Why the gaslighting of Shannon on The Bachelor last night infuriated Australia.

 

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This season of The Bachelor is all about The Mean Girls.

There are three of them.

And last night, Shannon – along with the rest of the country – decided they weren’t all that funny. So she decided to call them on it.

Romy, Cat and Alisha have, during their week on television, laughed about how other contestants look and dismissed at least half the group as not being ‘competition’. According to them, everyone is either ‘beige’, ‘basic’ or a ‘bitch’.

They’re the first to yell out “How embarrassing,” or “Ew,” or label another woman “desperate” for doing precisely what they were put on the show to do.

And last night, while they sat around laughing at the expense of a woman who wasn’t there, Shannon and Blair stopped them.

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“I have heard her say,” Cat said, referring to Vanessa Sunshine who had had a date with bachelor Nick Cummins, “she’s not that into him…”

From their tone, to their body language, to the fact that Cat explicitly said to camera that she didn’t think Vanessa deserved to be there given she was not yet ready to profess her love to a man she’s spent all of 45 minutes with – it was clear all three women were about to launch into a scathing bitch session.

Blair, visibly uncomfortable with the dynamic, basically argued: “Er, fair enough”.

But Cat didn’t like that very much.

As anyone who has ever had an interaction with a Mean Girl would know, they have a litany of tactics in their arsenal. And Cat chose to use a number of them.

First, she hardly had to open her mouth. The women either side of her were more than willing to defend her.

Second, she decided to make Blair feel like she was, well, a little bit crazy. 

“Why are you getting your back up…?” she asked, acting genuinely perplexed.

“I just feel like you’re getting really aggressive,” she continued, “… this isn’t meant to be a conversation like that.”

You see, Cat, and only Cat, gets to decide the terms of the conversation. And never mind that just about every one of Cat’s utterances thus far have been laced with aggression.

The jewellery designer employed some textbook gaslighting, behaving as though Blair’s response had just come out of nowhere. 

That’s when Alisha suggested that perhaps Blair was “putting [her] prejudice on the situation… and tends to find [herself] in a lot of these situations…”

Ah, yes. Because Blair is the common denominator.

All three women also glanced at each other while others were speaking, a universal sign of disdain and disrespect. You’ll see the same behaviour in any Year Nine classroom.

Shannon – who doesn’t appear to enjoy confrontation – decided to challenge them, even referencing the “looks [they] make”.

There’s literally a… camera… that has caught all the not-so-subtle glances, yet Cat could have fallen off her chair with how shocked she appeared to be at the outlandish accusation.

And then Alisha, speaking to camera, came up with what could be the quote of the season: “I don’t buy [Shannon’s] innocent girl act, she 100 per cent knew what she was doing. She’s an opportunist. She finds Cat intimidating because she is intimidating. She’s a wonderful person, and any girl in the competition should, frankly, be intimidated by Cat.”

Oh, um.

We don’t think that’s… it.

People don’t like Cat mostly because she’s cruel to them, and suggesting that really it’s because they’re ‘intimidated’ by her, is akin to saying: “You just don’t like Cat because Cat is better than you and you are jealous.

Who. Says. That. As. A. Grown. Woman?

Of course there’s editing. Of course these three women have been set up to be the villains, and Shannon as the voice of reason. But these contestants also have to acknowledge that producers can’t edit in things you never said. 

The insults and the looks and even the post-show interviews are real.

Any woman who’s known a Mean Girl is very, very familiar with gaslighting. They know what it feels like to finally muster up the courage to fight back, only to be looked at like you’re mad, because you’re the one being a little over-sensitive.

You’re left feeling like you’ve overreacted because that’s exactly how you’re meant to feel.

And last night we saw three grown women deliver a masterclass on how to do just that.

Let’s hope that when they watch it back, along with the rest of us, they’ll see just how unattractive that sort of behaviour truly is.

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