When it comes to trivialising the sanctity of marriage, timing is everything. And for Channel 9’s “greatest social experiment” Married At First Sight – the timing for their latest twist is way bloody off.
As thousands of rainbow families around the country anxiously brace themselves for the increasing likelihood of a costly and divisive nationwide vote on their right to get married, Married At First Sight has announced that its upcoming series will feature their first ever illegitimate same-sex wedding. Which would be totally fine if, you know, all of our marriages weren’t already deemed illegitimate by the government.
“This is disgusting,” wrote Troy Murphy on the show’s Facebook page – “while the LGBTI community is on the brink of fighting for the right to marry, Channel 9 is making a quick buck by making a mockery of something we don’t even have yet.”
“Channel 9 should make a public statement in support of marriage equality. Educate people instead of just going after commercial dollars,” wrote Mark Haines.
Comments on Married at First Sight's Facebook page.
Look, I get it. Reality television is a ruthless beast that holds no prisoners – and the inclusion of a same-sex couple could be seen as a positive reflection of the changing times. But, to be honest, it feels more like a slap in the face than it does a pat on the back – and not just because it's parading that which our community has always been denied as some sort of faux-progressive media stunt.
The problem lies in reality television's long history of exploiting LGBTI contestants and their relationships as cheap headline-grabbing gimmicks. Anyone remember There's Something About Miriam – the dating show conceptually hinged on the poorly-received punchline that Miriam was actually a trans woman? Or there was Playing It Straight, the show which saw one single woman spend time with a group of seemingly heterosexual men in order to discern which of them were gay and which of them were straight. These shows were literally forcing openly LGBTI contestants back into the closet in exchange for advertising dollars and bums-on-seats.