The Men Get To Play A Completely Different Game (And Other First Impressions From ‘The Bachelorette’)

There's a big difference between this show and 'The Bachelor': the male contestants get to actually have fun.

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In the opening minutes of the season premiere of The Bachelorette, Sam Frost describes her last attempt to find love on reality television as “devastating and humiliating”. That’s borderline an understatement considering that last year, after winning The Bachelor and getting proposed to on national live television, she was almost immediately dumped.

Fighting back tears, she tells us that she’s “still not over it”, that “he did absolutely break my heart”, and that she doesn’t “ever want to go through anything like that ever again”. So it would be fair to ask: why on earth, after all the strife last time, has she agreed to come back to the mansion?

“I need to put myself out there again, or else I might never fall in love again,” she says — and that’s that. Within five minutes we are meant to no longer be worried that she might be being exploited; instead, she is grateful for the opportunity the producers of the show are giving her to find love again. “Never in my life have I ever received as many compliments as I did,” she tells us, after meeting the contestants. She repeats emphatically, sometimes through tears, how lucky and thankful she is to get this chance — and it’s a testament to the powers of The Bachelorette team that for a single, insane moment, I really did accept that this famous, charming, 26-year-old Maxim cover girl might never find a partner without the help of a big budget, an editing suite and some heart-rending strings.

Still, Sam is clearly struggling. Throughout the show she cries several times, and in some moments of the premiere accidentally utters some astonishingly bleak statements. When discussing whether or not it’s a good idea for her to be back on a reality TV dating show after last time, she says, “I’m pretty sure the worst has already happened” with all the enthusiasm of a terminally ill person about to undergo a painful operation that won’t save their life anyway.

The contestants can be divided into two distinct groups; genuine contenders, and no-hopers who are there for tension and/or comic relief. You can pick who the genuine contenders are because within ten seconds of meeting them we are shown that they have:

1) A job;

2) Muscles;

3) Sensitivity.

For instance, there’s Sasha who is a builder (job), and loves rugby (muscles) and his family (sensitive). Then there’s Richie, who works in mining (job), and likes working out at the beach (muscles) while talking about the woman he wants to spend his life with (sensitive).

so many thinkings.

Being next to a beach seems to be visual code for ‘is a deep person’.

Michael rounds up the trifecta, talking about his love of family while sombrely showering after a work-out as a pro-football player (muscles/job/sensitive overload).

And then come the ‘wacky’ guys, who are unlikely to win the contest but will spruce things up for the viewing audience. There’s Shane, who rolls in on an electric skater (“this is my world”) and an ostentatiously colourful shirt, with his suit in a bag. There’s a guy with Lucius Malfoy hair and an owl who works as a ‘sleep technician’ — which I desperately hope is a fancy name for someone who works in a mattress factory. There’s a snooty ‘international model’, who is unusually unphotogenic considering his job.


A combination of Gollum and Niles Crane.

Much has been made of the fact that all of the male contestants on the show are white. In interviews, Sam Frost said she believed that having a person of colour on the show for the sake of it would be tokenism. But if that’s the real reason for the whitewash, it’s the only kind of tokenism the producers haven’t pursued. So far we have:

  • A British one;
  • A nerdy one;
  • A hipster one;
  • A sporty one;
  • A snooty model one (who I think was meant to be the ‘really good looking one’ too).

All the men seemed well-pleased by Sam; depending on how blokey they are, she is described as “a vision” (not very blokey), “a stunner” (quite blokey) and “a crackin’ sort” (full blokey).

It’s definitely a different vibe to The Bachelor. Where the female contestants tend to be polite and quiet to the Bachelor but loud and cruel with each other, The Bachelorette seems more like an experiment in what would happen if a whole footy team got to date just one lady. They all bond instantly, and when everybody is mingling they seem to have a better time with each other than they do with Sam.


Love at first sight.

When one contestant is given the first rose, the lads seem happier about it than he does.

“ROSE-MAN! ROSE-MAN!” they affectionately chant.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 12.45.37 am

It is unclear whether they understand the rules of this particular game.

Early on in the mingling, the boys settle on a ‘bro-code’: they agree not to interrupt each other’s one-on-one time with Sam. But this immediately gives way to anarchy.

First to break the code is the international model, who has clearly been cast as ‘the villain’. We know this because he doesn’t bond with the other guys — “Someone’s going to have to start playing the game,” he tells us — and when none of the other contestants break the code, he calls them all “a bunch of pussies”.

Of course, there’s always a villain in shows like this – it helps to drive the plot along to have one person the audience doesn’t like. A savvy viewer might have expected the producers would keep David around for a while — but in the second episode he goes from acting standoffish to acting like he has a severe personality disorder, and gets the boot.

The contestants, and the producers, are playing a different game here. In The Bachelor, the majority of the women are depicted as cold, calculating backstabbers. There are exceptions — like Heather from the last season, and Sam Frost herself — but these outliers serve to emphasise the norm: the reason those women stand out is because they aren’t as bad as the rest. There is a dramatic irony at play too: we, the audience, know which of the women are genuine and which are repugnant. The Bachelor is oblivious. We bite our nails hoping he makes the right choice. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HEATHER!

In The Bachelorette, however, the men seldom seem anything other than charming, boisterous and friendly — when talking to each other, when talking to Sam, when talking alone into the camera. The one villain they had crafted was gone by episode two, and the good times never let up. Virtually every sentence they utter in each other’s company is punctuated by laughter. The tension in The Bachelorette comes not from hoping that the good one gets through, but from the tragedy that another funny, good-looking guy has to go home.


Ride softly into the night, sweet scooter-bro.

Women make up the predominant audience for both shows, so there’s something about the portrayal of the male cohort as lovely, and the female cohort as rotten, that the producers suppose will resonate with them. In The Bachelor, the viewer is being asked to identify with one of the fun and charming women, despise the others, and desire the Bachelor. In The Bachelorette, the viewer is supposed to identify with the Bachelorette, and — like her — desire as many of the contestants as possible.

“I was definitely impressed with what I saw. He’s definitely a babe,” Sam says, of yet another shirtless contestant. Imagine an episode of The Bachelor in which he manages to get one of the women topless and proclaims, “I am well pleased Elizabeth’s dynamite breasts”. With the viewer set-up to identify with the women, gawking at them would feel a whole lot ickier.

The differences extend to how the dates are orchestrated, too. In The Bachelor, the one-on-one dates were all about doing things together — sailing together, dining together, jelly-wrestling together — to let the viewer insert herself in that date with the Bachelor. So far in The Bachelorette, however, the dates have been about watching the men do things; first, a guy plays cricket, then, as a middle finger to the old adage, a bunch of men are literally asked to jump off a cliff to prove their affection for Sam.

At no point does Sam consider playing cricket, or jumping off the cliff herself. In the world of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, the men get to have more fun.

The Bachelorette airs at 7.30pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, on TEN.

James McCann is a writer, stand-up comedian, and the cowriter and composer of Wolf Creek the Musical.