Sophie Monk is the Bachelorette, and I’m going to make a big claim: this is one of the greatest things to happen in the history of reality TV.
We’ve waved Matty J off into the sunset with Laura (like we knew we would from, like, the second the show started), so now it’s time to get down to the really good stuff.
Our Sophie is, of course, a doyenne of reality TV in Australia. In 2000, she rose to fame via Popstars (one of Australia’s premier cultural products), and was a founding member of Bardot, best known for their debut single Poison (also one of Australia’s premier cultural products). Then, she was 19. Now, at 37, she’s returned to the wonderful world of reality TV, and she’s looking for love.
There are several things I love about this casting.
- As far as celebrities go, Sophie Monk is quality QUALITY casting. Like, read basically any interview with her ever and it will immediately become evident that she is completely excellent. I can’t wait to see her deal with, like, the fuckbois that write her poetry and try to rap for her and shit.
- She’s quite unusual casting. She is, by her own admission, a ‘massive bogan’, and that’s not the kind of character we typically see in a lot of love stories in Australian culture (though, as the fan reaction to Tara shows, maybe it’s one we want). I wrote a little about this when I wrote about the extremely white casting of Matty’s season, but because the concepts of ‘love’ and ‘story’ are so intertwined, who we cast as the protagonists in a love story – who we see as deserving of love – is quite important. This season appears to have the same problems with diverse casting, but considering the word ‘bogan’ is typically used as a classed slur in Australian vernacular, I really like Sophie’s casting and her framing of it.
- She’s 37, which makes her one of the older, if not the oldest, Bachelorette I’m aware of, at least in English-speaking countries. We allow men to age gracefully and remain extremely viable romantic prospects – Nick Viall, the most recent American Bachelor, was 36, and barely a peep was said about that (and the next American Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr, is also 36, and that hasn’t been mentioned at all in any coverage I’ve seen) – but not women. And so to see an older (god, I can’t believe I just called a 37-year old woman ‘older’, that’s bananas) woman cast as a romantic lead is quite important: who we cast as worthy of love is, in my important, really vital to the way we think about romance.
In summary: as if there was ever going to be any doubt, I am 100% Team Sophie, and I have this to say to the men on her season.
DON’T YOU TREAT HER BAD DON’T YOU MAKE HER SAD YOUR LOVE COULD BE AS DEEP AS THE O-O-OCEAN IF YOU CAN’T BE TRUE I’VE GOT NEWS FOR YOU JUST REMEMBER I CAN BE POOOOOOOOISON
So that’s Sophie – one quick word on The Bachelorette itself and I’ll get to the actual recap. It always feels a million times less gross than The Bachelor, because it puts a woman in a position of choice and agency, where she gets to set the terms of the romance. You can’t go and call it a massive feminist triumph or anything, but I – and I know I’m not alone in this – find this a much more relaxing viewing experience, because it positions women as subject instead of (arguably disposable) object.
And also there are less ‘let’s test your mum skills!’ dates. Which, like, thank god.
Okay! Recap time! Let’s do it!
I’m immediately taken by how nationally distinctive the framing of this particular season of Bachie is. Not only does Sophie say that she’s a ‘massive bogan’ (and hopes that Australia won’t think she’s a ‘tool’ for doing it, bless her), she says she’s looking for a ‘down to earth Aussie bloke’. The figure of the Aussie bloke is explicitly juxtaposed to the men she’s previously dated: Hollywood types, mostly rockstars. I am going to have a lot of things to say about this specifically national framing, so let’s keep an eye on this as we go forward.
Sophie, she tells us, is finally ready to find love, with the aforementioned Aussie bloke. She says that she thinks she’s made the mistake of choosing her career over love, and wishes she’d been able to balance it better.
This is obviously a super valid concern, but I can’t help but think of how my TV best friend Georgia Love’s narrative was shaped the same way when she was the Bachie last year. I cannot wait until we see the day that a male Bachie worries about choosing career over love, because that will indicate a systemic cultural change in the emotional and unpaid labour we require of women.
But enough of these serious thoughts! Sophie Monk is on her way to find a man, and she’s enlisted Osher Gunsberg to help her do it.
Let’s all take a moment and deal with the fact that Andrew G from Australian Idol is facilitating the love story of Sophie from Popstars. For anyone like me who was a teenager in the early 2000s, this is, like, a constellation of nostalgic memories right here.
Osher asks Sophie what she’s looking for in a man. Her response is quite succinct and sweet, I think: ‘I just want someone I’m compatible with who will look after me if I look after them.’
Honestly, I can’t improve on that at all. That’s the dream, romantically speaking, right there.
So, are any of the men up to the task? Let’s go through our cast of characters!
Apollo: A magician, who seems to be about 12 years old. He turns a napkin into a rose for Sophie. ‘Imagine what he could do with a bedsheet,’ she quips to the camera, because she is excellent.
