reality tv

Two women. One group of men. The glaring problem with the double-bachelorette formula.

Two sisters. Two sets of roses. Two hundred unanswered questions. 

On Wednesday, in a move no one saw coming, Channel 10 announced there will be not one, but two women handing out roses for 2020's season of The Bachelorette

Elly Miles, 25, a fan-favourite from Matt Agnew's season of The Bachelor, will go on her journey to find love alongside her sister, 30-year-old Becky Miles. 

It turns out, it's actually the third time in the past five years that a country has introduced this dual-bachelorette format.

America first tried the concept in 2015, followed by New Zealand earlier this year.

In the US, the format was condemned by the media and viewers alike. On the first night, the two bachelorettes Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson were forced to compete for the affection of 25 men, before the contestants were asked to cast their vote on which woman they prefered based on their (superficial) first impressions. Kaitlyn prevailed, whilst Britt was sent home in tears. 

Britt Nilsson was sent packing, after she competed with another woman for the title of The Bachelorette. Image: ABC.

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In February, New Zealand premiered their first season of The Bachelorette. At first, fans expressed elation at the news that Lesina Nakhid-Schuster, a 32-year-old doctor and a woman of colour, would be their first bachelorette. But two weeks in, a white woman who happened to be ten years her junior, Lily McManus, entered the mansion and the two women proceeded to date the same group of men. 

"So here we are, finally, with a strong-minded, confident, independent, intelligent, successful, beautiful woman of colour… being upstaged by a Pakeha woman who's already done two Bachelor stints," Siena Yates wrote for New Zealand Herald at the time.

Now, Australia has thrown on some sisterly stilettos and followed in their footsteps.

But why always two women? Where's the double-bachelor series? 

Well, that format was tried and tested in the US in 2004 (which is approximately 657 seasons ago) and it hasn’t seen the light of day since. At the time, America was entering their sixth season of The Bachelor without a single success story, and the plot-twist was marketed as an opportunity to give the women more choice. (Like The Bachelorette 11 years later, the contestants voted for who they preferred, and one of the bachelors was sent home on the first night.)

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Watch: The top five Bachelor Australia moments of all time. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia

For a format that has not just survived but thrived since its American premiere in 2002, the Bachelor franchise in all its iterations has ultimately flourished in its goal of providing perpetually entertaining storylines, watched by bajillions both here and over there. And yes, there have been some long-lasting relationships along the way, though these days its seems it's not really a priority and more a mere possibility. 

This latest plot twist from the production team only serves as a transparent reminder of their foremost goal of facilitating audience-attracting drama. 

Two women! Dating the same men? What if they both like the same man! Bingo.

Pitting women against each other is a trite trope of the modern television landscape. This year, it’s not enough for the men to compete for the love of just one woman - despite the reverse sufficing for the soon-to-air Bachelor. No, on The Bachelorette, the women must also compete with each other. 

On the current season of Bachelor In Paradisewomen being pitted against other women has emerged as one of the season's primary plotlines. 

There was Abbie and Jess both wanting Ciarran. Then we were shown tension between Jess and Renee over, yes, Ciarran, before finally we moved on to the competition between Jess and Kiki. Oh, we also saw the argument between Kiera and Alisha, and now we are witnessing the battle of Brittney and Cass. 

Evidently, producers see the woman-against-woman storyline as compelling television.

Bachelor In Paradise 2020. Image: Channel 10. 

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But let’s not forget the other uncomfortable truth about why this format of two women is popular: the male gaze.

In New Zealand, when Lily McManus “joined the party” two weeks into Lesina Nakhid-Schuster’s season, the men were literally jumping for joy. 

One man even predicted he would “surely be the one that ends up with both of them".

Ah, yes. The sexual fantasy of “two women”. 

According to clinical psychologist David Ley, writing in Psychology Today, "The fantasy of the 'threesome' with two women is regarded as ubiquitous among men, with some prevalence rates as high as 85 per cent of males acknowledging a fantasy about such an event".

It’s an undeniable - subconscious at best - factor into why the casting executives have embraced this format. 

New Zealand introduced had two bachelorettes earlier this year. Image: TVNZ.

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Already, the Australian Bachelorette seasons are shorter than our Bachelor seasons. Whilst the former averages 12 episodes a series, the latter averages 16 episodes. And the truth is, The Bachelorette doesn't rate as well with audiences as The Bachelor does. 

But if the production team is looking for a solution to that, surely the answer is not to bring in a reductive and sexist format, but to invest in what their audience wants. 

Every year, there is a national conversation - largely led by outrage - concerning the lack of diversity in cast members on the Bachelor franchise. 

So, this year, why not cast a woman of colour, a plus size woman, an older woman or a gay woman for the lead role?

The show is not exactly known for its progressive portrayal of modern love, or their fresh perspectives on females in the 21st century. But this year, they had the opportunity to be groundbreaking. It's really too bad they chose a gimmick instead.  

Sorry, Warner Brothers. But we're not sure you're here for the right reasons. 

Listen to Mamamia's daily entertainment podcast, The Spill, where hosts Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece discusswhy not everyone's happy about our new bachelorettes. 

Feature image: Channel 10. 


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