Experts have called out Nine’s reality TV show Married at First Sight for using abuse and violence by women contestants as ratings-grabbing entertainment.
“The gender double standards that have been demonstrated on this show are deplorable,” clinical psychologist Jordan Foster told The New Daily.
“Women [on MAFS] are perpetrating violence and it’s swept under the carpet.
“We act as though it doesn’t matter – ‘Oh, women are acting crazy’ – and if it was the other way and men were doing it, there would be a public uproar.”
On Tuesday, a MAFS storyline showed bride Cyrell Jimenez Paule, 29, screaming insults at another contestant in an altercation that turned physical.
Outraged by a rumour about her screen husband Nic Jovanovic, 28, Cyrell confronted fellow wife, Martha Kalifatidis, 30, in her Sydney apartment.
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“Stay the f— out of my life”, she warned, prompting a clap back from Martha: “B—-, if you f—ing swear at me.”
A ranting Cyrell then grabbed the other woman by the neck of her robe, forcing a male producer to physically separate the pair and restrain Cyrell.
After shouting threats including, “Don’t f— around with me, Martha. I ain’t f—ing scared of you”, the healthcare worker then made another charge at her cast mate and production staff, smashing a fruit bowl.
She then left the apartment block but soon returned. Nine did not post the fiery incident – which appeared largely staged – on its usual Twitter feed.
THAT’S IT! I’m not watching this anymore. The grandstanding is beyond a joke. And the show doesn’t give a hoot about the people as long as it gets ratings. And poor excuse for psychologists don’t care about the people either.
— Sam Discios (@sam_discio) February 26, 2019
The altercation came when the show needed a new plot sensation after the Sunday exit of its ‘infidelity’ villains, Sam Ball and Ines Basic.
That loss saw Married at First Sight – which is still smashing all-comers to be the No.1 show in Australia four nights despite or because of constant controversy – drop nearly 500,000 viewers overnight.
With the just-introduced ‘intruder’ couples still finding their feet in a season that promised “totally next level” twists, the network promoted the fight episode as its most “explosive” ever.
The Cyrell spectacle followed on from earlier abusive moments involving legal worker Basic, 28, berating and repeatedly threatening her MAFS husband Bronson Norris, 34.
“The first time I saw him I wanted to punch him in the jaw,” said Basic, who yelled at Norris on a honeymoon boat ride that when she tells him to shut up: “You need to shut your f—–g mouth.”
In a later episode, he responded by calling her a profane name and was held to account by the show’s relationship expert Mel Schilling.
“The way Ines spoke to Bronson was absolutely unacceptable and she was never called out about the toxic way she treated him,” clinical psychologist Ms Foster said.
“Yet, when he called her a disgusting word after holding his tongue, he was vilified. You’ve got to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to the community.”
For Dr Michael Salter, senior criminology lecturer at Western Sydney University, the show’s depiction of women being violent sparks “really an important conversation we need to have, about healthy respect that underlines everyone’s conduct in relationships, regardless of gender”.
“It’s important to understand that there’s no group which is an angel in the context of relationships,” Dr Salter told The New Daily.
Cyrell has previous form for abusing co-stars and on Tuesday was told by show expert John Aiken (to the strains of gentle music) “you cannot get that aggressive with people”.
She grudgingly agreed to apologise to Martha.
— Married At First Sight (@MarriedAU) February 26, 2019
Cyrell’s behaviour would have sent up red flags during the rigorous entrant screening process, and MAFS experts are doing “little to manage it in a preventative way”, Ms Foster said.
“There’s been snippets of this the whole show, but the fact her explosiveness can cause a physical risk to someone is new.”
Dr Salter told The New Daily if MAFS is deliberately recruiting participants with a short fuse to “put them in situations where they’re likely to blow their top, absolutely, it’s unethical”.
“And if the show isn’t taking the opportunity to have the conversation about ethics, they’re not taking duty of care.”
Nine did not respond to repeated requests by The New Daily for comment.
Endemol Shine, which produces Married at First Sight, also ignored requests.