When identity risks becoming a Reality TV “twist”

Looking back at the Reality genre, viewers are very accepting of gay participants. But is it our place to judge?

Carly & TresneMuch has been written about My Kitchen Rules contestants Carly and Tresne coming out as same-sex partners in a magazine article, having presented themselves as best friends in the Seven cooking contest.

For the most part, everyone has been supportive of their statements, which is good to see.

“We wanted to go on the show as ourselves and have people judge us on cooking and not our sexual preference,” Carly told New Idea. ‘Channel Seven were so good to us and very understanding.”

Tresne added: ‘All the other teams knew about us. They picked it up after the second instant restaurant, even though we are not a couple who indulge in public displays of affection.’

‘It wasn’t sitting right with us, not saying anything of our relationship,’ Carly added.

‘We were actually feeling sick about it but now that we’ve shared it, a wave of relief has washed over us. We also hope that by doing this, we can help young kids who are struggling to come out.

‘I know it might be a bit rough for the next couple, but we are pretty resilient.’

I am reminded somewhat of ‘Farmer Dave’s’ coming out on Big Brother 2006 in which he revealed his sexuality to his housemates, and the nation, after several days on air. Significantly, he hadn’t presented himself as another identity prior to his revelation.

Carly and Tresne had previously held a commitment ceremony, indicating they were already openly gay. So it sort of begs the question why the need to present themselves as something else from the get go? And are we complicating issues by not being up front? As a viewer I’ve never been entirely comfortable with identity as a Reality TV twist whether on MKR or the deceptive There’s Something About Miriam and Playing it Straight.

The first Big Brother certainly made much of ‘Johnny Rotten’, largely over his supposed misleading of telling housemates one thing and Big Brother another. But as Reality Ravings notes, the Genre has done much to break down walls, misconceptions and urban myths.

The list of former gay reality participants is longer than I can remember.

We’ve had Gav and Waz on The Block, Courtney Act on Australian Idol, Ben’s proposal on Big Brother, plus last year’s Ben Zabel and Tully on BB, Christine, Mindy, Alvin, Cleo and Courtney on Masterchef,  Aussie Tabatha Coffey has her own US series, Sara-Jane on The Great Australian Bake-Off, Rhys (and plenty more) on So You Think You Can Dance, too many boys on I Will Survive, Peter on The Renovators and a parade of openly gay judges: Todd McKenney, Dan Lepard, Matt Mitcham, Stephan Elliott. Even MKR  has had more than a few same-sex participants: Jake, Peter, Kane.

And that’s just for starters. When it comes to Gay representation, Reality has been far more progressive than Drama.

So was there really a need, given Carly and Tresne were already out, to present themselves as “besties” in the first place? News.com.au reports some on social media were disappointed they weren’t able to be up front from the get go.

There are also some who are questioning whether the belated news was to win some favour and assist their popularity.

Based upon what we know, it probably was not necessary to keep the secret.

But I am reminded that the process of coming out is as individual as the person taking the steps. It’s not up to anybody else to tell them when or how to do it. I suppose, so it is with Television too. It’s another coming out, this time with cameras, social media and Reality TV heroes and villains. MKR doesn’t exactly have the best record in presenting all its participants with equal spotlight.

Hopefully others to follow will realise Australian audiences embrace individuals for being themselves.

6 Responses

  1. Considering every new issue of the gossip mags has a new MKR story on the cover, I truly believe this was part of a meticulously planned schedule of drip-fed stories over the course of the series. Personally, the fact that they are gay means little other than that it is good that another same-sex couple are on prime time. There’s no controversy other than the notion that it was a marketing choice not to have that fact front and centre.

  2. on MKR a few years ago the gay couple from Brisbane, the horrible ones Garry and his partner were in a relationship but MKR chose not to title them as a couple.

    I couldnt care less if Tresne and Carly are a couple. They seemed to be nice people and a breath of fresh air to the show. Good luck to them,

    It would be nice one day if you could say same sex people are in a relationship and no one bats an eye lid about it.

  3. If the news media want to write stories about folk, they are entitled to do so. The couple are in the spotlight on one of tvs highest rating shows, a bit of info comes out and journos write about it. I am sure one or 2 outlets were speculating about a relationship break up with some Block contestants. I dunno, I just don’t read that sort of stuff. Media outlets also focus on romance developing between contestants. Its just part of the media circus. Everyone goes into these shows with their eyes wide open about production manipulation, there is a considerable history.
    Folk can keep their relationship status private and reveal what they want, when they want. However, any change to it, whether people are gay, straight or whatever is always gonna get journos buzzing, they have gotta write something…

  4. Isn’t it up to the individual as to when they reveal their identity? Having a commitment ceremony in front of friends and family is far different to coming out in front of Australia on television. Now that they are out, let’s be done with it and just accept them for who they are. I don’t see the need to have news articles on it, whether they are positive or negative articles. Let’s just all move on and be happy for them.

  5. Awesome read David. I agree that when it comes to reality TV sexuality plays no important role unless the Reality TV show requires sexuality, e.g. The bachelor. And whether it be publicized on the show is completely up to the person on the show and no one else. Questioning their decision on the basis on them coming out at any point of the show should not be up for discussion. If that’s what they feel is right, then that is what is right.

Leave a Reply