Jarrod: an ex-soldier, he now works at a vineyard, and he brings along some grapes for him and Sophie to stomp together. The way he’s framed is quite similar to the way Chris ‘Prince Farming’ Soules was framed in Andi Dorfman’s season of The Bachelorette in the US, and considering Chris went on to finish third and be the Bachie, look for Jarrod to go quite a long way.
Eden: breakdances in an Adidas tracksuit and then tries to neg Sophie. Throw him into the sea immediately. Also one of two Kiwis (by my count, and amateur accent analysis).
James: a very nervous businessman who gives her a necklace.
Sam: opens by bringing out three kids to sing his praises. I worried for a moment that he was really three children in a trenchcoat and had forgotten the trenchcoat, but turns out they were just his nephews. Seems nice enough, but he has a manbun, which Sophie doesn’t like. She makes him take it out and it promptly turns into a mullet.
Jourdan: brings her an eyemask, makes her put it on, and then disappears. Laurina Fleure did the ~mysterious~ thing supremely well in Blake Garvey’s season in 2014, but I suspect this isn’t going to go down so well.
Luke: another nervous businessman, but with no necklace.
Jefferson: brings her a lot of roses.
Jamie: looks like the guy from Nickelback.
Mackane: awkwardly sings at her. I don’t think anyone will ever claim Bardot were known for their lyrics, but they look like lyrical geniuses compared to ‘yoooooooouuuuu and meeeeeeeeee’ repeated nine million times.
Hayden: wears a yellow suit, dabs a lot, falls in love immediately with Apollo the magician.
Blake: this year’s resident douchebag. Says that he’ll only ever date hot girls, and that the best thing about him is ‘so many things’. Sophie is impressed with him initially (I mean, he does give her ugg boots, so, like, I get it), but she is going to eat him alive in a few episodes and it’s going to be everything.
Ryan: this year’s other resident douchebag (and also other resident Kiwi). He’s really aggressive towards Sophie in a way she clearly doesn’t like, and when she gathers all the dudes together to make her initial ‘this is why I’m here’ speech, he fucking CUTS HER OFF BEFORE SHE’S EVEN STARTED SPEAKING so he can take her away and manologue at her. He is a garbage person who lives on garbage island and I literally cannot even.
Assorted others: probably not going to be that important tbh.
The first episode is always a bit of a getting-to-know-you episode, but there is a little ~drama~ at the cocktail party (I mean, come on, this is Bachie, there is always ~drama~), so here are the highlights:
- When people come to interrupt Ryan, he icily tells them to leave until he’s good and ready and then resumes his grilling of Sophie. She says that she understands why he’s asking his questions – which include ‘um why have you failed at love and are single at the age of 37?’ – but I’m assuming this is because the producers wouldn’t let her fire him from a cannon directly into the sun.)
- Jarrod tells her that ladies tend to like him for his vineyard, not for him. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this tickles me.
- Sophie plays a game with the dudes to get to know them. She originally considered Spin the Bottle, but settles on Never Have I Ever. ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS, SOPH. Spin the Bottle would have been incredible television.
- Jourdan starts crying at a Never Have I Ever question about cheating, because, like, someone accused him of cheating once or something? IDK. But what IS important is that when he finally does get to talk to Sophie alone, she gets distracted almost immediately by the most Australian thing that has ever happened on this show (since Tara, anyway): a possum in the pool.
- In an immediate challenge to the most-Australian-thing stakes: there’s a Zoolander-style walkoff between several of the guys, with the loser having to do an undie run. After Hayden rips his underwear off without removing his trousers (and then THROWS THEM AT SOPHIE’S FACE, which… no), Sam is elected the loser. He strips veeeeeeery slowly, runs around the pool, and then dives in. ‘He’s got balls… and I think saw them,’ says Queen Sophie.
- And then, later, she says, ‘who wouldn’t want eighteen guys fighting for your attention? It’s the best.’ YOU GUYS I LOVE HER SO MUCH.
There’s also the regular ritual elements of the first night, and one is the first impression rose. This year, it’s a ‘double delight’ rose, in that the winner gets not one, but two single dates with Sophie. Her choice for the rose – much to the chagrin of all the designated villains – is undie-running man-bunning Sam, which I personally find pretty solid.
The other ritual element is, of course, the rose ceremony. I was kind of hoping they’d lean into the Australianness of this season and let Sophie do a Man O Man thing and push her rejects into the pool, but alas, it’s just a regular rose ceremony. Tonight’s rejects are Jamie (the Nickelback guy) and one guy who is literally named Chad, because Sophie clearly has a strong sense of cliché and wants to avoid that.
And because I made a bold prediction and called the winner of Matty’s season of The Bachelor very early (and have a pretty solid record with other seasons, as my recaps of Richie’s season and Georgia’s season show), here is Dr Jodes’ Official Early Days Prediction for Who Will Win This Whole Damn Thing.
My money’s on Jarrod. I mean, he owns a VINEYARD.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.