This year, the application process for being a female contestant on The Bachelor changed: Each hopeful candidate had to download a special questionnaire from the website and fill it out carefully. It was just one question: ‘Are you willing to be a supermassive moll to other women on national TV?’
There are 25 lucky girls vying for Nick’s attentions, and in two episodes already, we’ve seen them slut-shame, backstab and degrade each other in the quest to win a minor sporting celebrity’s heart. Did we learn nothing from Mean Girls? The takeaway from Tina Fey’s seminal movie masterpiece was: ‘You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.’ These chicks missed the memo.
We’re meant to embrace Nick Cummins aka the Honey Badger as a mould-breaking larrikin, just a wild bogan spirit looking for a genuine Sheila to capture his heart. People who give themselves their own nicknames are not always sound individuals, but Nick is articulate in a way that hints he’s actually reasonably intelligent.
It sounded so promising. With Nick, this might have been a positive representation of a smart, modern Australian man making meaningful connections with bright young women. Maybe this year, the contestants would be given an opportunity to challenge the Bachelor and not just drop their g-bangers in a giggling heap the second he focused any crumb of attention on them. Yeah, nah.
So far, they’ve divided their time between viciously mean-girling each other and touching Nick’s forearms while babbling about how much they like water-based sports. All of them defend themselves obnoxiously with the old ripper ‘I tell it like it is’, which is code for ‘I’m just incredibly rude and have no tangible empathy for others.’ Bali-bred Cat calls another woman a liar and slut shames her about her sexual past before smugly calling her a basic bitch. All that Bintang and still so salty, Cat.
There’s a significance in the way the women talk to each other. By contrast, male contestants on The Bachelorette will playfully rib each other, at most. They’re generally not calling each other bastards and morons. If there’s a beef between alpha males, they don’t tear each other to shreds emotionally.
Language matters. There’s a breadth of derogatory words used against women, and these girls are taking full advantage of the vindictive insults they used back in high school. As one of the world’s great feminist scholars, Professor Anne Phillips has noted, it’s meaningful when we reduce ourselves to animals – bitches, cows, rats and snakes – particularly low, non-dominant animals who’s primary functions are reproduction. Should we put down the bubbles and have a little think about what it means to refer to each other as sub-human breeding stock and how that might allow men to subjugate us?
Ah, but come on, he’s a lovely fella! Nick Cummins has a penchant for rhyming slang and true-blue Aussie proverbs about galahs and flat out geckos. He may be halfway intelligent, but he’s got some questionable views about women as objects. He repeatedly calls them ‘girls’, ‘birds’ and ‘things’. As Bachelor recap queen Rosie Waterland noted via her Instagram, he actually trots one of them around the garden, like they do with nervous horses. Shannon’s a thoroughbred, you see. This grown woman is beside herself with glee at this compliment. Rich white sportsmen have historically done very badly in this country so it is not likely he will get away with this sort of misogynistic behaviour. Jokes, he totally will.
But the girls will suffer, and you can see it happening already. Poor Cass has been strung up by producers as a crazy stalker because she’s already dated, and been rejected by, Nick. She’s sneered at by the others for being a ‘Stage 5 Clinger’, in a huge violation of the Cool Girl Code that gets boys to like you, ie. Be chill, drink beer, be up for anything and don’t complain.
The men are always impressed with the ones who ‘give it a go’ and ‘have a crack’. Because romance is apparently about doing things you’re distinctly uncomfortable with, including jumping out of helicopters and having your photo taken for a national paper dressed like a sexualised schoolgirl. Bonza.
What is actually insane is that somehow, within this toxic environment, there’s a sickening gratitude when each woman is given a rose. “Thank you SO much”, they fawn, exhausted from the stress and with the gushing appreciation of a person who’s just received a kidney. The show should have halved the candle budget and coughed up for a few counselors.
Every reality show needs a villain, sure, but watching these women be completely horrendous to each other doesn’t feel like anyone’s gaming the system. They say they’re not there to make friends, but surely they’re not there to lose all their dignity, either.
But it’s all bloody sweet, because no one takes this show seriously anyway, and it’s not like vulnerable young girls could ever be adversely affected by the massive advertising and social media marketing surrounding these hyper commercially successful shows. It’s all a bit of fun. The whole ‘game on, moll’ thing is definitely still funny and not a really sad sign that feminism in this country still has a long way to go.
One Bachie pair that got their happily ever after was the gorgeous Sam and Snez. Have a watch of Snez talking about the audition process and life after The Bachelor below…