Reality AF: Married at First Sight Gaslights Its Audience + What to Watch This WeekPhoto Courtesy of Lifetime TV Features
Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new column, Reality AF. Every Monday, Terry Terrones will check in and talk about the state of reality TV, plus provide a Top 5 list of what’s coming up this week that you should not miss.
“I’ve been bamboozled!”
That famous line from Survivor contestant and tax evader Richard Hatch was the first thought that popped into my brain as I was watching last week’s episode of Lifetime’s relationship reality series, Married at First Sight. For months viewers have watched five couples from Boston, who got married sight unseen, and saw how they fit together as well as mismatched puzzle pieces. One couple even divorced 12 days into the required eight week matrimonial period.
There was NO WAY any of these people should have chosen to stay together. Yet, during the Decision Day episode where couples decide whether to stay married or get divorced, every one of the four remaining pairs stayed married. What the actual F*%k?!?
Married at First Sight has always been known for its clever editing. A segment will end with what looks to be a major barrier between a couple, only to have that discussion continue after a commercial break showing that the snippet was taken out of context, and things are just fine.
Audience manipulation is par for the course in reality television, which is a shell game where producers make you look one way when the truth is actually somewhere else. After all, what’s the point of watching a relationship or competition reality show when you’ve already figured out the results?
That said, last Wednesday’s Married at First Sight episode went beyond misdirection and skipped right to gaslighting. Many die-hard followers, myself included, felt like we were watching a completely different season than the one that’s been airing since January. For proof, here’s a quick examination of each couple:
Chris and Alyssa – Alyssa consistently proved she wasn’t the “nice person” she repeatedly claims to be and Chris asked for a divorce on day 12. None of this was a surprise. That said…
Jasmina and Michael – Jasmina and Michael have been in the friend zone for weeks. They like each other as people but never even kissed. After 8 weeks together!
Noi and Steve – Because of her upbringing, Noi values financial stability above all else while Steve is unemployed. Noi also seems immature and not as emotionally intelligent as Steve.
Mark and Lindsey – Easily the most tumultuous relationship of the season, it made no sense for either of these two to say yes to each other. Mark the Shark is easy going and hates conflict, while Lindsey has a temper and runs hot and cold emotionally.
Olajuwon and Katina – Olajuwon’s antiquated expectations for a wife (cooking and cleaning) are absurd. Even more baffling to viewers is why Katina puts up with Olajuwon walking all over her as if she had to prove her worth to him. Olajuwon is a human red flag.
Despite audiences knowing all of this, every single one of the remaining couples remained married. And of course this happened as the relationship “experts” were wiping away happy tears despite never truly providing much relationship guidance (particularly for Katina) and disappearing for long stretches (particularly Dr. Viviana). Viewers have every right to feel like they’ve been gaslit.
With any luck this feeling will end when the reunion airs this week. The previous season of Married at First Sight, filmed in Houston, ended with every single couple divorcing before the reunion or shortly after. I’d expect the same results for this season, unless I get bamboozled again.
5 Reality Shows to Watch This Week
1. VH1’s Couples Retreat (VH1, Premieres May 16)
Why you should watch it: When a former NBA star (Nick Young), Real Housewife (Claudia Jordan), and a member of two of the most popular R&B groups of all-time (Ronnie DeVoe of New Edition and Bell, Biv, DeVoe) show the trashy sides of their marriages, it’s hard to look away.
2. Love on the Spectrum (Netflix, Premieres May 18)
Why you should watch it: This docu-reality series follows autistic people as they navigate the world of dating and relationships. As Paste has written about in the past, this is a truly unique dating series.
3. Married at First Sight (Lifetime, May 18)
Why you should watch it: The reunion episode is here! Do you know how I know it’s a big deal? Because it’s broken up into two parts. Lifetime loves to pad their episodes with more filler than a pillow but there must be a reason for a two-episode reunion show, which they rarely do. I’m hoping it’s because all the couples are divorced and the relationship “experts” have all been fired.
4. The G Word with Adam Conover (Netflix, Premieres May 19)
Why you should watch it: No, the comedian most well-known for ruining things isn’t talking about guns, God, or your grandfather. In his new series he’s discussing something much more frightening: government. Get ready for a comedic take on how the government actually works.
5. Restaurant: Impossible (Food Network, May 19)
Why you should watch it: 1) Robert Irvine is awesome. 2) You’ll see an owner with no restaurant experience seriously in debt cry because they’re an idiot. 3) You’ll wonder what designer Lynn has on former designer Taniya that made her leave the show.
Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot and aspiring hand model. When he’s not applying for Survivor, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.
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