Traditionally, people do not watch reality TV to find truths about the human condition. Reality TV is mostly a way for us to watch people that are already a little bit unhinged be cajoled and selectively edited into appearing to be completely insane by unscrupulous producers and editors or, more succinctly: to watch people who love drama tell the camera that they hate drama before it cuts to a scene where they start drama.

The point I’m making is that, although reality TV is usually not a force for social change, ‘Bride and Prejudice‘ is doing a fair bit more legwork than our politicians who support same-sex marriage are in terms of making the case loudly and clearly for why the fuck we need to hurry up and legalise it (same-sex marriage, not weed).

The debate now has pretty much deteriorated into a collection of swiftly-aging Catholics smugly asking why we would change something that isn’t broken (spoiler alert: it is) and their opposites wearily pointing out that just about every other country with a McDonald’s has legalised it.

What that tends to is reduce the issue from a personal one to a formal one – something we need to do because it’s something that needs to be done, not something we need to do because it detrimentally affects the lives of same-sex attracted Australians.

You could easily argue that ‘Bride and Prejudice’ itself is exploitative, not only using ordinary people’s personal trauma for entertainment but exacerbating already tense situations for the same reason, but if it gets the point across legally treating gay people as second-class citizens encourages a social environment that does the same, then I’m here for it.

Enter Chris and Grant. Chris and Grant would like to get married. Because our government has been alternately controlled by staunch conservatives and spineless progressives, they cannot do so here. Instead, they have chosen to get married in Palm Springs in the US.

In the second episode of the season, Chris flies up to Queensland to ask his parents if they will attend. While, for some families, this would be contentious because flying to the States costs a shitload of money, it’s contentious for Chris because his mum is a devout Jehovah’s Witness who believes homosexuality is immoral and his dad says that he feels “sick” if he sees two men together.

Straight off the bat, his parents have a go at him for having his ears pierced, reacting with disapproving surprise when he confirms that he does indeed leave the piercings in when he’s at work. Things only get worse when he cuts straight to the point – his dad laughs at him when he tells him he has a male partner of three years and his mum just says “Wow.” at him in a way that would be more appropriate if he told her he collected dead rats he found in the sewers.

When he asks if they would like to come to the wedding, they refuse, with his mum telling him it would go against her beliefs:

“You know I have strong beliefs on that situation so, for us, that’s not an option.

“I know you are disappointed and hoping for another outcome but that’s not going to happen. We love you and we are happy to have contact, but we don’t want to have any part of this. And we want you to respect that.

“I know that’s probably hurting you, but, if you’re honest, you would have expected that.”

Chris, clearly heartbroken, confronts his mum over whether she thinks it’s worth sacrificing a relationship with her son over her beliefs:

“I need to know. Over the past 18 years, I’ve not called on you when I’ve needed you, thinking that you wouldn’t be there when I needed you. I need to know, because this is the life I want with my partner and we’re getting married and it would be really good… it would be really nice if you could be there.”

She remains unmoved, though, telling him that she knows it’s disappointing but they just can’t do it. She goes on to tell him that she doesn’t want to meet or have contact with his partner, Grant, which, understandably visibly upsets Chris:

“Well, just me is all of me. You can choose all of me or none of me. Not just part of me.”

Both parents then tell him they would rather sever ties. When Chris asks if they want a night to think about it, his dad is taken aback:

“We’ve thought about it for years, Chris. Honestly, we have. I’m quite surprised you even thought we would, knowing our views on it.”

“We’ve done our job. We got you to adulthood. The choices you make now are your choices entirely, the same as the choices we make as adults are our choices entirely. We’ve got to put up with the consequences of our choices, same as you have. That’s just the way the world works. Unfortunately. It’s not the outcome I would like to see either.”

Chris’ mum asks for a hug before he leaves, seemingly forever, which he refuses before walking out.

It’s fucking heartbreaking to see. Yes, it’s weird that the whole thing was done in a room full of cameras, but that heartbreak is real and happens far more often than we would like to think.

We can’t expect society to come to terms with same-sex couples if the government continues to support a viewpoint that they are somehow lesser than straight relationships – that they don’t really ‘count’. The attitude that they are wrong or abnormal is only reinforced by an inflammatory debate that leaves it up to the population at large to determine whether gay people should be treated with the same level of respect, tolerance and dignity we treat everyone else.

This shit won’t change while we pretend like this issue is just about appearing progressive compared to the rest of the world, it is about actual people’s lives and it’s fucking horrendous that nothing is being done about it.

Well done, trashy, inflammatory reality TV show, you’re doing the Lord’s work.

You can watch Chris’ segment here, starting around the 7:00 mark.

Source and photo: Channel 7.

‘Bride And Prejudice’ Is Doing A Shockingly Good Job of Advocating For SSM