Married at First Sight Sight- A Moral Dilemma?

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This article was written by a young person as part of our #YouDeserve: Healthy Relationships Campaign. To find out more about the campaign click here.

Married at First Sight-  A moral Dilemma?

Many of us have been watching Channel 4’s dating show Married At First Sight. For those not familiar with the programme, it’s a dating show with an intense twist –  the contestants marry complete strangers! Of course, the ‘Experts’ match their contestants based on their personalities, career etc but of course, with any reality show, there is inevitable drama. 

However, while the show entices large audiences, the reasons for these large audiences presents a moral dilemma perhaps? During the Married at First Sight Australia series, we see larger than life Elizabeth Sobinoff in a startlingly low mood just days into the social experiment. The reason for these low moods being her tumultuous relationship with partner Sam Ball.

Image: Married at First Sight (Nine Network)

Throughout the series we see these two argue and even see Sam betray Elizabeth. Of course, this all makes for great viewing and perhaps shines a disturbing light on our indulgence of schadenfreude, but that’s why we watch reality television!

Only when we begin watching the language and behaviours of the couples do we start to witness the elusive traits of gaslighting. The mental torment of the couples is then filmed and openly broadcasted on national television. The humiliation, betrayal and constant knocks about appearance are carefully plotted throughout the episodes and slowly the unravelling of the individuals follows. 

Image: Married at First Sight (Nine Network)

But in the name of quality entertainment, this is acceptable.

However, the issue is raised that the broadcasting of such behaviours on a mainstream channel is silent complicity to the embedded abusive behaviour. An acceptance of this behaviour, maybe even leniency perhaps? Reality TV programmes that featured physical, domestic, or sexual abuse would not be broadcasted nationally. It wouldn’t be portrayed in the same ‘guilty pleasure’ manner. We have decided, as a society, violence is unacceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated. But the mental abuse evident in the programme is never highlighted or wronged by the experts!

It’s the expert’s passivity to the clear emotional abuse that makes the programme so morally challenging. 

Why is this so worrying?

The programme is void of disclaimers and highlighting of the many embedded examples of gaslighting and coercive control.

In a sense, the initial purpose to entertain could have been so much more if producers had added this element of culpability – highlighting the examples of emotional abuse to viewers. 

Most dangerously this programme is viewed by many young people at their most impressionable. Setting the worst example of how to behave in a relationship. The emotional manipulation and gaslighting contributed by individuals is dramatised with music and dramatic looks but more at the expense of, usually, the woman’s demise rather than the man’s appalling behaviour.

The latest development of drama in the MAF Australia series is the allegation that the infamous Ines Basic and Sam Ball affair was in fact entirely manufactured by the producers. If this is true, it raises this moral question about the show even further. Not only is the show not highlighting the immorality of behaviour, but actively encouraging it! 

Guilt when witnessing gaslighting

Married at First Sight Australia is an active guilty pleasure for a lot of people (including me!) but maybe it’s that feeling of guilt that we should take note of when viewing. However, the guilt we may face is for a reason – gaslighting. The video below explains what gaslighting is, how to spot it and how to get help:

Spotting the patterns and phrases of elusive gaslighting may help many viewers identify their manipulative behaviours. Watching the widely approved TV show reminds us how easy and common it is to be gaslighted, but also the damaging effect it has on one’s mental health.

So watch MAFS, enjoy it, cringe at moments but above all be aware of what you’re viewing. Have opinions about behaviours and denounce the behaviour you don’t like!

Additional Information

This article is part of the Healthy Relationships campaign. If you would like to read more about the Healthy Relationships campaign and see more content including information and support for young people’s experiences, click here.

If you want help or advice about relationships, or if there’s anything else worrying you, then you can call Meic and speak to a friendly advisor. Meic is an information and advocacy helpline open from 8am to midnight, 7 days a week, for children and young people aged in Wales.

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