Clementine Ford: What Reality TV Has Taught Me About Men (Other Than Backward Caps Look Dumb)
One of the great strengths of reality television is how it can bring a group of people together.
I don’t just mean the ones who eagerly tune in and tweet every night, dissecting each and every statement with forensic levels of detail (guilty as charged). I mean the so-called people selected to be these shows’ villains, grinning out at the camera with their too-bright porcelain veneers, classically dead eyes and (in some cases) extremely obviously tattooed hairlines.
We got an extended taste of this with Nine’s Married At First Sight earlier this year. Less a celebration of love and more an exploration of Stockholm Syndrome, MAFS delivered unto the nation two prime examples of toxic manhood so odious they can now no longer be forgotten. (No, seriously -- both of them refuse to return to the dank sludge from whence they emerged.)
And as we draw ever closer to the end of Bachelor In Paradise, the time has come for us to ask what it is we’ve learned about other men during these three explosive weeks of televised programming other than the fact backwards caps look stupid and don’t hide the telltale signs of premature balding.
Despite showcasing a range of men who all look almost exactly the same, shows like Married At First Sight and Bachelor in Paradise have done a great job of demonstrating just how varied and unique your average Bad Boyfriend can be. Here, in no particular order, are the worst men to have appeared on Australian television screens in the first quarter of 2019.
The Cruel One -- Sam Ball: Sam was the runaway groom on this season’s MAFS, ditching his co-partner approximately three seconds into the experiment to run off to New Zealand for a funeral. Fair enough -- death waits for no man etc etc. But his return to the show signalled that three seconds of his smug mug on our screens was more than enough. Throughout the rest of his time on the show, he bullied and belittled his ‘wife’ Lizzie, ridiculing her not just in his on-screen confessionals but also to dA bOyZ. Poor Lizzie looked utterly defeated by the end. Sam just looked sweaty.
Lesson: If a man ditches you on your honeymoon to attend his ex-girlfriend’s mother’s funeral, he’s either a bad person or a liar. Probably both.
The Manipulator -- Jules Bourne: A controversial entry, but hear me out. Jules trades on being a bumbling, skittish, non-threatening Nice Guy. He’s never had a girlfriend! He has frosted tips! He puts deliberately strange inflections on words to make you laugh! He couldn’t possibly be toxic, could he?
Alas friends, Jules is. He had a good thing going with Alisha, whose taste in men is just off enough that he was in with a shot. But he was prepared to throw all that away on the mere hint of ‘exploring’ with Tenille, a woman he openly admitted to knowing nothing about but to whom he was prepared to “totally commit”. See, Nice Guys like Jules want people to think they’re more complicated than your average douchebag, but in the end they’re just looking for a woman to project all their masculine fantasies onto regardless of if she’s interested or not.
Lesson: If it walks like a guy with frosted tips and talks like a guy with frosted tips, you’d best believe the frosted tips are real.
The “All My Exes Are Crazy” Guy -- Bill Goldsmith: Bill is like what would happen if a mad scientist stitched together the body parts of Australia’s most intolerable private schoolboys and then brought him to life using bad energy generated from a coal mining plant. You can tell the character of a person by how they respond to people calling them out, and Bill is a real charmer. By which I mean, women should stay more than 100 feet away from this guy at all costs. He didn’t just call Florence a liar (she isn’t), he also tried to argue she was exposing his deceit because she’s a “salty bitch” who was angry he didn’t pick her. Oh Bill! You complete dildo. Bill’s blamed bad editing for his storyline, which is something dyed in the wool Liberal Party voters tend to do I guess.
Lesson: Never trust a man who has nothing good to say about any of the women unlucky enough to have had his grubby hands on them.
The Delusional Egomaniac -- Mike Gunner: Mike’s stint on MAFS will go down as perhaps one of the most infuriating, embarrassing and hilarious displays of male bullshit in the history of Australian television. Throughout the course of his time on the show, he gaslit his ‘wife’ Heidi, shaming her for trying to emotionally open up to her and making it seem like it was her fault he is unable to emote like an actual human being instead of a puddle of garbage juice.
Most egregious were his attempts to pass off the world’s most unrealistic hairline as somehow real. We all cheered jubilantly when Heidi answered the question of whether she was still in love with him with the decisive, “Nuh”. Now he’s launched a podcast that he seems to believe will change the world, broadcast from a studio he’s decorated with brick wallpaper and fake graffiti. That’s all you need to know, really.
Lesson: When he shows you exactly who he is (a stain), believe him the first time.
Mr Possessive -- Ivan Krslovic: There’s nothing that should even be made light of here. Ivan’s behaviour has been terrifying from start to finish.
Forget about the red flags on his behaviour with Tenille -- this was an all-out airstrike of red sirens. At one point, he declared her to be “my stuff”, telling another contestant she was his “territory to mark”. He regularly confused his jealous, possessive behaviour to her with being “protective”. And when she told him to leave her alone he refused to take no for an answer, telling producers she clearly didn’t know what she was doing and he was going to stick around to keep trying to ‘explore’ with her. This is a bad man.
Lesson: Don’t put over-possessive men on dating shows, or indeed any show.
In case it isn’t perfectly clear, I watch these shows religiously and will continue to do so.