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?
Much 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.