It’s no longer shameful to chat about the latest Married at First Sight or MKR scandal. Professionals stand around chatting, side by side with professors and AFLW players. Have we just become a massive bunch of MAFS-debaters?

As we experience an extreme fast food trend – mile-high crispy-crème-burgers and dripping unicorn freak shakes that turn our tummies to mush – it’s no surprise that we are taking enjoyment as TV liquifies our brains. We love to feed that guilty, voyeuristic pleasure – viewing people at their most private, awkward, strange and embarrassing.

It’s a decadence, but over the years it’s become socially acceptable. The 2018 season of Married at First Sight (Australia) has rated so well in fact, that it exceeded 1.75 million viewers at its peak. To put that into context, more people watched the MAFS finale than viewed Roger Federer win the Australian Open.

As I catch up on morning chatter at work, surrounded by mature, intelligent people, I hear comments like, ‘It’s all fake… it’s completely scripted’, and yet the saccharine, fatty grossness of it just reels us in. We know it’s bad for us. But we keep coming back for more. It’s almost as if the worse it is for us, the more we love it.

Where did reality TV even come from? According to VU Screen Media expert Dr Marc C-Scott, it all began in the bygone era of live TV. That may conjure images of people falling off chairs laughing on black and white talk shows, teased hair on Perfect Match or even Candid Camera; but it was the cheap thrill of ‘unscripted’ entertainment that’s once again pulling audiences today.

C-Scott says there’s big ‘bang’ for the relatively little ‘buck’. And with the take-over of Netflix and subscription television, it could be network TV’s last desperate grab for ratings.

“Reality TV gets audiences. It is cheap to make and relatively unscripted – they don’t have to pay for writers, cinematography, costumes, sets... Granted, they manipulate what people say and do to create a story line – but they always have done – you just haven’t been aware of it.”

But surely things are worse now, though?

“Think back to 18 years ago with the advent of Big Brother” he says. “Producers would be behind the scenes storyboarding their intended plotlines. They would gently manipulate the characters’ actions and reactions. Nowadays it’s just much more obvious – and participants don’t mind – often they want to be considered a particular way for their own social media or branding. So a producer asking them the same question over and over, until they get the response they want isn’t unusual.”

So for now, as we come down from our MAFS sugar-high (what even is the deal with Bachelor in Paradise?), maybe we’ll start to give into our ‘healthier’ viewing cravings…A serve of Masterchef, anyone?

 

Writer:  Jessica Jury