Why would you get Married At First Sight?
Catholic Voice Journalist CHRIS GORDON vents his spleen in this opinion piece about Australia’s top rating television show, Married At First Sight.
I watch a lot of rubbish television. A LOT.
I still watch some cartoons. I watch talk shows that get me cranky while my wife patiently shakes her head in exasperation and wonders why. Sometimes I watch Question Time.
But I can’t for the life of me bring myself to watch Married At First Sight (MAFS).
And this is not some sort of high-brow snobbishness against reality television. I watch the Block, the dancing and singing shows. I LOVE Survivor… I’ve even put more than a few hours into some reality shows about baking.
But I don’t get any connection between MAFS and reality.
Couples are formed based on… you know what, I’m not even sure. The show claims its experts have expertly matched the couples based on… I don’t know, science?
But whatever knowledge, logic or magic they are employing doesn’t seem to be working. I gather only two per cent of partnerships set up through this show have worked out so far. Two per cent is less than the statistical margin of error. You have the same chance of dying from Malaria.
So they throw these mis-matched people together (I shouldn’t say mis-matched in case it calls into questions the process by which they are selected or the people making the selections… and I should ignore the stats because maybe they’ve just had 98% of bad luck). They throw these people together and do all they can to test the relationships through trials and speed humps.
The couples are then encouraged to “dish” publicly on the problems in their relationships. They are even offered opportunities to hook up with other “married” individuals.
One of my major peeves with the show is the title. These couples are NOT in any way married. They are invited to spend time with each other, show some public displays of affection, encouraged to “hook up”, but they are not married and, based solely on the shows relationship success rate, it is optimistic in the extreme to even suggest MAFS refers to the likelihood of marriages.
So just in terms of semantics, it’s not “Married” at first sight. “Arbitrarily Linked at First Sight” might be a more accurate title. Or “Thrust Into the Public Sphere In A Statistically Unlikely and Entirely Ratings-Driven Fake Marriage… At First Sight,” would be even better. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it.
But I’m being a nark, I hear you say. How’s it different to arranged marriages?
Well, I’m no expert on or advocate for arranged marriages, but according to Mr Wikipedia they have a very good success rate. Only six per cent of arranged marriages end in divorce. Arranged marriages are preceded by a period in which the betrothed spend time together before they marry (and this time does NOT include a “marriage” like, pre-marriage ceremony). They get to know each other in advance.
In arranged marriages, couples are brought up in the culture and are familiar with and mostly accepting of the tradition. The couples are not seeking publicity or fame from the arrangement. They are not invited to public bitch sessions about their partners. And there are a lot less cameras and social media.
Even from my ignorance of arranged marriages, it’s clear this show isn’t about that. At best it’s an arranged series of dates. “Dating at First Sight?” Now THAT’S more accurate.
The people on the show, especially the louder and more divisive ones, then suffer a nation-wide backlash that no advance warning can truly prepare for. I heard one of this year’s antagonists is doing it particularly tough coping with the pressure. And while it’s tempting to note the link between cause and effect, and to say they had it coming, that sort of national public humiliation is something few of us will ever experience and can be way out of proportion to their misdemeanors and comments on the show.
You almost have to feel some compassion for even the most unlikeable sods when the public backlash is so extreme and hurtful.
I’m actually surprised the experts and professionals employed by the show hang around for more than one season when they see the absolute unlikelihood of successful relationships and the almost certainty of public humiliation for some contestants.
And that’s at the core of my rant. It’s not about marriage at all. It doesn’t have any intention of actually bringing couples together, of keeping them together, or of emphasising the sanctity and beauty of marriage.
Marriages obviously have a history steeped in religious tradition where the marriage is a covenant, a set of vows before God. It’s something I am poorly equipped to describe sufficiently, although I hope someone else will. But a civil wedding also celebrates the sanctity of marriage. In both cases, marriage is meant to be to that special one, and lasts forever.
Marriages don’t all work out that way. Many marriages fail. But this show doesn’t seem to have any link to setting up relationships that can last.
Marriages are hard work. They are glorious, wonderful relationships, but they are also hard work. There are more than enough obstacles in real life, tests and tribulations, that couples have to navigate. This particular show, more than any other reality show in my opinion… more than The Bachelor or The Real Wives of Lake Cargelligo… this show cynically presents the lowest possible rendition of marriage.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts. With TV, we all decide for ourselves. And who am I to pass judgement, right?
My only qualifications with regards to this show are that I am married and have a remote control. And because of one, I’ll use the other.
- What do you think of this show? Opinions welcome.