Flat White

What Married at First Sight teaches us about the social sciences

8 April 2017

7:47 PM

8 April 2017

7:47 PM

So Married at First Sight is over for another year, at least that’s the promise Channel 9’s made to everyone. Now men across the country can get the TV back on Sunday Nights.

Apparently 14,000 people have applied to be involved in the next round of this ‘social experiment’. Now I must admit, there are some days when I wake up and just think to myself, ‘just how can I screw up my life today?’ We’ve all done it at one time or another, swim with sharks, default on a payment to the Mafia, apply for Married at First Sight. Yeah, everyone self-destructs from time to time but 14,000? After what we’ve all seen, did Kool-Aid make a comeback and I didn’t hear about it?

Australia seems enthralled by the emotional intrigue of the show and the ins and outs of the relationship mess that the participants find themselves in. Everyone likes watching a good argument and tsk-tsking the combatants. It’s the same formula used consistently by movie makers to hook audiences and generate emotional involvement. While watching, the viewers picture themselves in the situation and envisages what they would do in the same set of circumstances.

The antics of the ‘experiment’ subjects are presented in such a way as to evoke maximum engagement from the other subjects of the ‘experiment’, namely us. Yeah, that’s right. You’re the subject of a grand experiment from Channel 9 to see just how many truckloads of cash they can haul in from advertisers by getting us to watch people being tortured.

Yet again Married has an abysmal track record of success just like the last few seasons, in fact, make that every season. Which you’d think would be a giveaway to any future applicants. Only two of the couples are what you’d call ‘together’ in any sense of the word that humans would understand it. Anyone with a bit of life experience could tell you that some of them weren’t reasonably matched to start with.

For example, if Deborah tells you, ‘I really like Polynesian men’, I’d take a bet that a Polynesian man would probably work out better than the whitest guy possible. Yeah, just a hunch but I’d go with that.

And I didn’t read any of the application forms but I’m willing to lay down fifty bucks that none of the women said ‘I want a guy who strips on the weekend and has a small ear fetish’. Call me an old fuddy-duddy but the possibility of that one working out didn’t look too good from day one.

They even allow the participants to mix and match like Cheryl, who feels a connection with everyone for five minutes at a time. Kudos to the normal one though, Alene, she seems to have completely regular expectations about relationships like partners having fashionable haircuts. Right on!

Now maybe I’m just the suspicious type but it’s almost as if couples were paired together to produce as many sparks and as much difficulty as possible. Kinda like people might do in an ‘experiment’ that relied on viewer ratings to keep it going.

Now, the real subject of my thesis isn’t the poor lab rats being beaten up with microphones. In actuality it’s not them who are really on display, it’s the experts that are supposedly running the ‘social experiment’. They’re in it up to their armpits and as professionals should know better than to think that the most complex thing on the planet, human relationships, could be reduced to a formula on a whiteboard.

While watching I was reminded of the words from the mighty Thomas Sowell when speaking about experts and intellectuals: Intellectuals are people whose end products are ideas”.

He further elaborated on the theme by stating that experts in other fields of endeavour such as engineers will end their careers if the bridge they built fell down. Intellectuals, on the other hand, pay no price for getting it wrong and are able to continue without regard to consequence. Nowhere is this more ably demonstrated than with social scientists thinking – maybe not thinking – let’s go with plotting, plotting to improve the world.

During the show, the pairings are shown as an in-depth professional analysis with intricate discussions being held by the experts. But I can’t help but imagine maniacal laughter behind a dungeon door as they decide who they’re going to ‘experiment’ on next with screams ringing in your ears as the camera retreats down the corridor like some b-grade horror movie.

The three social scientist amigos are:

Psychologist, John ‘Mengele’ Aiken. He’s the one who asks everyone how they feel. ‘Not too bad, considering you’ve matched me up with a psycho who can hardly talk to me.’

Then there’s Mel ‘Nurse Diesel’ Schilling. She’s the blonde one who tends to agree with John on everything.

Then there’s Trisha Stratford. She’s the one who smiles a lot and … well, not much else, really.

These are the experts that some poor dateless souls entrusted their lives to. Yeah, makes sense: “I’m looking for love so I’ll just go and get relationship advice from the Manson family.”

If you gave darts to some monkeys and got them to randomly throw them at photos on a wall, you’d probably have an equal or better chance of success, cheaper as well.

Following their established pattern of blossoming romance, here are some suggestions for future matchups in the next season.

Try a drug dealer and a copper, an atheist and a Mormon, someone from PETA and someone who enjoys foxhunting. Then maybe, just for a real laugh, someone from the Greens and an Adani mining executive. Ha, ha. What a great time that’ll be!

Stephen Cable writes for Liberty Works and lives in Brisbane.

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