MAFS could have been great television
"Had the matching process been substantial and had the "experts" played a supportive and insightful role and had the producers trusted that taking the high would have been both well received and offering longevity, MAFS could well have been useful television."
- April 9, 2019
- Neer Korn
There’s no question that MAFS, with ratings wins and a proliferation of social media comments, has been a prominent topic around the water-cooler (if we still congregated around water coolers). With such intense interest the producers could have taken the show in one of two directions, as an informative and positive show about modern love and navigating issues most people have encountered in one relationship or another. Or, as they did with gusto, choose the low road and appeal to the audience’s worst instincts.
Australians have little tolerance for vindictiveness, meanness or cruelty when it feels undeserving. We don’t tolerate advertisers whose message is denigrating the competition and we respond poorly to political ads that are relentless attacks, especially personal ones. (don’t get me wrong, those nasty ads work to a degree, which is why political parties use them, but they diminish everyone, the advertiser, the subject and politics overall.)
Yet we love permissible malice. This is the tall poppy syndrome in action. Knocking down those who act contrary to our social expectations or act in a manner deserving of the public’s rebuke. Celebrities who court attention, act obnoxiously or misbehave are considered deserving. People behaving atrociously on reality television – seen as hoping and aspiring that their fleeting 15 minutes of fame will lead to long term opportunities – are regarded as fair game. The rationale is that they put themselves on television and chose to behave as they do.
The problem is that this malice showcases the worst of us and does not make us feel good about ourselves. Just like when readers leaf through gossip magazines which intrude on the lives of the rich and famous, keen to offer salacious details but don’t feel good about having done so. Or like passing a car accident. We know it’s wrong, but we feel a compulsion to slow down and take in the wreckage.
The MAFS producers chose to focus on the scandals, conflict, extra-martial affairs and other low hanging fruit. They went for the lowest common denominator, won over the audience but lost their respect, and an opportunity to produce useful television.
The concept of couples being matched with strangers and watching how they navigate the circumstances is an inherently fascinating one. Forming, sustaining and seeing some relationships flourish is something relevant to viewers lives. How they navigate challenges and differences, how they manage conflict and compromise and how they fall in love – or not – is something many are keen to observe.
Had the matching process been substantial and had the “experts” played a supportive and insightful role and had the producers trusted that taking the high would have been both well received and offering longevity, MAFS could well have been good television.
Contrast this program with ABC iView’s’ You Can’t Ask That which deals with sensitive issues and does not shy from difficult or embarrassing questions but does so in a dignified way leaving the audience uplifted.
The MAFS audience may get worked up by the cheaters, arguers and scene makers, but they are actually interested in learning from others’ experiences and seeing how they manage and cope with stressful situations. And they would feel much better for having done so.Apr
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