This year’s show, with Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins has been one of the most controversial yet, with concerns being raised over bullying and concerns over the mental welfare of contestants and vulnerable viewers.
This week we were given a reminder of just how manipulated the “reality” is when we saw the fourth wall broken down UnReal-style, when contestant Tennille Favios ran off during a cocktail party after an altercation with fellow contestant Romy, and she was unwillingly followed with a microphone and cameras.
Then that was followed by a conversation between the trio who've been dubbed this season’s “villains”, Cat Henesy, Romy Poulier and Alisha Aitken-Radburn, when they thought the cameras had stopped rolling.
“Do you think I should give him an ultimatum?” Cat asks the others ahead of the rose ceremony.
“F**k yeah, do it,” Romy encourages, but advises that she might need a plan B. “Are you gonna cry?” she asks. “I think it adds to it. He won’t send you home.”
No contestants have had more air-time this year, for better or worse, than those three. And as a contestant, what assures you airtime? Drama.
“If you don’t say or do things there is a chance that you will go home and we have been told that,” Cat, who was asked to leave by Cummins for creating drama in the house, tells marie claire.
“It’s very hands-on in there,” she adds of the producers.
While the girls were quick to applaud the producers for being “bloody good at their job”, they admit it’s still hard to watch themselves back.
“You think they’re going to cut you some slack or at least show another facet of your personality,” says Romy, who has been dubbed one of the show’s most controversial contestants ever.
When asked if they felt pressure to get airtime, there was a unanimous yes.
You sacrifice so much to be there, and the process is huge,” says Romy. “Cat moved countries, Alisha resigned from Bill Shorten’s office...”
“So I’m clearly going to try and make the most of this experience,” interjects Alisha. “And if it’s not a connection with Nick then, of course, I’m still going to try and stick around – maybe I could go skydiving or something!”
“A couple of us knew the first few days we were in there that we weren’t going to develop anything super serious [with Nick], but that doesn’t mean we weren’t going to give it a red hot go.”
This season there has also been a lot of chatter about the authenticity of the contestants and whether or not some of them were actually actresses planted solely to cause drama. And while Romy admits to being an actor by trade, she denies being planted on the show by producers.
That said, however, she did admit that being in the house and the pressure-cooker situation makes you take on a role.
“Today, if a girl said to me I don’t kiss on the first date and then came back to me and said, ‘I kissed on the first date’, I’d be like cool, but in there it’s different, it's heightened,” says Romy. “In there and you have nothing else to do, nothing else to think about, it’s kind of like Stockholm Syndrome, and before you know it you’re completely engulfed in the drama and this character and it’s just bizarre.”
“It’s not about love, its never been about love,” adds Alisha. “It’s all about the drama and if people don’t like it they don’t have to watch it."
So who is to blame? The producers who manipulate it? The girls who willingly go along with it to get airtime? Or the viewers who watch it and enable it?