Entertainment

‘The Bachelor’ and Womankind’s Eternal Quest to Seem 'Chill'

The ultimate goal of the show isn’t to find love, but to act like a labrador that suddenly got transported into a beautiful woman’s body.
August 16, 2018, 6:42am
Image via tenplay.com.au/

Last night, Australia broke the seal on the latest season of The Bachelor. Fans of the show know episode one is always a highpoint. We begin with a look forward to the whole series — which seems to be pretty much uninterrupted footage of Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins making out with multiple women. Actually you know what that’s not fair. He comes up long enough to ride a Segway.

And just like that, we’re hooked. Who among us could walk away now and never learn who wins his heart. Who is left dejected. And how someone manages to get their neck thicker than their head. But we digress, that’s all foreplay for the real highlight, the introductions. It’s classic romance. Boy meets girl. Girl has three minutes to “make an impression”. Girl erupts into a Tasmanian Devil-like flurry of novelty props, gags and skits. Boy smiles on, dead-eyed and delighted.

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These hypnotically awkward opening moments have become iconic among fans of the show as each year a new crop of potential love interests emerges, fed on the teat on the seasons before. They’re so sure they know what they’re doing, that their ice-breaker will be the global warming event that will melt this stranger's heart and insure they won’t die alone.

And honestly bless them. They’re smart enough to know that performed right, even if they don’t find everlasting companionship this first impression could lead to a Twitter moment. Or at least a promo deal with those gummy bears that give you shiny hair.

But these rewards are bookended by risk. Fuck this up and you’ll be relegated to listicals of “Most Cringeworthy Reality TV Moments” for eternity. The line between pulling it off and totally cooking it is fine. Why is it that Dasha doing a handstand against the Bachelor, and seamlessly relaying it into a series of aggressive upside down sit ups is sexy but Cayla bringing out a two kilo hunk of rose quartz isn’t? I don’t know. It’s a question for womankind to muse over for generations.

Of course there is a fate worse than them playing the “zany girl music” when you get out of the car. The real fear here is that you’ll be banished to the TV gulag that is the cut for time montage. This is where producers stuff the intro footage of women they don’t think you need to remember. It’s a hand waving gesture to assure you that all the seats in the cars were used.

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The strangest thing about this tradition isn’t that we’ve slowly reached a boiling point where grown women perform like sugar laden children trying to stay up past bedtime, it’s that it’s all in pursuit of the ultimate goal — to seem chill.

For all the sequins and fake tan, the highest praise on The Bachelor is to seem normal. To emerge from an Uber Black, stand there sweating under the glare of ten of thousand fairy lights, and appear like you just stepped out for a Coke and somehow stumbled into all this.

The bar was immediately set expertly high last night with Shannon from Melbourne. The 23-year-old car consultant (a job description that almost destroyed Twitter) explained she loves to skate, paint and enjoy a few reds. Brittany, the 30 year old Radiographer, kept up the standard up when she said she was there for the buffet.

Business analyst Renee took things to a depressing place while demonstrating how fun and low key she is — literally bringing her own birthday cake. It was her 30th, but she wasn’t gonna be dramatic about it. Not chill.

Of course no one played any of this as well as Australia’s sweetheart Brooke, who brought several footballs, chatted about her love of Rugby, flagged her own passion for playing the game, and totally blanked the professional sportsman standing in front of her. Whether she did it on purpose or not one thing is clear — I’m ready for this gender-flip version of The Game.

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When this tactic of breezy cool is handled well, it’s masterful. Soph’s toy boats and repeated insistence that she likes being outside won her quality time with Nick by the pool. Brooke got the newly introduced root key — not the official name, but you get the point.

But the pressure to be perfect while acting like a labrador that suddenly got transported into a beautiful woman’s body is tough. Most of the time, in real life, we only have to perform this social trick for a few hours at a time. Then we’re free to regress into our true selves: relax with our friends, scream at strangers in traffic, feel jealous of that NASA satellite they’re launching into the sun.

These poor women have no such respite. They have no escape from the “normal woman” fantasy. And when their true selves, which they’re usually able to ventilate across the day, break through, it can get dark. Cass came in with a huge advantage, knowing Nick socially. But the pressure got to her and the next thing you know she’s referencing her dream journal like someone two caps deep in the smokers section.

But the most painful moments come when we feel the chill girl persona slipping away, and we make ill-advised, desperate attempts to grab hold of her again. Or, more specifically, when we do a bomb in the shallow end of a pool wearing a year 11 girl’s dream formal dress. We were all Kayla in that moment. Her fate is especially cruel as she was also the girl who brought an airplane drinks cart in as a prop and still didn’t make it out of the introductions montage.

Watching her float in the pool of a rented mansion, overturned tea lights around her, as the other woman turned their shimmery backs it’s hard to believe anyone could pull off this illusion for more than a few hours. God help these women across the rest of the season.

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