Minh Thu’s stint on the Vietnamese version of The Bachelor has laid bare a glaring lack of representation on reality TV…
Reality TV rarely catches us properly by surprise anymore. We know all the tropes by now, especially when it comes to dating shows like Love Island or The Bachelor. Boy meets girls or girls meet boys and they all duke it out to find their soulmate. Or whoever irritates them the least during their time there.
But a clip from the Vietnamese iteration of The Bachelor has been spreading across social media like wildfire thanks to one contestant bucking the heterosexual tropes expected from the show.
For those not au fait with the format, The Bachelor follows one man who is presented with a pool of women – usually 25 – to ‘date’ during the course of the series until he whittles it down to two lucky (or unlucky, depending on the bloke) ladies. The bachelor then picks a winner from these two women, and usually proposes to her.
Since the first US season aired six years ago, there have been various spin-offs, including a gender-flipped version named The Bachelorette, and 24 international re-imaginings. But there has never been a series of The Bachelor that focused entirely – or even partly – on same-sex couples.
Which is why a segment from the Vietnamese version of The Bachelor has caused such joy amongst viewers. Taking place during the rose ceremony – the name given to the weekly ‘dumping’ of contestants where those who make it to the next round receive a rose – the scene shows contender Minh Thu tearfully announcing that she can’t continue to compete for the affections of bachelor Nguyen Quoc Trung.
“I went into this competition to find love,” Thu tremulously tells Trung, according to English-translated subtitles. “But I’ve found that love for myself. And it isn’t you. It’s someone else.”
Stepping off her podium, Thu then walks over to fellow contestant Truc Nhu – who has already received a rose from Trung – and proceeds to sob into the front of her dress.
“Come home with me?” Thu asked Nhu. “Yeah?”
Nhu seems to agree: the following scene shows her handing back her rose to Trung as he tries to dissuade her from her decision.
“I’m sorry,” Nhu says to him. “I really want to get to know you because you’re someone who made me feel special, and I haven’t felt that way in a long time.”
“If you decide this, would you feel regretful?” Trung replies. “This doesn’t change my decision. I’m not going to give this rose to anyone else. You only get one chance in this life, and you need to take it. Only you, not anyone else. I want to let you know that I think you’ll have regret if you continue with what you are about to say.”
Despite the host also weighing in to deter Nhu from leaving (”You have a connection with Trung that made him choose you. You should give yourself a chance. Don’t pass it up.”) she eventually decides to leave with Thu, telling Trung that’s she sorry.
“I know you’ll find someone who really loves you, who understands you, who knows how to take care of you, who can look at you from afar and know how you’re feeling,” she adds.
And reactions on social media were ecstatic at seeing such a rare depiction of queer love on reality TV, particularly on a programme broadcast in a country where same-sex marriage is still not legally recognised.
The outpouring of support highlights the lack of LGBTQ representation in reality TV, a topic that’s arisen frequently this year particularly in response to the dearth of LGBTQ individuals competing on shows across the board, from Love Island to Strictly Come Dancing.
Frankly, it’s ridiculous that programmes featuring queer culture are fêted (hello, Queer Eye and Pose), but show-runners still shy away when it comes to depicting romantic same-sex relationships on reality shows.
Perhaps the positive reaction to Minh Thu and Truc Nhu’s relationship will spark a change – although sadly, their love wasn’t to be. Nhu later decided to continue with the show after bachelor Trung had a ‘heart-to-heart’ with her. C’est la vie.