RECAP: The Bachelorette Australia – S2 E01

RECAP: The Bachelorette Australia – S2 E01
The Bachelorette Australia Season 2
Background photo: Morning Rose by Pamela Kelly (Flickr)

So we have sent our nation’s vaguely disappointing but extremely chiselled Mr Bingley Richie Strahan off into the sunset with this lady Alex. But now it is time for the tables to be turned: it’s time for The Bachelorette!

This lady-led version of Bachie always feels less gross than the man-led variety. There are a lot of reasons for this, but it’s largely because The Bachelorette upends some of the more pernicious elements of The Bachelor. We feel really uncomfortable watching ladies compete with each other in The Bachelor: that anxiety is taken away in The Bachelorette. We get REALLY uncomfortable with a man positioned as a prize, the ultimate goal for women in The Bachelor: but in The Bachelorette, the script is flipped.

This is not to say that The Bachelorette is some huge great feminist triumph or something, but I think there is distinct pleasure to be found in inverting the usual norms. We don’t have a huge amount of narratives in our culture about a lady with a whole harem of lovers, and so there’s something a bit thrillingly transgressive about it. (Well, I suppose we have texts like Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake books [ BT | Amz | iT ] or Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries [ BT | Amz | iT ] , but they’re working on the same principle: there’s something thrilling and forbidden about a lady with a lot of boyfriends.) And putting a woman in a position of power, where she has romantic agency — there’s something I like a lot about that.

There’s the optimistic stuff! However, this season of The Bachelorette begins with a whole bunch of rhetoric which really, reeeeeeeally bummed me out.

Our new heroine, Georgia Love (yes, that’s really her name), is a successful career-lady in a competitive field: broadcast journalism. But there’s just one thing missing — a man of her very own.

And so she quits her job in search of true love — in search of ‘the one’. ‘Your career’s not going to come and hug you at night,’ she says.

Cue record scratch.

This is rhetoric you just straight up will not hear in The Bachelor. I’m sure old mate Richie hasn’t exactly been doing a ton of FIFO work since his debut in the Bachie franchise, but it’s certainly not something that was emphasised as a part of that narrative. But in The Bachelorette? You can have a career, or you can have love, but you can’t have both. Richie can work and find a lady, but Georgia Love can’t work and find a man.

Of course, in reality, Georgia Love can absolutely go back to journalism or whatever after Bachie is finished (with a considerably raised profile), but that’s not the way the narrative is framed: and the way we construct our love stories is, I think, incredibly telling. Women must give up things for love: they must earn it. Men don’t have the same pressures: they don’t have to earn love, they just have to find it.

But it’s not all bad news: despite this problematic rhetoric, Georgia Love seems like an absolute peach. She’s funny and poised and keeps it together, and you guys, there’s this one magnificent moment when one of this year’s Designated Douchebags™ tries to impress her and she just SHUTS IT DOWN. He says, ‘this means nothing, it’s just a romantic strategy’ to her in French in order to make her think that he is OMG SO MYSTERIOUS AND DEEP, but she’s just like, ‘LOL bro, I speak French,’ and he slinks away all embarrassed.

… I think I got more pleasure out of that single moment than I did out of the entirety of Richie’s season. I am so on board with you, Georgia Love.

So, as this is the first episode of the season, one of its key missions is for us to meet the suitors for our queen Georgia Love’s hand in romantical happy-ever-after-ness. Therefore, let us embark on a dramatis personae of some of the key players.

Cameron — He is a fireman. He believes in fairy tales. And, as Georgia Love immediately ascertains, he is Mr May in this year’s firemen calendar. He also loves Disney, and probably rainbows and puppies, etc, too. Wifey alert. (Note that he gets to be a wifey while princess-obsessed Janey in Richie’s season was pigeonholed as one of the weirdos, and sigh.)

Jake — Looks like Taylor Lautner, and is very discombobulated when he hears that Georgia Love’s father is a urologist who specialises in erectile dysfunction. Also wears a signet ring, to, I don’t know, seal letters or something?

Courtney — Manages to transcend a dreadful paisley shirt to be a little bit adorbs by giving Georgia Love a pasta bracelet, because that is the way he first displayed his love for a girl at age seven. Also makes allergy bracelets for kids for a living, which seems lovely and noble. Bless.

Rhys — Job description: model/entrepreneur. The aforementioned purveyor of bad French pickup lines. Looks like grown up Harry Potter. Pretty face wasted on an obvious douchebag. Also he gets into an immediate bromance with Aaron, another contestant: to the extent where Georgia Love says she feels like she’s the third wheel in their conversation.

