Choosing love? Tensions and transformations of modern marriage in Married at First Sight

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Anthropologists and sociologists frequently suggest that marriage is undergoing rapid, worldwide transformation. Yet while trends in nuptiality and divorce are used to demonstrate its decline, heterosexual marriage based on romantic love remains a cultural ideal in many contexts. This tension is reflected in cultural products like television programs, including the increasingly popular genre of reality romance television. In this paper, we focus on an Australian version of a recent program format, Married at First Sight (MaFS), in which ‘singles’ are matched by ‘relationship experts’ and then meet for the first time at their wedding ceremonies. The show purports to document singles’ lives prior to, during and following their weddings. By considering the content and structure of the show, as well as public and media responses to it, we explore Married at First Sight Australia in the context of other reality romance programs produced and popular in Australia. We propose that the show offers a discourse of marriage based on objective compatibility rather than individual choice, but nonetheless dependent upon scripts of romantic love. Further, MaFS reflects (uneven) realities and popular understandings of transformation in modern Australian marriage.

Keywords: reality television, marriage, Australia, romantic love
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-867
Number of pages11
JournalContinuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017


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