Considering the ratings success of Married at First Sight, it’s a safe assumption that many Aussies cannot get enough of the reality television show — even though its 2021 iteration generated more backlash and complaints than ever before. It’s not surprising, given what we know about how addictive reality television is and why.
However, despite the obvious popularity of the MAFS franchise and its counterparts such as The Bachelor and Love Island, it seems that many of us don’t want to admit that we watch such programming, choosing instead to lie about it.
According to a survey undertaken by Reviews.org, 66% of Australians say that they watch reality dating shows, but 34% of them lie about it to other people.
Per Reviews.org’s findings, in which 1000 Aussies were surveyed, 83% said they watch Married At First Sight Australia, 51% confessed they watch The Bachelor Australia, 39% admitted to watching The Bachelorette Australia and 33% enjoy Love Island Australia.
Of the 34% of people who admitted to lying about their reality television watching habits, 74% of them said the reason for their dishonesty was that they felt ashamed, while 27% said they secretly watched dating shows and 38% per cent revealed they felt a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) if they missed an episode.
After throwing out a quick survey around The Latch team, one possible reason for the shame 74% of people reported feeling surfaced. “I’m afraid they (the reality shows) will make me seem dumb and not interested in smart ‘real world’ problems,” one of our team members — who, incidentally, is insanely intelligent — said, noting that she had mostly lied about it to men.
Another admitted to being selective about who she would disclose information to, saying that she would “100% lie” depending on who they were speaking with. “I’d worry people would think I’m also trash and have a low IQ,” she said, citing Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Bachelor and Ex On The Beach as shows that she enjoys.
Interestingly, the two male team members who responded to the question proudly admitted to not only loving shows such as MAFS and The Bachelor but revealed they had not felt the need to be dishonest about it.
While it’s great to see people embracing their likes — as they should — it’s not lost on me that it was female colleagues who worried about having their intelligence or credibility questioned thanks to their viewing choices, while the guys felt free to share theirs openly and with impunity.
As one of our Latch writers lamented, “Women, unfortunately, don’t seem to be afforded the pleasure of being able to openly love the things they love, though.
“I constantly hear women undercut the things they like, the things they get enjoyment out of, by prefacing their thoughts with “I know it’s trash, but…” or “it’s such a guilty pleasure of mine but I love…”, the impact of years of hearing that entertainment created for or primarily featuring women is bad.”
A possible reason that shows such as MAFS and The Bachelor might invoke the fear of being seen as unintelligent in those who consume them, could come down to the type of women who are often portrayed on them.
As we have previously examined, smart women on reality shows — such as Booka Nile from the 2021 season of MAFS — are relegated to less screen time and criticism for being “too intense” while the participants who seem most at home when involved in drama or inane chats are celebrated as the hero of the series.
Perhaps one solution to helping women who enjoy reality dating shows admit that they do so could be casting — and, more importantly, featuring — female participants who are praised for their smarts and emotional intelligence. The more of these types of women we see on our screens, the more the (incorrect) assumption that people who watch them are “dumb” could, surely, begin to be dismantled.
Another solution, of course, is for people to be less judgemental and accept that people can care deeply about world issues such as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Black Lives Matter Movement, and still be invested in a bunch of people who marry complete strangers.