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This season of The Bachelorette (finally) let men be vulnerable on TV. And we loved them for it.

Last night, on primetime television, a man with long hair, an earring and a thick Aussie accent, cried for his broken heart.

As a dejected Timm Hanly rubbed his red eyes, Bachelorette viewers saw the culmination of a series that, finally – finally! – reflected the attractiveness of emotional intelligence, of men who are comfortable in their vulnerability.

Watch (if you’re prepared): The moment Angie breaks up with Timm.

Video by Channel 10

Those qualities were encouraged by Angie Kent throughout the season; she listed them often as the reason she was drawn to certain men. And though she didn’t chose Timm during the season-ending episode, they were a big part of why she described him as her “soulmate”.

And it seems many Australians felt that way, too.

Viewers were devastated by his rejection. Tweets, memes, Facebook posts (even Osher) expressed their sadness as he comforted the woman who was turning him down. “Devastated.” “Gutted.” “Ruined.”

Of course, that happens most years on this show; fans hitch themselves to a favourite. But there’s no doubt that Timm is a new kind of favourite for this franchise. One of several who, with Angie’s encouragement, helped drag it toward something resembling 2019.

Look, we’re not kidding ourselves. The archaic conventions of the Bach franchise still well and truly entwined around this season. The gratuitous shirtless scenes, the shots of soaking-wet men flipping their long hair, or scooping the heroine up in their muscly, tattooed arms. Tropes lifted straight from the well-worn pages of your Aunty Karen’s romance novels.

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But the success of this season lay in the subversion that Angie (and some of the men) snuck in between it all.

While some were busy laying down this season’s “bro code” or knocking back the free prosecco, for example, Carlin, Timm, Matt and Jackson started a conversation about speaking to women with respect. And suddenly, the whole country was joining in.

The men had chastised fellow contestant and Noosa councilman, Jess Glasgow, over sexualised comments and gestures he’d made towards Angie, and over his boast that he kissed women even if they turned their mouths away from his.

Soon there were TV news bulletins, opinion columns, debates on radio and television about consent, sexism and the role of men in calling out a culture of disrespect. (Even the ABC was covering it, for goodness’ sake.)

Angie talks to Mia Freedman about her surprising backstory and what life is really like on The Bachelorette.

Then, while some men were imagining their Instagram following swell, a 25-year-old Mancunian named Ciarran, with rings on most of his fingers, spoke about his love for his grandmother, who had raised him as a child. “My saving grace,” he called her.

When she passed away, mid-way through the season, he sobbed on Angie’s shoulder, open and raw about being tangled in grief, his devotion to his family and regret that he had to leave her to be with them.

It was beautiful, sad, surprising. No one scoffed, or told him to ‘harden up’, no one questioned his tears or his heartbreak. In fact, Australia fell for him. When he walked away from the series, heartbroken fans tweeted about visions of him swaggering back in during the finale, or Angie “pulling a Honey Badger” choosing no one so she could wait for him.

Of course that didn’t happen. But there was solace in her choosing Timm as one of her final two. A fidgety larrikin, who showed off his black eyeliner, pondered whether cows had a nice life and lamented about being “the kid at school where the parents would go… ‘don’t go to Timm’s house'”.

That is why people were invested this year.

So more of that, please, TV boss people. Much more.

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