As Sophie Monk strolled along the beach a record-breaking 17 times this season gazing wistfully into the sunset, it remains unclear how this season of The Bachelorette was ‘unlike any other’ season.
Besides being objectifying and profoundly lacking in diversity, The Bachelorette remained definite in articulating that the courtship ceremony of love between two people is best done in an accelerated cattle-style knockout competition.
In case you haven’t seen The Bachelorette, here is how the show works: A single woman is presented with 22 potential male partners. Through an accelerated ‘journey’ of alcohol driven events and exceedingly staged dates, the men are eliminated until the bachelorette is left with ‘the one’. Each season is generally followed by an awkward break up when the couple are surprised by how incompatible they are when fame is no longer the relationship incentive.
Season after season, dates are filled with the same unbearable conversations: “what does love mean to you?”, “what do you love about me as a person?” and “where do you see us in the future?” in an uncomfortably repetitive cycle until one person either gives the other a rose or some other form of symbolic gift.
This marks the 3rd season of The Bachelorette, and we saw all the archetypes that we’d seen before. The magician, the fun guy, the weird guy, the rich guy, the hopeless romantic and the guy who is just there ‘for a good time’. Once inside the house, the men performed the usual rituals: bristling with testosterone and judging each other’s interchangeable outfits.
Yet we all tune into this cringy reality TV show night after night, knowing very well how bad it is. So why do Australians continue to obsess over this show?
It’s easy to dismiss The Bachelorette as reality trash, but there is something deeper going on beneath the surface: it’s a microcosm of the society we live in. Sophie is a reminder that even the most smart, beautiful and funny women can’t declare their life a success until they have a ring on their finger. Despite calling the shots, we were constantly reminded of her long and painful past of failed relationships, and that her heart was really ‘on the line’.
Staying true to its educational ambitions, Channel 10 reminded us of what is means to be ‘a REAL man’ throughout the series, even taking it to literal extremes and hosting the ‘inaugural Bachelorette real man games’. Thanks for that, Channel 10. Boiling down the complexity of gender, Sophie confidently concluded that ‘the defining factor of being a man’ is which one can light a fire with sticks, in case they were to ever return to a time before electricity. And matches. Meanwhile Sophie enjoyed the exhibition of masculinity from a distance, appropriately dressed in a large fur coat until the manliest man was decided and could warm her up with fire.
The heart of the show was Sophie Monk, a beloved national identity and self-proclaimed ‘bogan’ who was disappointed that she wasn’t yet married with 5 children. Despite a successful career in the public eye, all Sophie ever wanted was a ‘down to earth Aussie bloke’ and a life of ‘normality’. Claiming she’s not ‘the typical bachelorette’, Sophie regularly hoped her appearance on the show didn’t present her like ‘a tool’.
Perhaps what Monk was really thinking as she gazed out into the ocean for the 17th time, is how on earth did she end up amidst one of the strangest and most striking examinations of masculinity of the modern-day era.
Monk chose Sydney billionaire publican Stu Laundry to be her partner as the season concluded last week, and is already exploring options for starting a family.