reality tv

'FBoy Island is proving that men aren't OK.'

Okay, yes, it happened: I have become wildly attached to watching FBoy Island Australia.

To be clear, I am not generally a reality show kind of person, so this is really big news for my home life. In the past, I've watched bits and pieces of Married At First Sight, The Bachelor, and, at one point, I did enjoy the odd episode of the decidedly bananas production that was Gigolos, the 2011-2016 show about five male escorts living in Las Vegas. 

But FBoy Island feels inherently different from other mainstream reality TV shows and I became devoted to watching it really, really quickly. 

For the uninitiated: FBoy Island, which started out as an American reality TV series hosted by comedian Nikki Glaser, involves three women looking for love among a pool of 24 men. The catch is that half of the men are 'f**k boys' (men who date casually, have rather a lot of sexual partners, and don't treat women particularly kindly) and the other half are 'nice guys' who profess to have the same aims as the women, that is, finding 'the one'. 

Read more: 'I'm too old'. Angie Kent reveals that she auditioned for FBoy Island Australia.

Nobody knows who is who — save the men themselves, some of whom choose to make it appallingly obvious which camp they fall into by saying heinous things in their pieces to camera. 

The show follows the elimination decisions made by the three women as they try to navigate this situation, knowing that if they end up choosing a 'nice guy' at the end of the show, the pair will split the $50,000 prize money evenly. If they choose an FBoy, that guy will end up with solo control of the money. 


It's a perfect format. 

FBoy Island is successful because it contains both major tropes of reality TV (that is, finding love and making money) and pits those motivations in direct conflict. It's feminist in the sense that it's a direct criticism of the misogyny that manifests in exploitative attitudes to dating and also in the fact that it places three women, in this case, Molly, Sophie, and Ziara, at the helm. Abbie Chatfield, as an intelligent, outspoken commentator on dating and sex dynamics, was also the obvious choice to front the Australian production. 

Something that I don't believe could have ever been predicted, however, is just how much the format has exposed some serious ills in the psyche of young men who are trying to date. Watching the show has made me feel overwhelmingly like lots of single men are just... not okay. 

The format of FBoy Island is rawer than most other reality TV shows you will see. Of course, parts are written and surely directed and the appearance of 'Limbro', the beach-side camp where exiled FBoys are sent to be rehabilitated by Abbie is evidence that the show is happy to lean into moments of scripted comedy. But overall, the fact that men have to try and communicate effectively to these three women that they are genuine (and, for some of them, lie through their teeth) seems to push a lot of them to the edge. 


Explicit greed rubbing shoulders with absolute romantic sincerity makes for a unique circus of some of straight men's most cringeworthy qualities. 

The Bachelor is soppy, Love Island is garish, Married At First Sight is dramatic. FBoy Island is just... emotional chaos. And, Jesus Christ, we're only four episodes in. 

Listen to Mia talk with Abbie Chatfield about her career on No Filter below. Article continues after podcast. 

There have been moments that are genuinely disturbing, like self-professed FBoy and master manipulator, Caleb, accusing Molly of having 'bad p**sy' behind her back because her previous partner cheated on her. The fact that Caleb was willing to say something this reprehensible on camera was either evidence of the fact that the casting of FBoy Island Australia managed to stumble across a true villain or that Caleb has decided to risk reputational damage for the sake of making headlines. Or possibly both. Regardless of the reality, it was a shocking moment of genuine misogyny to make it to the final cut of a major reality TV show. 

Speaking on her podcast, It's A Lot with FBoy Island contestant, Molly, Abbie Chatfield said that there was value in keeping Caleb's comment in the show and that it would have been both unfair to Molly and a missed opportunity to expose the reality of how straight single men talk to each other about women sometimes. 


But it's not just the misogyny and the nauseating narcissism that some of the male contestants display (although that really is gross), there's also just some poor calculations and complete misreadings made by the men on this show that just feel heartbreaking to watch. 

On the lower end of the spectrum, there's nice guys like Nick, the man who looks the real-life Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid and has, appropriately, attached himself to Molly like a handsome barnacle. Nick is shown to be ridiculously lovely but even he managed to turn Molly off by uttering one of the world's weirdest and most emotionally defensive phrases: 'Bros before hoes'. 

There have also been guys who have acted plainly aggressive — whether or not these dramas have unfolded because the men are motivated are romance or cash is kind of irrelevant. So far, Benny and Cory have lashed out in remarkably unsettling ways at other male contestants, for revealing secrets or, in the latter's case, for expressing interest in the same woman that he is shooting for, Ziara. 

Watch the teaser trailer for FBoy Island Australia below. Article continues after video. 

Video via BINGE

Cory later tells Ziara proudly that men on the island have started approaching him for permission to speak to her, and, to her credit, Ziara makes it clear to the whole group that this is unacceptable and based on the belief that he has some sort of unspoken ownership over her, an adult human woman. 

Then, there are the guys who simply need a hug and quite a lot of training in reading social cues, including James and Riccardo, who were both eliminated in the most recent episode and the latter of whom revealed that he was an FBoy all along, to quite a lot of laughter because he is uh... terrible at speaking to women. 

Maybe it's unfair to judge these men on the basis of a reality TV show. Maybe if roles were reversed, single women would be revealed as equally problematic. But, as it is, FBoy Island is showing up, in a heightened reality TV show kind of way, what lots of women have come to understand in their single lives: that lots of men fundamentally do not understand women, lots of men say and believe appalling shit about women, and even the 'nice guys', well-intentioned as they may be, can be so extremely off-target that they come across terribly. 

Elfy Scott is an executive editor at Mamamia. 

Image: BINGE. 

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