Problematic in Paradise: Exploring Toxic Masculinity in ‘The Bachelor in Paradise’

Words by Olivia De Zilva

Content Warning: Domestic Abuse

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The Bachelor in Paradise cast 2019. Image via Network Ten

Roses and banana daiquiris aside, this year’s Bachelor in Paradise series is proving to be anything but paradise.

Starting innocently enough, dozens of genetically blessed clones congregated around an island bar in the middle of Fiji. All from different seasons of The Bachelor and Bachelorette, they are expected to mingle their singleness through carefully curated dates, talks on the beach and strategic kisses behind the palm trees. There have been walk-outs, shouting matches and producers breaking the fourth wall when the contestants throw a very dramatic and very reality tv tantrum about why they are still single on an island of conventionally tanned and toned hotties.

After last season’s queer-baiting scandal involving cleverly edited teaser trailers of bisexual identifying Megan Marx, many thought that Channel 10 would clean up their act in Paradise. However, after a string of problematic behaviour from men on the island, viewers, and even host Osher Günsberg have voiced their concern about what the network has chosen to air. Gaslighting, manipulation and toxic male aggression have all been glorified for the “drama” of reality television, pushing female contestants to breaking point or downright fear of their male counterparts cohabiting on the island.

The first display of this behaviour would be when contestant Bill Goldsmith from Ali Oetjen’s season of The Bachelorette courted both Alexandra Nation and Florence Moerenhout to “explore his options” on the island. Although already in a devoted coupling with Nation, Bill pursued Florence on an overnight date hoping to become intimate. Returning back to Paradise with Florence in hand, Bill denied anything had happened between them to the befuddled Alex. Calling Florence a “malicious salty bitch”, Bill gaslit both women into “manipulating” his intentions and proceeded to have shouting matches with them while laughing with his bro-friends at the tiki bar. Taking him back, Alex conceded that Florence was indeed a “salty bitch”, while Bill bragged that he’d had sex with at least “80–100 women at the dog park”. Jules Bourne, a “quirkier” contestant on the island also practised gaslighting with his potential ‘love connection’, Alisha Aitken-Radburn. While initially becoming intimate quite quickly, Jules abandoned his feelings for Alisha when someone he found more attractive walked through the doors of Paradise. Leaving her confused and unwanted, Jules pursued this other connection only to get rejected himself. As a rose ceremony loomed, he crawled back to Alisha and emotionally manipulated her already fragile state of mind into a state of confusion and guilt. Although Jules is often seen as the “nice” and “harmless” romantic of Paradise, his actions proved to be extremely damaging and hurtful to Alisha who thought they had found a genuine connection together.

A more alarming display of toxic masculinity in Paradise is shown through the brawny and blokey Ivan Krslovic. Initially gaslighting the bubbly Brittany Weldon into giving him a rose then ignoring her all together, Ivan has had a rather woeful track record. When the beautiful Tenille Favios entered, Ivan made a rather aggressive bee-line towards her. Taking Ivan on her first date, Tenille was uneasy about his over zealous attachment to her from the offset. As their “connection” progressed, Ivan became totally possessive over Tenille, disallowing her from forming relationships with other contestants and becoming violent when another man talked to her. Punching a wall in his shared cubby, Ivan claimed that Tenille was “his property and other guys should stick to the bro code’. Storming into her room while she was using the bathroom, Ivan confronted Tenille for wanting her space away from him and used his imposing stature to hold her into a submissive position where she was unable to move. After ending things with Ivan due to feeling suffocated by his overbearing advances, Tenille was made to feel guilty and shamed much like Alex, Florence and Alisha before her. In a teaser trailer for next week’s episodes, Channel Ten shows Ivan on a jealous rampage, becoming physically aggressive with another contestant who shares a genuine connection with Tenille. Just to add more ridiculousness to the situation, Tenille and Ivan had only known each other less than a week.

It’s quite troubling that Ten is encouraging and using this dangerous behaviour to fuel ratings and popularity in their 730pm weeknight slot. Although the show has got people talking, it’s been for the worrying depiction and glorification of behaviour that many have argued constitutes domestic abuse. According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15. These devastating statistics continue, with the ABS stating that 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 while the AHRC notes that 85% of Australian women have been sexually harassed. This data is showing that the actions of Ivan, Jules and Bill is certainly no joke. This epidemic of harassment, physical and emotional abuse is something that should be taken extremely seriously, especially by a Network attempting to recover from its ongoing controversies in 2019 (see Kerri-Anne Kennerly’s racist outburst over changing the date of Australia Day). What’s worrying about BIP is that producers are obviously complacent to the serious issues surrounding their contestants. Many have taken to Twitter to share their concern as to why the behaviour of the three men is allowed to continue without consequence or immediate eviction.

The glorification of this behaviour for entertainment has tainted the fun of a bunch of fame-hungry reality stars making a fool of themselves in Fiji. Channel Ten should be ashamed of their relentless capitalisation of womens’ harassment and abuse by men who should have been strictly disciplined for their outrageous actions. In the era of #MeToo and sexual harassment crises in the workplace, educational institutions and the home, these scenes of distress are absolutely shattering and set the movement for safer conduct towards women truly and totally behind.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or are unsure about associated behaviours, please contact 1800RESPECT.

The Bachelor in Paradise continues on Network 10

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