Horrible truth about Ines’ behaviour
Something has gone majorly wrong with this season of MAFS.
Things started harmlessly enough. After the first couple of episodes we chatted happily on our Facebook pages and in our opinion pieces about whether or not makeup artist Jules and cricket player Cam would "defy the show's formula" and truly find love.
We indulged in some mild fretting over whether radio presenter Heidi was too kind-hearted and gormless to match that flint of creepiness we saw in Mike's eyes.
Our biggest shock - oh those innocent days! - was when Cyrell's brother came over all overprotective Mafioso boss at her wedding to cancer survivor Nic.
And then just as we were getting comfortable, things went bad. Really bad. We all expected trash TV. But I don't think any of us thought we'd end up drowning in a sewer.
The low point, Australia firmly agrees, is watching Bride of Frankenstein Ines Basic subject her good-natured "husband" Bronson to what can only be described as a form of domestic abuse.
The stony-faced Ines spat threats at her trusting suitor from the moment they met.
"When he smiled, I first wanted to punch him in the jaw," legal assistant Ines snarled to producers after her disastrous wedding day, where she also managed to insult Bronson's appearance and taunt him for his former job as a stripper.
By their honeymoon she'd upgraded the vitriol to screeching "Shut the f**k up!" and "grow a f***ing balls**k" because she appeared to be unhappy that they were on a boat.
And before we could Google the number for a domestic violence hotline, there we were on the couch with the experts at the Sunday night commitment ceremony, where everyone was calling each other a "c**t" and a "c**k" and relationship expert Mel Schilling was upbraiding Bronson for a language violation instead of pulling up Ines for being a violation against all of humanity and the whole thing descended into Jerry Springer chaos and left the nation feeling collectively ill.
It raises the question about whether a country that has serious problems with both family violence and bullying in schools and workplaces should be treating this sort of behaviour as cheap entertainment.
One in four Australian kids in Year 4 to Year 9 reports being bullied every few weeks, at school or online or both. One in four women and one in seven men have been subjected to emotional abuse from a domestic partner since the age of 15.
And yet here we are, watching Ines degrade and debase a dude in prime time for nothing more than having a distasteful eyebrow ring.
The show's creators seem unmoved by the enormity of what they're showing us, or demonstrating any duty of care to the participants or the audience with on-screen warnings or push-back on the characters' actions. As Bek Day wrote at whimn.com.au:
"The most disturbing element … is that producers (are) happy to air it without warning. There (is) no discussion by the experts about the fact that this behaviour was unacceptable, no visible support or care offered to Bronson. (Ines' behaviour) is played off as a spirited argument when it was dangerous, damaging behaviour."
In fact it's been left to the public to flag the irresponsibility of what they're seeing.
"Violence, bullying and bad behaviour is rife in this world and this is SO not an example of appropriate behaviour," wrote one commenter on a change.org petition aimed at having one of the show's experts, Mel Schilling, fired.
"No human deserves that kind of abuse - this show is a psychological train wreck and should be taken off the air," wrote another on Facebook.
Thankfully, Monday's and Tuesday's episodes seemed designed to lighten the mood a little. We sat through a series of high-spirited pranks and pratfalls - oh how we laughed as Cyrell fed chicken feet to an unsuspecting Nic and the kittenish Jessika clomped around a Sydney pub in Mick's flannie and Blunnies.
But even on the slow days we get hit with behaviour that veers towards the disturbing. Bronson and Ines are ushered into a counselling session with John Aiken where he urges them to communicate more. With Aiken's encouragement Bronson ends up apologising to Ines instead of packing his bags and changing the locks on his house.
Last night, single mum Ning ends up in floods of tears because she thinks her personal trainer husband Mark acted too much like a personal trainer during their personal training session and when she sobs something about "abandonment" we know we're watching someone with legitimate emotional and psychological problems fall apart, yet we leave her crying her eyes out on the couch and that's that.
Look, who am I kidding. We all know that we're not going to stop watching any time soon. Even though the whole thing is like terrible porn - exploitative, everyone's faking it and we need a long shower afterwards to wash away the shame glaze - for better or for worse Married At First Sight become part of our national psyche.
But maybe that's the secret to watching MAFS guilt-free. It's up to all of us to keep calling out the bad stuff for what it is. Use each episode as a chance to look at your own relationships, or the relationships of people around you, and start a conversation about what is and isn't acceptable. Keep hashing it out with each other, in your own homes, in your group chats and in even in comments' sections with strangers.
With a bit of luck and a lot of vigilance, it could be that shining a light on the MAFS characters' less than shining behaviour is going to help us look at our own lives and vow to do better.
And if that means that the world contains fewer Ineses then our job here is done.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au In an emergency, call 000