Channel Nine is facing serious backlash over a new ad campaign for its popular reality show, Married at First Sight, which features a male contestant listing his outdated expectations of women.
The campaign, starring a contestant from the show’s upcoming fifth season, is accompanied online by the tagline: “Dean wants to be loved, honoured … and obeyed.”
The ad shows Dean in a wedding suit and a silk blindfold, along with the following voiceover: “It’s hard to say without sounding, like, sexist or something, but I like a girl that is a girl, and like she’s girly and knows that I’m the man and I’m in charge.
“I wanna be the alpha male, and she needs to respect me as a man. I think that’s a traditional role that still exists in a lot of other countries in the world, and Australia’s kind of lost that.
“A lot of guys are just afraid to be men now and they’re just getting whipped by their women. I don’t agree with that, I don’t know why it’s happened. I want to bring it back”
— Married At First Sight Australia (@MarriedAU) December 14, 2017
The ad, which was released online on Thursday, has already attracted a flood of negative attention from fans uncomfortable with its sexist connotations.
“A man who needs to force a woman to respect and obey him is both a coward and a bully,” feminist writer Clementine Ford commented on Twitter.
Some pointed out the ad feels especially tone-deaf considering the current climate regarding sexism and the alleged abuse of women, post-Harvey Weinstein and the recent sexual harassment allegations against Don Burke, a former Channel Nine presenter.
“Channel 9 … rethink this,” one Twitter user commented on the ad.
channel 9… rethink this
— Scott Limbrick (@ScottLimbrick) December 14, 2017
Another wrote: “It’s amazing that you haven’t learnt a damn thing from 2017.”
It has been suggested the ad may be Channel Nine intentionally courting controversy by playing off the current cultural moment of calling out unchecked sexism – especially in entertainment.
The New Daily contacted Channel Nine for comment but received no response.
Dee Madigan, creative director of Campaign Edge and regular panellist on ABC’s Gruen, said it’s likely the campaign is intentionally contentious.
“There’s no doubt that controversy gets people’s attention,” Madigan told The New Daily.
“TV is a very competitive market. That would’ve been deliberately done to be controversial – there’s no doubt about that. Maybe they’re hoping people will watch it hoping he gets his comeuppance?”
Channel 9. You're not being controversial. You're being complicit.
— Holly (@talkandtea) December 14, 2017
“These shows are heavily edited to have villains, and things like that. So I suspect that’s how they will sort of get around this, like ‘Oh no, it’s about teaching him a lesson’.
“It’s exploiting sexist attitudes, they will argue, to do good in the end. Whether it will or not, who knows,” said Madigan.
Last season, Married At First Sight became a hot topic in Australian TV after a buzzy season pushed contestants Susan Rawlings and Sean Hollands into the spotlight to discuss some of the show’s untoward tactics for boosting ratings.
A particularly unpleasant interaction between a group of male contestants and 25-year-old female contestant Cheryl, which ended with Cheryl in tears, had viewers questioning the show’s ethical responsibility to protect its contestants.
There’s no way of knowing yet how Dean’s arc will play out on the season, but one thing’s for sure – Married At First Sight certainly knows how to make a splash at any cost.