I can’t believe I’m publicly breaking up with a reality TV show. That’s right, folks. Here we are. Em has gotten so fired up by reality TV that she’s using her public holiday to denounce it out of her life. BE GONE WITH YOU.
But this isn’t just a regular ‘will you accept this rose/enter the jungle and eat weird things/’make it work’ in fashion’ show. This is one that the words ‘bullying’ and ’emotional abuse’ are bandied around a little too often for me to be entirely comfortable with the premise. (Also, there’s no Tim Gunn.)
A ridiculous amount of women are the subject of emotional abuse at some stage in their lives. Ugh. It seems so bloody serious to use those words – but the tiptoeing around it doesn’t make it any less real. From the simple repeated ghosting to more serious cases of bulling, so many women I know have a story, of varying degrees, that includes silent treatment, closed doors, name calling, threats and being ignored.
I fall somewhere in between. I’ve had my fair share of assholes, now firmly and forever embedded in my rear view mirror (Bye, boy), and while they did devastate me at the time, ultimately, they served as a important lesson that helped me swing into my early 30’s well and truly in charge of knowing what I deserve. (If I ever get the opportunity to deliver the above paragraph in person, I’m going to request a wind machine and a Beyonce sequinned body suit #GirlPower).
There was the relationship in my early 20’s, full of silent treatment and affections withheld, for unknown indiscretions. I actually had to beg for an invitation to spend New Years Eve with him and his friends, sitting at home alone on my balcony, fully dressed, waiting for the text message of permission to arrive. (At 8pm, a simple one sentence begrudgingly divulging the party’s location – if memory serves me correctly.) It took me another two years to finally decide enough was enough.
And then another (not nearly far enough back in the aforementioned rear view mirror to be able to retell this story without a hint of a dull ache), who refused to leave a club in the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, his room mate walked me home safely to their place (and, you know, let me in so I wasn’t sitting on the doorstep all night). He returned not an hour later, two giggling, drunk girls by his side. Did I want to come to so-and-so’s house for more drinks? (As so-and-so gave me the ‘don’t you dare say yes, this is an obligatory invitation‘ eyes…) I shook my head, returned to bed, not awakening until he slid in beside me, somewhere in the vicinity of 9am. I would later find out that he’d slept with one of them, but how dare I be upset about it as we weren’t really ‘together’, we were just friends?! He slipped out of my life as quickly as he entered it, without even so much as an omission that yeah, that was a pretty horrible way to treat someone – in a ‘real’ relationship or not.
I’m not just the beacon for bad relationships, (though, you know, sometimes I do wonder…) sadly, you can find examples of the above every single day. It’s the guy in your office bragging about the two chicks he’s got going at the same time. The group of ‘lads’ in the pub, laughing as someone’s girlfriend calls and he lets it go to voice mail, with bold declarations of how annoying she is, but he lets her stay around because of her big rack. It’s the girl who leaves new purchases, made with her own money thank you very much, in the back of her car for weeks, lest she bring them inside and bare the wrath of him. It’s the girl who makes a simple miscalculation while splitting the bill at dinner with friends, and is berated for ‘being so stupid‘, in front of everyone. At some stage in our lives, way too many of us will be that girl. (Or guy. I know this is definitely a widespread issue, but this piece is purely from my own POV, and truthfully/thankfully not many of my guy friends have ever experienced emotional abuse.)
And now it’s on our TV. Three times a week, the so-called ‘social experiment’, lets these ‘men’ loose on Australia, in prime time. And it’s a big ol’ car crash.
