The show has had a wildly mixed reception overseas. It’s been labelled a dumber version of Bachelor In Paradise that makes you feel like your “brain is leaking out your ears”. But it’s also been praised for its knowing, absurdist humour.
As Kylie Cheung wrote for Jezebel, “FBOY Island [brought] something new to the table: self-awareness about the absurdity of dating shows (and dating in general) and refreshing candour about the seemingly conflicting eras of Tinder and feminist empowerment through which we’re living.”
Closer to home, however, the feminist credentials of the franchise have come under fire. On Thursday, 2017 Bachelor winner Laura Byrne accused Chatfield of “absolute hypocrisy” for her involvement with the series.
“Talks about dismantling the patriarchy. Announces that they are hosting FBOY Island: a show that encourages men to lie to women … in order to win a cash prize,” Byrne wrote on her Instagram story.
She also pointed out that the recent New Zealand version of the show cast an fboy who had been charged with suffocating a woman a year prior. Though the man was found not guilty, the NZ Herald reports he admitted to police he brought the woman home because she was drunk and hoped to have sex with her. He had covered her mouth and nose to keep her quiet.
The contestant, who had reportedly not disclosed the incident to the production company, was removed from the series. But public outrage remained, with a petition circulating to pull the show entirely.
Chatfield responded to Byrne via Instagram, arguing that she would not be involved with the Australian show – which is yet to be created – if she felt it was exploitative.
“I know that FBOY Island is a much more pro-women show than The Bachelor,” she said in a subsequent Instagram story. Echoing previous statements she’s made on the matter, Chatfield said she found the 2019 series in which she appeared: “incredibly toxic in terms of structure” and had “an awful time with the [other] girls”.
“I think a huge part of [FBOY Island] is that women have absolute control,” she tells this masthead.
“In the American version, some of the fboys have had girlfriends on the outside and some of them have said really ridiculous things about the women … but they never get away with it.
“I’m gonna be really involved with the girls trying to help them figure out who is who. And the host gets to roast the guys too. There are scenes where US host Nikki Glaser gives the fboys therapy in a light-hearted way.
“The women really band together [and] the nice guys are always going to call out the other boys too. It’s really good seeing men holding other men accountable.”
Distinct from the fairytale romance of old stalwarts like The Bachelor (which is struggling for ratings and relevancy), FBOY Island is one of many recent shows that lean in to the novel and/or gamified nature of contemporary dating.
It’s a trend that has been led by streaming services internationally, and is now kicking off in Australia too. This year the creators of Married at First Sight launched Love Triangle on Stan*. And FBOY Island, which was created by a former Bachelor producer, will be Binge’s first-ever original reality show in 2023.
“It’s not as serious as The Bachelor or Love Island,” Chatfield says. “There are serious elements. There is real drama and there are real love stories, but it’s a bit silly and light-hearted too.
“I’m super excited to see what The Bachelor does next year because they’ve shaken things up a little bit [with three men in the lead roles]. But I think that we want things to reflect real life a little more.
“I think this is more reflective of a dating life that isn’t all … literal roses.”
*Stan is owned by Nine, which also owns this masthead.