I recently caught up with some girlfriends for dinner and naturally the topic of conversation turned to the recent season of the Bachelor – of course we ruminated on the Honey Badger’s moustache and it’s practicality and whether or not the constant use of Australian colloquialisms would drive us mad (reassuringly I realised it wasn’t just me who would end up screaming at him to stop mentioning a bag of cats or dogs in a butcher shop or speaking in any code).
We did get fairly stuck, however, on the behind the scenes footage we got shown this season, the invasion of the contestants’ privacy and perhaps, one might say, breach of their trust.
I can tell you now I would never ever do reality TV because I am extremely conscious of the fact that material can be edited to make you look unhinged, very easily. It wouldn’t take much to make me look a bit kookier than what I am, especially with a glass (or 3) of champagne in me.
This season though we saw some extra footage, didn’t we? We saw the stuff after the cameras had supposedly stopped rolling from the contestant’s point of view anyway. We saw Cass speaking to producers, apologising then breaking down. We saw Tenille run away from a cocktail party, throw her shoes off, unzip her dress and try to get as far away from the Bachie mansion as possible- and honestly, I don’t blame her. And yet the camera kept rolling, the producers followed her, asked her to come back and despite her asking repeatedly to be left alone – they followed her, filmed it and televised the footage. A part of me wondered if they had flared the situation – surely leaving the distraught overwhelmed woman alone would have helped her regain composure quicker?
So, my question is do the TV producers have a duty of care to these contestants? If they do, where does it lie? If one girl is being persistently being bullied by the others (as we saw this season, but then again how much of that was edited we will never know)- do they take her aside, provide counselling, suggest ways in which she can manage the situation and her stress or anxiety? Do they suggest reducing alcohol intake because it is known that it clearly worsens anxiety and isn’t helpful in acute stress? Do they offer counselling or any other form of independent support? Or do they run cocktail party after cocktail party throwing more alcohol at an already volatile situation with vulnerable individuals?
I’ll be honest- in my 20s I had abundant moments of having a big cry after a wine or running away in a dramatic fashion. But my moments were never filmed and aired on national TV – thank goodness. If they had been however, I can imagine it would significantly affect my self-esteem and perhaps even job prospects in the future. I can also tell you that in my self-declared hysterical moments the hysteria would have most definitely escalated if there had been a camera and producer following me.
I am aware that lots of people say “they know what they were getting into” about the contestants who sign up for these reality dating shows and to an extent I agree. But I don’t think Cass quite imagined that she would be painted as the “stage 5 clinger” as she has come to be known. I don’t think she expected that the footage of her getting teary when she says “I’m sorry” would be shown. I don’t think she thought the producers would push her with questions to make her look even more invested in the Honey Badger than what she probably was. I think she might feel as if her trust was breached and I don’t blame her. Even if the contestants go in knowing they are being filmed and good TV needs to be made, should someone be exploited when they are absolutely vulnerable?
I think if you put 20 women in a house, ply them with alcohol and ask them to compete for the attention of one Honey Badger man then you should expect to see normal human insecurities and vulnerabilities play out- but the question is does all the footage need to be shown to me, the viewer? Is it fair to the women? And where does the duty of care of the producers lie?