In which Dr Jodes dives deep into the romantic capitalist fantasy, Australian masculinity, and modern developments in romantic culture. All this, with abs on the side.
And we’re back! It’s the second episode of Perfect Unicorn Man Gets A Harem. Last night, we met our cast of female characters. Tonight, it’s time for our unicorn man to start taking them on dates.
A nerd word before we begin about dating: this ritual, which is an enormous part of Bachie, is actually a fairly recent invention in terms of the great history of romance. It’s only in the early twentieth century that we can really talk about ‘dating culture’. This was part of a shift called ‘front porch to back seat’ by some sex/love/relationships historians, where practices shifted from men calling on women in their homes (courtship) to men and women going out together into the world.
… I wonder what a courtship version of Bachie would look like. That would be … intriguing.
Anyway, when dating became a really big thing, romance and capitalism also became super entwined: Eva Illouz said that the advent of dating ‘marked the symbolic and practical penetration of romance by the market’. This is because all those people going out on dates needed to do something, and so romance began intertwined with money-spending practices: giving roses, buying dinner, going to the movies.
In Bachie, the Bachie — unicorn man Richie, in this case — and the lucky lady leave the domestic space of the Bachelor mansion (or, less kindly, the harem), and go out into the world. While we don’t see Richie spending any actual money, the dates are obvious extravaganzas, deeply embedded in a capitalist romantic fantasy.
Anyway. Let’s get embedded in the fantasy and get into the recap.
The ladies, gathered on Morning #1 at the mansion, receive their first date card from Osher. The idea that a dude bursts into your house with a gilded invitation summoning one or more of you on a date is so wonderfully ridiculous that I don’t even know what to say about it, but the Bachie traditions are so well established now that the ladies blow right past it, desperate to know who has been summoned.
It is Nikki, about whom I remember nothing except that she was first out of the limo and wore a sparkly dress. But so did everyone else, so really I only remember that first thing.
Richie comes to pick her up by helicopter, because this is Bachie, and why would you do something so plebeian as driving if you could travel like Bronwyn Bishop? The ladies gather in the backyard to greet him, and we meet the show’s true hero: Megan who loves mermaids, who says hello to Richie while tenderly nursing a jar of Nutella and a spoon. If that doesn’t give her first dibs to be the next Bachelorette, I don’t know what will.
Richie whisks Nikki off in the helicopter. ‘When I’m usually in helicopters, I’m flying to work with some big sweaty men,’ he tells her. ‘It’s much nicer here with you.’
This is a bit of a running theme in Richie’s conversation, actually — someone will tell him something is OMG SO ROMANTIC, and he’ll be like, ‘but I normally do this with my dude friends … but I guess it is romantic with you.’ For example, Nikki asks him if he likes camping, and when he says he does, she makes a quip about romantic campfires, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m normally sitting round them with the boys.’ Part of the Sexy Dork Richie package is that he’s not put all the way together: he’s not exactly, shall we way, smooth. Bless him.
What he is, though, is smoking hot and covered in abs, as Nikki gleefully recounts after they land at a private beach and go frolicking in the waves. Then they bust out the token Bachie Notebook Rowboat — for verily, they have read their Nicholas Sparks — and row out a little way. Richie nearly takes Nikki’s eye out with an errant champagne cork which pops out before he’s ready. ‘CRIKEY!’ he exclaims.
Insert premature ejaculation joke of your choice here.
All this said, their date on the beach really is quite sweet. Someone’s told Richie the buzzwords he needs to hit — I don’t think he said ‘chemistry’ or ‘connection’ AT ALL last night, so someone must have pulled him aside and told him about how he has to talk about ‘opening up’ and putting a ‘wall’ around your emotions.
He does something interesting with it, though: he identifies inability to express emotions as something specific to Australian masculinity, and something his time on The Bachelorette helped him to combat. This latter point speaks to quite a modern development in romantic culture, one identified by the historian Francesca Cancian: the idea that romance makes you a better person, that it’s part of a project of self-improvement. Previously, self-development was a masculine narrative, while romantic love was a feminine one: men could develop themselves on their own, while women were imagined as being defined by their attachments to others. But the romantic narrative has been changing, and now we have the notion expressed by Richie here: romantic love is a place where self-development can take place, both for men and women.
… I am going to get so many academic articles out of Richie and his thoughts on love, is what I’m saying.
And then Richie gives Nikki a rose and they kiss: but, as Nikki clarifies to the other ladies back at the house, they did NOT pash. This distinction is important.
(Richie announces that the kiss was ‘nice’, bless him.)
Next up is a group date, and it’s the photo shoot for Woman’s Day that is the first group date of every season on Bachie. The group date photo shoot that Richie was in, as part of his time as a contestant, was basically the best photo shoot in the history of time, as it involved shirtless dudes snuggling with puppies.
