Can we please have your dignity?

20 Apr

Has reality television turned us all into a*******?

They say sex sells, but shame and failure are way better. See, I really wanted to hate Married at First Sight. I promise I did. But I have a dirty confession; not only have I watched it, but I also kind of love it in the worst way and I DON’T KNOW WHY!

Actually, that’s a lie.

I do know.

It’s because, deep down, I’m a bit of an a**hole.

Ironically, my new obsession with MAFS comes at about the same time as my Bachie nemesis, Blake Garvey, a.k.a. Blake Vader, announced his tragic split from Lipstick Louise via a poignant breakup shoot with New Idea. Yes, you read that correctly. They legit got together on some windy beach-side lookout and posed for photographs looking forlorn and heartbroken. Relationship goals AF.

And a big part of me has absolutely revelled in it. The deep-voiced, shallow-minded lothario and his controversial third-choice bride have given back their Bunda rings and commemorated it with a flipping GLAMOUR SHOOT! It’s heaven on a stick. (On the other hand, another, somewhat smaller, part of me is sad I won’t be able to make sarcastic jokes about their beige wardrobes and personalities anymore, but that’s just a cross I’ll have to bear.)

 

new idea split

This is a thing and it really happened. (Image via New Idea)

 

But through these two reality television goldmines, what’s really become super clear to me is just how much we enjoy watching people suffer. And not just us, the viewing public of Australia, but the very contestants themselves. Apparently sacrificing their dignity, their bodies, their emotional well-being, and anything else remotely sacred is the only way wannabe television stars can make a coin these days. Forget the happy endings, we wanna see you tear shreds off!

Take Monday night’s ep of Married at First Sight for example. Although the surface-level focus was the anticipated meet up of all the couples and their incessant arm-stroking at Bilbo Baggins’ house, anyone with half a brain knew that it was really about Jono and Clare breaking up and the ensuing awkward AF dinner party showdown. And the other contestants kind of loved it. It was legit all they could talk about. I mean, they put in a solid effort pretending to care, but really the smugness was palpable…

 

cersei smug

Ohhh…you’re not together anymore?

 

The psychologists kept saying that Jono and Clare were matched for a reason, but unless that reason was to make good television out of emotional turmoil, I’m fresh out of ideas as to why these two people were married in the first place. Sources tell me that Clare suffered through an abusive relationship in the past, and so she was expertly paired with a man who lost his shit at a couch in Ikea. Obvi it had serious potential from the start, guys. But perhaps the best and most telling part of the whole shemozzle was the serious “psychological support” Clare received from the three “experts” when she and Jono officially decided to split and she found herself sobbing alone in the middle of the Blue Mountains.

 

there there gif

From left: Clare, John Aitken

 

And Australia loved it. It was a major talking point on Tuesday morning. But after a brief discussion with my fellow MAFS- addict and writer friend, we agreed that the schadenfreude doesn’t just stop at dating shows. Basically every reality tv program requires a significant element of suffering and embarrassment for us to want to tune in. And for what? Despite the small wins, occasional monetary remuneration and, at best, fleeting fame, what do the participants really gain from the whole experience? An entire nation of people enjoying their shame.

Because, deep down, we’re all a bit of an a**hole. But has reality television itself conditioned us to be this way?

So my friend and I played a little game. We decided to write the production briefs for some of Australia’s biggest reality shows. But in a much more honest way.

The Voice, X Factor and any others from the trolley of talent shows out there: Sure, sing us a beautiful song, but you ain’t gonna get any screen time unless you tell us about how you saw the life leave your little brother’s eyes after he was squashed by that tractor. For those of you not as fortunate to have a tragic backstory, don’t worry, we’ll put together montage episodes of all the really bad, delusional contestants who never had a hope of succeeding so that our viewers can have a good laugh. Maybe you can get on one of those.

Biggest Loser: We really want to help you lose weight, but we also really want to hear again and again how much you want to be a parent and keep dwelling on those failed pregnancies you suffered because of, you know… how overweight you are.  And while we focus on all aspects of your health, we’re going to starve you on a low cal diet for weeks, then roll you through the middle of the Chadstone food truck festival and see if you eat your body weight in dim sims. Surprise! Temptation! But don’t forget to be healthy, kay?

The Block: Come on our show and we’ll ‘challenge’ you by ringing every drop of stress and anxiety out of your relationship while we give you a shitty budget, rush you through something you have never done before, but also don’t forget to stay in love with your partner and be attractive. (Meanwhile, did you see Cherie’s wall paper… hideous amirite?) Then deal with our smugness when your over-decorated apartment doesn’t reach reserve at auction and you realise you’ve worked your balls off for, like, $3000.

My Kitchen Rules: We’ll invite the biggest pack of a**holes in Australia, sit them around your dinner table and watch while your hope curdles like the cream you forgot to refrigerate as they pick apart all the reasons why you are a terrible cook and overall person.

 

Reality television is basically taking over. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but I can’t help but worry that it’s only going to feed our hunger for suffering and embarrassment. Don’t get me wrong, I (and I think a lot of people) want to see Ordinary Joe realise his hopes and dreams, but not before he hands his dignity over.

Just like Blake and Louise did. At the end of the day, someone had to have OFFERED them that photoshoot. Or, at the very least, thought it was worth publishing. Because they knew Australia would love it.

 

I mean, really, would you ruin your life for a guest spot on Ready Steady Cook and a 2012 Hyundai Getz?

 

 

 

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