Would it be Married At First Sight without the phrase “doing it for the right reasons” being tossed around? I’d argue no. No, it would not. Thankfully, the fun little question has already been tossed around plenty during the first week of 2024 MAFS, with the brides, grooms and friends of the contestants already wondering who is really going on the show for love and who has ulterior motives. But now that we’re 11 seasons deep in the MAFS bussy I can’t help but wonder — what actually are the right reasons to go on the show?
In Episode Four, we meet a gorgeous bride named Ellie who is described as being an “eternal optimist”. She’s a nurse who has gone through a lot in relationships. She’s coupled with travel guide Ben and the pair seem to share a spark. However, Ellie’s family are worried about Ben’s motives for going on the show, with her cousin Jordan questioning the legitimacy of his calls to settle down and find love, rather than gain followers on social media for his travel blog.
It’s a big focus for the episode, drenched in dramatic music to really get the heart pumping. Will Ben break sweet Ellie’s heart? Is he being primed for a clout-chasing villain edit? Only time will tell.
But even if Ben is going on the show with followers and love in mind, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s smart.
Back when MAFS launched in 2015, the show was a completely different beast. It leant on the notion that this was a genuine social experiment, testing to see whether complete strangers could ever find forever love at the end of an altar. Instead of the hyped up, emotional music-driven storylines we have today, it felt more like a documentary than a reality show.
The contestants were nervous about stepping into the public eye and having the world look on during emotionally intimate moments they shared with their new spouses. These days, I’d argue that most of the fear for contestants lies in their potential edit and portrayal after the show.
And, I really don’t blame them.
These days, the tone of the show has changed dramatically and so have our expectations. Although many people in comment sections across social media call for more genuine connections, there’s no denying the data — drama does better.
According to Sydney Morning Herald reporter Nell Geraets, the biggest influencing figure is the role that social media plays in our MAFS consumption. Especially TikTok.
“Drama is served to us in bite-sized chunks, ready to be uploaded as sound-bites and critiqued online,” she writes.
“Even the language seems tailor-made for TikTok, with therapy-speak like ‘gaslighting’, ‘boundaries’, ‘accountability’ and ‘red flags’ regularly cropping up.”
With the influence of social media, watching MAFS isn’t just an at-home activity, it’s an online activity. It’s only natural that the creators would lean into this kind of engagement and do their best to produce these moments that will inspire clicks and plenty of online discussion.
But due to the noticeable tone changes in the show over the years, it’s only natural that the people applying to give it a crack would change too.
“The people who were on our show early – series, one, two and three – are very different to those who are coming onto our show now because there’s a lot at stake for them,” MAFS relationship expert John Aiken told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“There’s money, there’s OnlyFans, podcasting, influencing. They can actually leave their lives behind if they’re able to hit the mark with the audience.”
In 2024, going on a reality show that has become such a publicised, cultural spectacle is a very real risk with very real consequences.
We’ve watched as MAFS reality stars’ lives have completely changed in the course of a few months. Olivia Frazer lost her job as a teacher directly from her behaviour on the show. Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson sadly continue to receive nasty messages long after their season ended. Conversely, other contestants on the show like Domenica Calarco and Ella Ding kicked off pretty lucrative podcasting and influencing careers.
While it’s easy and idealistic to think that love really should be the only reason to go on a show like Married At First Sight, it’s just not realistic. With so much at stake, it’s pretty valid for people to go on the show to boost their profile whilst hopefully finding love along the way. And in my opinion, they shouldn’t cop flack for wanting the attention— especially when they’re our source of entertainment for the next three months.