After 5 years I’ve ended my relationship with the social experiment that marries off strangers and lets us watch the shit show that ensues.
After seven seasons, one hundred and eighteen contestants, one relationship and one marriage you don’t need to be a statistician to see that Channel Nine’s thinly veiled guise at helping singles “find love” is fraught with issues.
Now, it is at this juncture that I encourage the keyboard gremlins to hold off on flexing their ignorance. Do me a favour and read all the way to the END of this post before you fire off your misspelt and incorrectly punctuated missives about how I’ve got it all wrong! The only thing I look forward to more than the ensuing debate surrounding this topic is the opportunity to correct your grammar so that one day you might have the opportunity to prove you’re not as dull as a box of rocks! (FYI ‘your’ denotes ownership, ‘you’re’ is the contracted form of ‘you are’).
As a reality TV aficionado I am no stranger to the premise that the participants of these shows make the conscious choice to broadcast (their highly edited) lives into our living rooms. I’ve watched enough UnReal to understand the morally questionable tactics used by producers to Frankenstein together whatever version of “reality” they can from the cutting room floor.
Yes, I even know that (shock horror) not everyone is in it for love! I wholeheartedly understand that there isn’t much a millennial wouldn’t do for the opportunity to promote tea that makes you shit yourself on Instagram. I also suspect that there are some folk who sign up to Channel Nine’s romantic version of the Hunger Games believing that they might have a shot of finding love, or at least nabbing an invite to the Logies!
However, I’m not quitting the show because I’ve become morally opposed to reality television. Truth be told I used to love watching MAFS because it made me feel normal. Do I genuinely care if two twenty somethings can make a fake marriage work? Not one fucking iota! However, I do care about the morally objectionable way the show makes bank on presenting dysfunction and abuse as a norm in relationships.
MAFS glorifies, nay celebrates, dysfunctional and toxic relationships. It contributes to the normalisation of toxic masculinity and emotional abuse in partnerships. It is so far removed from depicting what a healthy relationship or marriage looks like that it should be rebranded as ‘Red Flag At First Sight’.
Yes there are ‘experts’ employed to dissect the inner workings and dynamics of the ‘relationships’ but to be honest if I were one of the three expert panel members I would be spending some serious time in therapy atoning for the malignant advice I’ve doled out to unwitting individuals who live in constant fear of a bad edit (case in point – Poppy Jennings).
Throughout my viewing this season I’ve felt uncomfortable watching dinner parties where women have been berated and not one person has spoken up in her defence. I’ve felt uneasy as I’ve openly watched partners’ gaslight one another without any intervention from the experts. I’ve felt hopeless for individuals who have been the focus of relentless criticism for maintaining boundaries. I’ve felt enraged when the experts have challenged the right to privacy of contestants. I’ve felt disappointed when I’ve seen women turn on each other and bow to the will of men. However, mostly, I’ve felt ashamed that my viewing has contributed to the continuation of media representations of relationships and dating that promote rather than disrupt archaic and dangerous thinking regarding courtship and gender dynamics.
Yes contestants volunteer as tribute to this reality Hunger Games, but if Suzanne Collin’s trilogy taught us one thing it’s that when people feel backed into a corner they will relent or rebel. It’s no wonder this year’s contestants are reclaiming some power and dignity by speaking out against the franchise. Yes they might be wringing out the final seconds of their fifteen minutes, but surely the negative comments being made by participants highlights the problematic nature of the show. Rather than promoting the jewel in the Channel Nine ratings crown – contestants are speaking out – giving the middle finger to Panem.
So it is for these reasons that I’m consciously uncoupling from ‘Married At First Sight’.
MAFS we’re done. It’s not me it’s you.