey, you look amazing/awesome!’ from Richie, but some notables, in alphabetical order:

Alex the poetry-reciting single mother

She is a romantic heroine in the mode of Snezana from last year and she reads him a poem in the mode of Bec Hewitt’s ‘Rebecca Hewitt! I’m your wife! / I promise you one thing: stick with me and you’ll have a bloody good life’. Richie gives her the white rose, which is the Uber-Special Rose of Specialness which means she is guaranteed uninterrupted solo facetime with the Adorkable One at any cocktail party. Just take her straight to the finale.

Eliza the awkward butt-of-joke songstress

She sang a song to Richie and it was … not good. There’s always one they edit to make look completely and utterly ridiculous, and Eliza got the short straw here.

Janey the princess

She dresses up as a princess for kids’ parties, and is the one we get every season who has 100% bought into fairy tale ideals. Despite the fact the show is a Cinderella fantasy, the hardcore fairy tale girls always get mocked a little bit. Most notable for the fact that she deliberately left her shoe behind after first meeting Richie, and he didn’t get that she was doing a Cinderella bit and chased after her to give it back to her. Bless his cotton socks.

Keira the mean one with the black velvet choker of meanness

They always have to cast a Regina George — the one who makes fun of everyone’s dresses, appearances, personalities, etc. They never, ever win, but they do take over the show for at least the first few episodes while everyone deals with The Regina Problem.

Megan who loves mermaids

She loves water and aquatic adventures, etc. She says that love is like free-diving, and then something about being on the bottom of the ocean, which makes love sound a bit frightening, really? But Richie likes her, and she’ll clearly be around a while, because he gives her a rose before the rose ceremony. And hey, mermaids and sirens and suchlike have a long romantic history, luring sailors to their deaths. Perhaps the modern mermaid lures them to (group) dates?

Noni the bacon girl

Literally campaigning for Richie’s heart on the platform ‘I love bacon so much I had it tattooed on my body’.

Olena the bringer of Ukrainian wisdom

Gave Richie a phrase in Ukrainian and made him come and find her to get it translated. It is a Maya Angelou quote, which probably didn’t need to be translated into Ukrainian and then translated back, but still, 10/10 tactic. Well played.

Tiffany the workout wonder

Challenges Richie to a ‘plank off’. He wins this, of course, considering his body is entirely made of abs, but is so impressed by her planking skills and her willingness to plank in a ballgown that he gives her the first rose.

Vintaea the queen of swearing

In her first two sentences to Richie, she manages to say both ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ — but it’s okay, he reassures her, because he works on an oil rig, and can hold his own with ‘that lingo’. She then proceeds to tell the camera she wants to ‘eat his face’. I love her and already want her to have her own show where she fights crime and triumphs over evil.

The first episode of any Bachie series is always expository: it’s a lay-of-the-land sort of thing, a visual dramatis personae, as we meet all the characters and get an early sense of the interaction. There are some Bachie archetypes that are usually filled (although interestingly, Australian Bachie shies away from them a little bit more than other Bachie franchises), so here’s a rundown of who’s who:

The Wifeys (term stolen from Unreal, AKA one of the best shows on television): Alex and Megan, who we might as well send straight to the final few episodes.

The Villainess, who will be eliminated fairly quickly but will dominate screentime while she’s there: Keira, obviously, as possessor of the black velvet choker of meanness.

The One Who Is Not All There, who the producers clearly make the Bachie keep around for entertainment value: Eliza the unfortunate songstress, who would not stop singing the same terrible song.

The Too Intensely Romantic One, who will be portrayed as ‘desperate’: Janey the princess seems to be heading fast in this direction.

The Chorus of Quirk, AKA the one-note wacky ones who will either get developed later into whole people, or (more likely) eliminated when the joke wears thin: Noni the bacon girl, any number of others who blended together and whose names I can’t remember, many of whom are offsiders to the Villainess.

And so all of these characters meet, interact, explicitly and implicitly judge each other. They’re all desperate to chat with Richie, but the ethics of when it’s all right to poach him from another girl are never set out, presumably so the narrative can be constructed any which way in editing. And then in the end there’s a rose ceremony.

No one of any note gets eliminated: although sadly, Vintaea — exquisitely foul-mouthed Vintaea — chooses to leave of her own accord, because all these sparkly dress shenanigans are not for her. Farewell, O Mighty Swearing One. In a just world, you would become the Bachelorette, and would find the swear-y man of your dreams.

What is of note, though, is that the Adorkable Nice Boy Hero narrative remains intact. Either some genius is deliberately coaching Richie to embody this persona, or he really is that nice, or some combination of these … but honestly, I kind of don’t care, because I am FASCINATED to see how Richie and Team Bachie are going to negotiate maintaining this image when the show revolves around him dumping women in a rose-related ritual every week.

Some select Richie-isms from tonight:

‘What turns you on?’ Uttered to a contestant. He was trying to ask her what her hobbies and passions were, but it got totally messed up and he ended up red-faced and trying to backpedal and apologise while the contestant (Keira the villainess) laughed at him.

‘I’m dirty 50% of the time.’ Describing his work life on an oil rig, wherein he lives in overalls and is covered in grease. But I think all our minds went to an entirely different places, and … only 50%, Richie? Wink wink.

And my personal favourite:

‘It certainly did take me by surprise how many girls wanted to say g’day to me.’ Oh Richie, it is literally not possible that you are such a perfect wide-eyed sunflower man.

The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.

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Jodi is a Lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. Her research focuses on the history of love, sex, women, and popular culture, so reading romance novels is technically work for her. Shed a tear for Jodi. Jodi is also an author, and her series about smart girls and murder fairies is published by Penguin Teen Australia. One time, the first book, Valentine, was featured on Neighbours, and she nearly fainted with joy.

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