People get very touchy when you question their TV choices. Watching TV is so closely associated with rest after a difficult day for many Australians, so suggesting that there might be a bee in that particular lemonade can will either lead to resistance (e.g. “what I watch doesn’t affect me”), or will be politely ignored.
Channel Nine banks on us treating Married at First Sight (MAFS) like a guilty pleasure. They sanitise the show describing it as a “social experiment” and by including relationship experts that purport to be value adding to ourrelationships using their couples as exhibits for us to learn from.
MAFS has made the Nine network LOADS of money. According to the ABC’s Media Watch, the purchase last year of Fairfax news by Nine was only possible because of the advertising revenue of MAFS.
But Media Watch also uncovered stories of former participants that should give us pause. Of the 35 couples the show has “expertly matched” over it's five seasons, one has gone on to an actual wedding and marriage - and even they said they regretted participating.
We’re not the first generation who have had to wrestle with what entertainment is beneficial to consume. Christians of the first few centuries AD struggled with whether it was ok to go and watch the Gladiators fight. There’s a moving account in Augustine’s the confessions where his friend Alipio was dragged along with a group of friends to the Colosseum but, as a Christian, decided to keep his eyes shut. As soon as the first roar of the crowd went up his curiosity got the better of him and he peeked between his fingers. Augustine wrote, “And so he received a greater wound in his soul than that gladiator had received in his body”
MAFS is every bit as gladiatorial. Say what you want about the willingness of the participants, they are reporting being left with deep psychological wounds from the experience. If we choose to enjoy their pain, that wounds us.
Marriage should be honoured by all, and is not to be entered into lightly or carelessly, but with reverent and serious respect for the purposes for which it was instituted by God.
– Marriage Service from the Anglican Prayer Book
But, if I return to where we began, you might be feeling stuck. Because watching prime time TV might be what you think of as relaxation. You might know everything I've mentioned, but still be peeking through your fingers. The gospel invites you into a different and more satisfying kind of rest. Jesus invites you to rest in him. He is a far better example to learn about marriage, his wounds leave you unscathed.
grace and peace,