The theme for this one is way less good than abs/dogs/hugs. It’s a 1950s theme, and considering the way women were positioned in romantic discourse and culture more broadly in the long 1950s, I am not especially impressed by this choice. Let’s just say that it’s not accidental that the 1960s, with all the free love and whatnot, came next. As Philip Larkin says in Annus Mirabilis:
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me)
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.
And also, the men’s fashions in the 1950s were not the greatest, and they manage to cover the SACRED ABS OF BACHIE RICHIE with some of the ugliest shirts I have ever seen in my entire life.
Photo shoot highlights include Keira the villainess trying to share a milkshake with Richie, while getting increasingly annoyed at being cockblocked by Sasha the sassy Russian lady, who is playing the waitress. They also include Richie posing with Alex the single mother, aka the white rose recipient, against a cherry-red Cadillac while dressed as Danny Zuko. Lucky they didn’t put him in that iconic James Dean red shirt, or that shoot would have had a whole different nuance.
Then Richie confesses that Alex gives him ‘butterflies in his stomach’, which is a typically feminised description of romantic attraction, and I get ideas for like five more research papers. Thanks, Bachie.
The next day, Richie turns up to the mansion on a motorbike to whisk another lady, Olena, away on a date. ‘OMG he looks like such a bad boy!’ one of the women enthuses.
Richie, who is obviously the opposite of a bad boy, then fusses for like twenty minutes helping Olena into her helmet, because safety first, obvs.
The Richie/Olena romance narrative is constructed in such a way that we KNOW she’ll be around for a while. They jump straight into deep conversation (the classic Bachie ‘opening up’). Richie tells her that his parents split while he was young, and he grew up sans father figure. He admits that he was ‘a bit of a ratbag’ — which, given that whole perfect unicorn man image he has going on, is extremely difficult to believe — but that he was straightened out by being raised by his mother and his sister. Being raised by women has obviously helped him in becoming that perfect unicorn man, so let’s just pause for a minute and sigh.
Richie then takes Olena back to his Bachie Pad. He shows her around, evidently brimming with excitement at his cool new digs. ‘Wait till you see the sleeping quarters,’ he enthuses, and then promptly groans in embarrassment as Olena starts laughing.
If someone is coaching Richie on these awkward accidental double entendres, you are a genius and I love your work.
After some obligatory time spent with Richie’s abs as he and Olena take a swim, he gives her a rose. ‘I’m incredibly interested in what you have to say,’ he tells her earnestly. I, who am currently working on a research project on romantic love, the erotics of talk, and the search for an ideal listener, start taking notes furiously. Bless your cotton socks, Richie.
Then it’s cocktail party time! These are mostly pretty same-y in all Bachie franchises — everyone wants time with Richie, everyone gets cross at the women that get it — but there are a couple of interesting things to note.
The first — and most important — is that Alex uses her white rose to access the secret alone time room that said rose gives her: and it’s a LITERAL IVORY TOWER. No one ever accused Bachie of being subtle.
Richie and Alex have an adorable conversation that is mostly about football: he’s a West Coast supporter, and goes into absolute conniptions when he hears she supports Collingwood. ‘But you’re the prettiest Collingwood supporter I’ve ever seen!’ he tells her. SOMEONE PUT THAT LINE IN A ROMANCE NOVEL. RIGHT NOW. THIS SECOND.
Also, you might want to put this one in there too, while you’re at it: ‘I want to meet a girl — or a lady — or a woman,’ he tells Alex, correcting himself, presumably as he realises that ‘girl ‘s not really the right word to use to refer to a grown-ass woman. OH RICHIE. HOW ARE YOU (CONSTRUCTED AS) THIS UTTERLY PERFECT.
Seriously, they are never going to find a sexier dork to be Bachie than Richie. Whoever they have next year will never be this adorable.
After Alex returns from the ivory tower, Keira the villainess lays into her. Apparently, Alex’s use of the rose makes her a bad person, and she, Keira, the wise and virtuous, would never have done such a wicked thing as dare to talk to the dude that she wants to date.
We are clearly meant to dislike Keira and be entirely Team Alex the Angelic Single Mother … and we mostly are. But Keira is wearing pretty amazing dragonfly earrings, of which I am pretty jealous, so there’s that, I guess.
It’s still too early in the season for the rose ceremony to be particularly eventful: two ladies left, and I couldn’t tell you anything about either of them. So let us reflect instead on this weirdness — how strange must it be to live in a house, a house which is essentially a harem, which a dude visits once or twice a week so as to ritualistically reject some of you in a room set aside specifically for that purpose? Imagine having the miasma of rejection haunting your living space like that. What on earth must that feel like?
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.