Lee — OMG I ALREADY SHIP IT SO HARD. He brings her a donkey, says, ‘do you think my ass looks big in this?’ and then they try and one-up dad joke each other and just sail me away on the HMAS Lee + Georgia Love because I am ON BOARD.

Clancy — Perhaps Lee’s biggest competition. He is extremely — like, EXTREMELY — handsome. He has a beard, and tells Georgia Love she can shave it off if she wants, because he wants what she wants. And she does shave it off, and honestly I’m a bit bummed about that, because I liked it. But still: strong contender.

Carlos — Carlos is an ex-stripper/current entrepreneur, running his own male stripping company. He says if he wanted to wow Georgia Love with his body, he would do it, and give her the ol’ bump and grind. But instead, he wants to make a vry srs impression on her, so he gives her a Tiffany bracelet instead. ‘I’m comfortable in any situation — with or without clothes,’ he tells her earnestly. She is clearly laughing so hard at him on the inside.

Ben — Ben hails from my hometown Wollongong. He mentions the phrase ‘nervous poo’ several times. He also exclaims, ‘she didn’t spill a drop — marriage material!’ when Georgia Love trips down the stairs but saves herself without spilling her drink. Gong represent, I guess.

Sam — This season’s villain. He is ‘intimidated by girls who are independent and don’t need a man’. He tries to neg Georgia Love on several occasions and she pretty much shuts it down (‘Usually girls agree with everything I say and she disagreed with everything!’ he exclaims). He looks like Nate from Gossip Girl, aka the most boring character in the history of television. He thinks his biggest competition is himself. And oh my, we are going to hate him, my friends.

The cocktail party dynamics on The Bachelorette are always a bit different than the ones on The Bachelor. While the women try to navigate the awkward rules of when it’s all right to snag the Bachie for some conversation, the male variety of this ritual generally turns into a genial backslapping session which disguises the pissing contest going on underneath.

And this instance, said pissing contest explodes in a bout of competitive yoga. If this is the new way that men prove their masculinity to each other, I am totally on board. As, it seems, is Georgia Love, who sips champagne and laughs in the ocean of fragile masculinity around her.

She has a first impression rose to give out. This rose is white in The Bachelor, but it’s orange here. This actually makes more sense, because while white roses represent friendship, orange roses represent fascination: much more apt for the circumstances. This rose goes to pasta bracelet Courtney. Along with it, he gets a golden date card, which means he gets to plan a single date for himself and Georgia Love, as well as a group date (on which he gets to select the dudes in attendance). This is quite different to the way the white rose was used on The Bachelor this year, so I’m interested to see how this one plays out. Note, however, that it’s returning agency and power to the hands of men, and so un-subverting the subverting aspects of The Bachelorette. Not my fave, tbh.

(Coming back to symbolism: just a note on bracelets, because Courtney’s pasta bracelet forms an obvious pair with Carlos’ Tiffany bracelet. The bracelet is reminiscent of the manacle — there are connotations of entrapment and ownership. In this sense, the diamond bracelet becomes a little sinister, and we can read all kinds of capitalist nastiness in it. But the pasta bracelet, with its overtones of innocence and childishness, becomes tied more to emotion. It’s not a bracelet that will hold you back — no one is going to be restrained by pasta — and because it’s not especially decorative, it becomes a display of affection and sentiment.)

And then it is time for the rose ceremony! Courtney, as possessor of the orange rose, is automatically safe. Obvious wifeys Lee, Clancy, and Cameron follow soon after — you could probably just send this lot to the final four now. Clear villain Sam is last, and it leaves him shaken: ‘I didn’t really question whether I’d done anything wrong until that moment,’ he says, as he stands there waiting for the very last rose to be given out. If we get a narrative arc that focuses on him getting schooled in the ways of not being a dick by Queen Georgia Love, I am here for it (though as a queen, she should not waste too much time on him).

Eliminated tonight are Dale (a nobody) and Carlos, the neighbourhood Magic Mike. He was also the only non-white contestant, so now Bachie is back in that space of unbearable whiteness that it so awkwardly inhabits. You need to be better at this, Bachie.

But this season of The Bachelorette is already distinctly better than The Bachelor at one thing, and that is ‘having a narrative’. Georgia Love is a heroine we can root for, there are some promising heroes in there, and this is shaping up to be SO much better than the disappointment that was Bachie Richie.

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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