Participant on Channel 9’s MAFS 2019. Picture: Channel 9
Participant on Channel 9’s MAFS 2019. Picture: Channel 9

How can we accept this behaviour from MAFS?

THE sixth season of reality TV show, Married At First Sight, is proving to be a ratings juggernaut for Channel 9.

Described as a "social experiment" where strangers agree to "wed" before undergoing a "commitment ceremony", MAFS is car-crash television at its best - or worst.

Yet, what's seems to appeal is not the developing couple dynamics so much as the contrived situations, raging arguments, hysterics, braggadocio and bad behaviour, never mind the utter dysfunction of individual contestants.

Not that they care how they're portrayed when it means they garner extra attention, increase their social media following, and a career beyond the season beckons.

Bad, disrespectful and downright nasty conduct is on display for us all to tweet about and discuss over water coolers (as well as providing great fodder for James Weir's hilarious recaps).

There's no doubt, mean on the screen keeps viewers keen.

But beyond the prominence given to outrageous behaviour, what the show more broadly reveals is how often the cast conforms to rigid and negative gender stereotypes that do little more than undermine sexual equality and equity.

Who can forget last year's controversial contestant, Dean Wells who, apart from desiring to be matched with a "girlie-girl", wanted to be obeyed. Drawing on outdated models of relationships, he attracted criticism for his repugnant, chauvinistic attitudes.

 

Dean Wells went on MAFS 2018 hoping to end up with a woman who obeyed him, instead he got dumped. Picture: Nine
Dean Wells went on MAFS 2018 hoping to end up with a woman who obeyed him, instead he got dumped. Picture: Nine

 

Just when you thought this was so last year, MAFS 2019 doesn't only invite casual sexism, court outright sexism and reductive gender constructions, it emphasises and celebrates them as well. At least, in a strange nod to egalitarianism, the men and women come off equally badly.

Let me give you some examples.

In an interview prior to the show commencing, one of the experts, neuropsychotherapist, Dr Trisha Stafford, was not above describing the women as "the most competitive we've ever seen". She added, "I'm trying to be kind." In other words, bitches. Because, of course, women in a group cannot get along, but must tear each other down.

Then there's the whole production around appearances. Comments are often made about the women who've modified their exterior-selves through fillers, Botox, eyelash and hair extensions, with varying degrees of success.

While there's nothing wrong with being proud of or concerned with your appearance, the overwhelming proposition is they're doing it to "win" male attention and that they're "fakes".

Because, of course, it's all about deceiving the men.

Then we have some male contestants openly judging the women on their looks, reinforcing the apparent importance of this to men.

Upon seeing his bride, Elizabeth, Sam Ball criticises her figure, saying he's never been with anyone as "big" before. Implying she needs to lose weight, he blames her singleton status on her size - perpetuating another cruel myth about both sexes.

 

Elizabeth and Sam at their wedding before the body shaming began. Picture: Nigel Wright/ Channel Nine.
Elizabeth and Sam at their wedding before the body shaming began. Picture: Nigel Wright/ Channel Nine.

 

Radio host, Ed Kavalee, interviewed Sam on 2Day FM last Friday, later describing him as "the worst". He went on: "He's body shaming a woman on national television and his response is, 'Haha, she said something about me, everybody online thinks I'm cool'."

Many of the women, even those with legitimate reasons to be angry with their new partners, are disregarded as talking too much, being "emotional" and therefore not worthy of being taken seriously.

A few of the men even bond over this deep insight, deciding logic equals male; illogic, female - because, you know.

When Cyrell Jimenez's brother, Ivan, learns his sister is on MAFS, he erupts in a violent display of what's generously described and then is excused as being "over-protective", cornering her partner Nic in a threatening manner.

Because, *cue chest-beating* man must guard woman.

Much was also made of 29-year-old Matthew being a virgin. The men hounded him for salacious details before and after his "wedding", suggesting this was part of male bonding - again at women's expense.

 

While show producers were probably chuffed at finding a 29-year-old virgin in Matthew, was the emphasis on extracting salacious details really necessary? Picture: Channel 9
While show producers were probably chuffed at finding a 29-year-old virgin in Matthew, was the emphasis on extracting salacious details really necessary? Picture: Channel 9

 

While there are some genuinely nice people appearing, there are still those who believe disrespecting, being rude, macho, screaming obscenities at their partner, or shutting them down before they can offer an explanation or opinion is acceptable.

To paraphrase a contestant, and they wonder why they're single.

MAFS may be entertaining with all its drama, eye-rolling or loving interactions, but it's also normalising outdated and unhealthy sexist attitudes and clichéd gendered behaviours that have no place in any relationships.

Despite this, as Kavalee said, "we keep lowering the bar". He's right. But what I want to know is since when have we been so averse to raising it?

Karen Brooks is a Courier-Mail columnist.

@KarenBrooksAU



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