MAFS star’s lie we just can’t swallow
Watch out Channel 9, your zoo animals have gone rogue.
This week several current and past Married At First Sight contestants have taken to social media to claim that it had never occurred to them their lives could be negatively affected by their decision to go on a low-rent reality TV show.
On Tuesday, Josh Pihlak took to Instagram to slam "the producers" for portraying him inaccurately in his final scenes with on-screen "wife" Cathy Evans, while in the same breath acknowledging that he signed, with eyes wide open, a contract saying he "may or may not be perceived in a positive light" when he agreed to appear on the top-rating show.
"I knew going into this it would be highly edited, but watching back what transpired and what actually happened, it's an actual joke," the Newcastle tradie said of Monday night's scenes between himself, his "wife" Cathy and mother Mandy.
He finishes his angry Instagram post by warning others not to put their hands up for the show.
"I just can't stress enough to people who are thinking about signing up to this show, when you sign on that dotted line … it says 'you may or may not be perceived in a positive light'. Me being naive, I thought, I'll give it a go.
"It's so disappointing how they made (me) come across."
In the uncomfortable conclusion to their relationship, Josh's mother Mandy appeared to ambush her fake daughter-in-law for the supposed "three days of isolation" that Josh had supposedly been subjected to by Cathy earlier in their relationship. Mandy admitted she had been "fiery" towards Cathy in earlier scenes.
Several weeks earlier, we saw Mandy bark "Don't ever ignore my son again," at Cathy, who seemed barely able to hold back tears.
Mandy has since taken to social media to snarl that Cathy is "the actress from hell" and "playing the victim" - words that were written directly onto Facebook, with no input from any producers.
Overall, Josh came across as a mummy's boy who dumped Cathy for flimsy reasons (in several scenes Cathy cried openly because Josh threatened to walk away from her for having "trust issues"), and his mother came across as intensely overprotective and certain her son is without fault.
And their actions on social media since, with no "producers" or "editing" involved at all, don't do much to disabuse that impression.
It's next to impossible to know who is or isn't portrayed fairly on a reality TV show. There's no question that a good chunk of it is manipulated to create or heighten drama.
But it's equally likely that once people are shown their true selves on TV they simply don't much like what they see.
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Josh went on to explain in his post that he, his mother and his little brothers have all received "death threats" since the controversial scenes went to air.
"I was happy with getting a bad edit," Josh said unconvincingly, "but when it gets personal like that and everyone's receiving death threats, it's a joke," he said.
No one deserves death threats, ever. But trolling death threats aren't the show's fault. They're a separate phenomenon, a problem of social media more broadly, and it's a sad fact that you're more likely to receive them if you become a household name - by, say, signing up to be on a reality show.
Predictably, former and current MAFS contestants have rallied to Josh's side, with most of them also convinced that they got a rough trot during their time on screen.
"We all went into it thinking it was a fair fight," lamented Mike Gunner from the 2019 season.
He was the groom who snapped "I'm not your therapist" at his partner Heidi when she was explaining her difficult childhood. Gunner has since leveraged his MAFS fame to start his own video podcast and spruik sunscreen brands on Instagram.
"Haha welcome to the club brother!" said 2018's villain Dean Wells who has used his MAFS exposure to land a spot on Dancing With The Stars. "The public doesn't realise how much they can manipulate with editing!"
"I am so sorry this happened to you … and to most of us!" added Connie Crayden from the current season. "Seriously to anyone who is even thinking about applying for next season really take into consideration what you're actually signing up for."
It's stunning to think that anyone could go on this show without "really taking into consideration" what they're actually signing up for.
Married At First Sight is now in its seventh season. Out of more than 100 contestants, no more than two couples appear to have "found love" - Cam Merchant and Jules Robinson, who married earlier this year and Martha Kalifatidis and Michael Brunelli from the same season, who still appear to be going strong.
They're not great odds.
My dog could tell you that no one is really going on the show to find love. That's what we have Tinder for. You're there to "get exposure", which can lead to an ongoing career in reality TV or digital influencing. And the trade-off is you're portrayed in a way that's entertaining for the TV audience, whatever that entails.
It's not a secret.
It's not a scam.
It's not unfair.
And you can't have it both ways.
If you don't like it, no one is making you do it.
Alex Carlton is a freelance writer | @Alex_Carlton
Married At First Sight continues at 7.30pm tonight on Channel 9.
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