While the rest of Australia is busy taking aim at My Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans for being the most dangerous man on TV, there’s someone else on the show we should be putting in our crosshairs.
I’m talking about this year’s MKR “villain” Josh Meeuwissen. While the self-anointed Seafood King has managed some pretty objectionable behavior all season, tonight he did something so awful I can’t believe it even made it onto our screens.
Listen: This is why there’s a huge problem with this season of My Kitchen Rules.
Because since when did it become okay to call a woman a slut? And not only to call them that, but then to chuckle as if you’ve made the best joke of all time?
And yet that’s what Josh did to a rival contestant on national television tonight as she handed him a plate of food.
And while we’ve braced ourselves for it all week thanks to the promos heralding the moment, what I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of reprimand that came his way.
Amy Murr – the person he threw the slur at – was visibly shaken. You could see her blinking back tears as she stepped back from the table.
And while we heard voice overs from the other contestants saying Josh’s words were reprehensible, no-one stepped up in that moment to say to his face, “Hey, buddy, that’s NOT okay.”
And I’d take a guess it’s because, for these people, such behaviour become an expected part of their time on the show. Josh says something disgusting, the rest of them have to grin and bear it.
Not only that, but he’s being rewarded for his atrocious antics by gaining the majority of screen time as the most-watched series on Australian television continues to air four nights a week for months on end.
For those who haven’t watched along this season, Josh has made sport of belittling women – mostly his wife Amy, but also any female contestants who dare to challenge his chauvinistic behavior.
Not only that, but he’s gloated over other people’s misfortunes, scoffed at constructive criticism from the judges and openly relished in the drama he creates within each and every episode. He’s the dictionary definition of a bully.
At first, I figured his over the top persona was being built up for an early exit. You know, the old, ‘I’ll brag about how awesome I am and then I’ll flame out in spectacular style early on’-fate that befalls many a cooking show villain.
But instead, he’s stuck around. We’re getting to the end of the season and he’s still here, still cooking pretty average food and still treating his wife Amy with incredible disdain. And that’s despite the fact she’s clearly the better cook of the two and the only reason they’ve escaped multiple eliminations.
It’s incredibly sad watching the two of them together on screens. She’s clearly used to his behavior and while she kind of stands up for herself occasionally it seems pretty short lived to me.
And again, this is why I think Josh is one of them most dangerous people on our screens. When someone who has no problem denigrating women is celebrated by gaining screen time, what does that say for the young fans watching at home? What sort of modelling for a modern-day marriage is this setting?
Luckily, we have counterparts in contestants like Court and Duncan Hall-Eastley, the loving and supportive married couple. Like feisty feministas Della Whearty and Sarah Tully, who aren’t afraid to take Josh on. And like mother and daughter duo Valerie and Courtney Ferdinands, who are proudly celebrating their family heritage on screens.
But when these lovable and inspirational people become a side-note on a show that has the capacity to speak to millions, I can’t help feeling producers of the series have missed a trick.
Because I’m a long-time MKR fan. And while I love a good villain (let’s face it, they can make for magic TV moments) when they become the sole focus of a show that’s supposed to be about ordinary Australians achieving their dreams it dampens the experience for me.
I felt the same way about The Bachelor last year when “villain” Keira Maguire chewed up all the air time while the love story fell by the wayside. And I know I wasn’t the only one – a dip in the ratings spoke volumes.
Has MKR suffered the same fate? When the cooking part of the cooking show is replaced by a “Seafood King villain” burning his seafood, do fans switch off? This fan is certainly on the verge of doing so should Josh continue his reign unchecked.
And it’s already likely had an effect on the show. MKR, while still mostly claiming top spot, hasn’t hit the giddy ratings heights of years past.
Here’s hoping the powers that be at Seven take note. For while the damage may be done, there’s no reason we can’t have redemption over the rest of the season.
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