reality tv

The 'disgusting' comment in The Bachelorette premiere that should never have been aired.

Last night’s premiere of The Bachelorette Australia saw Ali Oetjen meet 18 mostly brown-haired men, one of whom might be her Mr Right.

The seasoned reality TV show gave audiences everything they wanted to see.

We had slow motion emotional close-up shots. And flashbacks to Ali’s failed relationships from the past. There was awkward dancing, grown men fighting over the ‘bro code’ and the quintessential TV villain.

But somewhere in the middle of all that drama was a bit of production that didn’t sit well with viewers.

You can watch the moment below, post continues after video.

Video via Ten

When the show’s front-runner Bill met Ali on the red carpet for the first time, he had a confession to make.

“I wasn’t born Bill…” he told her, before the show dramatically cut to an ad break, leaving viewers to speculate all sorts of things.

To put it bluntly, we were ‘queer-baited’. Or in this case, trans-baited.

After the ad break, Ali and the rest of the world learnt that Bill who was not born Bill was actually born… David. Yep. Ali was also seen telling the camera she was glad he wasn’t born a woman.

It was a moment that should have never gone to air, but when it did, audiences unsurprisingly saw it coming.

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It’s the third time The Bachelor franchise have trotted out this ‘queer-baiting’ trope.

The term ‘queer-baiting’ refers to the practice of hinting at a same-sex romantic interaction, but ultimately ignoring it, rejecting it or making fun of it. For the LGBTQI community, queer-baiting implies that they’ll see people like themselves portrayed on screen, only to be disappointed. It exploits their subjectivity – and is a particularly problematic decision when the representation of gay, lesbian and bisexual people on Australian television is so low.

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Most recently, Channel Ten copped serious flack for marketing a conversation between The Bachelor 2018’s Brooke Blurton and Nick Cummins about her sexuality as ‘Brooke’s big secret’.

Alas, much to the dismay of viewers, the 23-year-old social worker’s ‘secret’ was that she’d had two prior relationships with women. By framing this as a secret Brooke had to fess up to, rather than something she shared because she wanted to, it effectively sent the message that your sexuality and sexual history is something you have to disclose, and be embarrassed about.

The public’s reaction was swift and unimpressed, as were LGBTQI public figures and former reality stars including Big Brother 2013 winner Tim Dormer, AFLW player and Survivor contestant Moana Hope and former Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise star Megan Marx.

Megan herself experienced the show’s queer-baiting firsthand when the network used hers and fellow Bachelor in Paradise contestant Elora Murger’s sexualities as a marketing ploy in promo clips for 2018’s Bachelor in Paradise.

Before the show aired earlier this year, an ad showed openly bisexual Megan looking longingly at Elora as she said, “She’s absolutely gorgeous. She’s definitely my type of girl,” alongside footage of a passionate kiss between Megan and what appeared to be a woman with long, brown hair. It was confirmed that the person she was kissing was actually Thomas Perras – a contestant from the Canadian season of The Bachelorette. 

Speaking to Mamamia in September, Megan said this kind of behaviour is unfortunately to be expected from franchises like The Bachelor.

“It’s reality TV and you have to create shock value about everything,” she said.

In real life, it’s likely the moment between Ali and Bill was an awkward joke that fell horribly flat. But once churned through The Bachelorette production machine, it was spat out as a pointless and offensive cliffhanger.

Yes, we’re used to being duped by reality TV producers. It’s part of what we sign up for when we sit down in front of our TVs every Wednesday and Thursday night.

But we didn’t sign up for queer-baiting, trans-baiting or any ‘baiting’ that has to do with a human being’s sexual orientation or gender. It’s just not good enough.

Do it again, and people might just start switching off.

What did you think of how The Bachelorette portrayed that scene? Does it turn you off from watching reality TV?

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