On one hand, The Bachelorette brings together the largest concentration of Kiwi nitwits on one show since Top Town, the series which set up a kind of obstacle course for nitwits from the provinces. On the other hand, the Kiwi nitwits on The Bachelorette are also very complex, very sensitive, and in one case really quite sinister.
The long-running dating show – it began in mid-summer, before Covid-19 was a thing, before the new normal of facemasks and the long face of Dr Ashley Bloomfield looming over everything – operates as an analysis of the contemporary Kiwi nitwit. Its conclusions are at once disturbing and reassuring.
The show confirms the urge to conform remains a foundation principle of being male in New Zealand. But it also reveals that honour and decency continue to be regarded as prized values in the fight between good and evil.
Most of the bachelors on The Bachelorette are good guys. Complicated, tormented, afraid, weepy, depressed, boring, but decent. Bachelor Quinn is a good guy. Bachelor Michael, Bachelor Richie, Bachelor Terence – you can run down the list of the remaining contestants, and you'll only find good guys. With one exception: the sinister Bachelor Aaron.
"Be a man!", demanded Bachelor Jesse. To which Bachelor Aaron stared at him, and said nothing.
"Every time there's tension in the house," Hottie Lesina pointed out to him, "your name is always in it." To which Bachelor Aaron felt her leg, and said he wondered why that was, too. It was baffling, he said. But probably, he concluded, it was just a case of plain bad luck. "I've been caught out in unlucky situations," he claimed.
His latest unlucky situation was to go out of his way to get Bachelor Liam thrown off the show. He told Hottie Lily that Liam had a woman waiting for him. Lily summoned Liam to her side and demanded to know the truth. He said it wasn't entirely true. But the only right answer was to declare that it was entirely false. He was duly ordered out of the house and he left last night's show in disgrace, dragging his suitcase behind him in the dark, no fond farewell, no ceremony, no nothing.
"I did the right thing," claimed Bachelor Aaron. He said he told the truth, that he was only passing on information; and as everyone knows, it's folly to shoot the messenger. All of a sudden he was positioning himself as a kind of Nicky Hager, ferreting out information in a clandestine manner to right wrongs. Liam was the vile Whaleoil; Aaron was the avenging Hager.
And maybe he had a point. Maybe he did the right thing. We watch The Bachelorette for romance but what we get is an examination of motive, of character, of what it is to be a New Zealand man looking for love. Verily, Bachelor Aaron is a conundrum wrapped inside a set of ethical dilemmas.
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What he tells us is that the New Zealand male no longer has an important quality which helped build this country and make it great: straightforwardness. Complicated is the new normal. We live in uncertain times.