In last night's episode of The Bachelor, Australian TV had a chance to do something interesting. They could have revealed Deanna was Kang, taking human form and using the experience to exchange long protein strings. Kidding, they could have has a modern conversation about the fluidity of sexuality. Spoiler...they didn’t.
All episode we were working up to a big reveal from Brooke, something she had to tell Nick which could have been a game changer. Shows like this live on the baited breath of these moments. The what’s happening, is it about to happen, was that it, oh that wasn’t as intense as Osher’s lowered eyebrows suggested, moments.
So far, I’d argue this cycle has handled them better than most. Dasha’s reveal to Nick that she had a son wasn’t presented as a “gotcha” opportunity, but rather as a chill conversation between two adults who live and have pasts and are totally stoked about the children that were created in said pasts. Even last week’s bullying arc was kind of well handled, with Nick’s ability to take a stand against toxic behaviour cutting through the (assumed) cries of producers struggling to hold onto to drama-weaving queens.
But all that goodwill came undone when girl-next-door favourite Brooke, after teasing all episode that she had something big to reveal, took a seat next to Nick at the cocktail party. Watching at home, as she sat there, a quivering aqua puddle of emotion, I was stoked. I live for moments like this. Maybe she was married, or had a fake identity, or was the child of a famous Australian serial killer. This is pulpy reality TV being produced in a country where Pauline Hanson is currently going to war with a 9-year-old girl. Our expectation for drama is high.
Then she said it: she’s had relationships with women in the past — but she definitely isn’t bi!
It was a huge anti-climax for a few reasons: Firstly, it's 2018 that’s not drama. That’s a very common lived experience. You’re reading VICE, I don’t need to tell you sexuality is a spectrum. But it was a bummer that something a hair away from a totally vanilla heteronormative past would be played off as one of the biggest dramatic moments of the season. It was genuinely wrenching for something so innocuous to cause a young, honestly pretty cool and accomplished, woman so much distress. She was near weeping as she spoke to Nick.
In turn, Australia’s favourite Honey Badger gave a quiet and non-judgemental response. Which was fine I guess. He mumbled his usual “this is my soul this is your soul we’re all humans but also bloody hell a dingo rooted my barbeques” philosophy and Brooke seemed genuinely relieved.
But that very, very normal reaction was presented as the woke-bro moment of the year. I like Nick, and honestly have been impressed with how he has handled himself so far. But it did strike me how little we ask of men in Australia.
By the close of the episode, after Brooke got her rose, first of the ceremony, the unease was only growing. The pit formed in my stomach wasn’t just because the situation was played for drama; that sucks but come on, the vicious emotional inhalation of several young women has been the spine of the season so far.
Rather, it was how Brooke phrased the reveal. She was so careful to stress that although she had these experiences, which sounded pretty positive, she wasn’t gay or bi or anything but straight. Obviously, she is free to define herself in anyway that feels right. No shade there. But the scaffolding of her explanation to why she was attracted to men was built on her insistence she wants to have kids one day.
Maybe she just felt awkward and rushed to assure him she wanted the same future as him. Or maybe our country’s glacial pace over LGBTQI+ rights means that a 23-year-old youth worker feels she isn’t able to have love, a family, a future with anyone deviating from the white-boy-meat-slab in front of her.