It’s the smirks, as Anthony gets on his high horse (pun most definitely intended), opinions in hand. He, without apology, tells Australia that he expects Nadia to move to his hometown, that he will be the provider, and so she needs to uproot her life to suit him. He also expects to be fed and watered on demand, because he won’t go into someone’s fridge at their house (dude, ever heard of Uber Eats?). If that’s what Nadia wants, then all power to you, sister – but all we, the viewers, have seen of her thus far is someone who lives with two great housemates, in a town she seems to enjoy, with what appears to be a pretty fulfilling life. (Though not fulfilling enough for him, apparently. He also doesn’t mind calling out her ‘lack of career direction’.) There seems to be no compromise or conversation. Just the world according to him, because he is clearly smarter than her. (Actually most of the cast, tbh. I don’t think I can tolerate another one of his tirades about ‘horse people’…)
It’s the time Anthony callously called Nadia ‘frigid’ on national TV, to little consequence. She regained composure quickly, the shock on her face making way to laughter in lightning speed. One would expect that ‘the experts’ would have reprimanded him – perhaps reminded him that name calling was completely unacceptable, in the same way we do primary school children – but no. Nadia was forced to smile, as he continued to tell everyone why her way of showing affection was wrong. I recognise that smile. It was the same one that I used to make when one of the above guys would put me down in public. Generally, it was easier to pretend you were in on the joke. Saves the embarrassment, you see.
It’s the time when the guys had their ‘boys night’, with many spending the evening trashing their ‘wives’, before passing it all off as ‘boys being boys’. Also claiming, like 16 year olds discovering their first cans of beer at a party, that they ‘couldn’t remember’. I can’t even with that episode. It’s too disgusting to continue bringing up.
It’s Andrew, mocking Cheryl in front of the rest of the cast at dinner, before pulling the silent treatment. It’s the way he divided the group, creating cliques with the twins, Nick and Anthony so that she would feel deliberately excluded – a common manoeuvre to disarm – reminiscent of Regina George. It’s the way he refused to take responsibility for his own actions, deflecting her questions with accusations of his own and implying she was emotional and irrational for daring to hold him accountable. The way he put the blame on her at the commitment ceremony, throwing down lines such as ‘Cheryl hasn’t put the work in…doesn’t want to commit to get to know me‘ and ‘all I’m asking for is a decent conversation‘ – while skirting around anything she asked related to the now infamous ‘boys night’ and his role in the break down.
It’s horrific. And I’m sure dramatised. I have no illusions that Channel 9 carefully curate the footage to show the most entertaining version of events, mixing up the actual chronological order of events to make way for the narrative that will boost viewers. And I’m also sure the women are sticking their heels in with a few catty digs and some off-camera bad behaviour of their own. But in a way – I feel like that’s almost worse. If the guys really aren’t being as harsh as they appear, if the girls are truly giving as good as they’re getting – why are we being shown a story that has the ‘men’ unashamedly on top of the tree, and the ladies relegated to smiling politely and tolerating abhorrent comments? And why is this all happening without intervention?
Twitter lights up three times a week, and it’s getting more and more brutal. Apparently Andrew has ‘gone into hiding’ since the episode aired, deactivating his social media accounts. Many would call that ‘consequences’ of his actions, but I doubt it’ll have any long lasting impact. Twitter Armies with their Virtual Torches lose interest pretty quickly these days. #9Married is trending with each new airing, and the marriage experts are quick to get involved – I’ve had a couple of interesting online debates with John Aiken. Many of us sit, in complete shock each week, wondering how in the hell some of this behaviour is tolerated, much less make it to air? And we voice our shock on Twitter, joining the thousands of others each night.
And there in lies the answer. This show will continue with the same formula, the same narrative, because we created it. By watching it – by making it the top ranking show in it’s time slot, by giving Channel 9 an incredibly powerful advertising cash cow, by publicising it for them across the nation on social media – we’re contributing to it’s continued success. The only thing worse than being bad TV is being bad TV that no-one talks about.
So I’m out. With just one week left to go, I’m sure my impact isn’t going to have the Channel 9 execs shaking in their boots, holding emergency board meetings, and I will miss some of the awesome couples like Alene + Simon and Sean + Susan (#TogetherForever you guys, I’m rooting for you!), but I realised that the only thing I was getting out of this show was anger, stress and a new appreciation for guys who don’t drink.
Now, when does Project Runway come back?