“I mean, that’s just nuts” says Emma, a 32-year-old Brit reflecting on her decision to marry a stranger. And she’s right, it’s a completely bonkers thing to do.
Yet, in its craziness, the rationale behind Channel 4’s Married At First Sight actually makes sense. Those who want a relationship but are having no luck in bars, on Tinder or at their friends’ BBQs may as well see if science can help them out. We trust it to cure us of illnesses and fly us across the globe, so why not use it to find love, too?
After countless personality tests, spitting into tubes, having her shoulder width measured and lots more distinctly unromantic things, Emma’s been matched up with another applicant. She’s got a husband! Sorted. Except she won’t see him until the wedding, and all she knows about him is his name. And as nice a name as James is, it doesn’t give much away does it?
As the scientists sit around a table and play cupid by choosing six “very strong” matches, it does make you crave a romance-filled rom-com where nobody talks about symmetrical faces or attachment levels. Kate and Jason are sure to fall in love because, well, he’s got “resources he can bring to the relationship”. It’s so unsexy, they may as well be discussing their new employee. And what about other things, like sex? Let’s be honest, having “strong resources” in terms of a flat and a decent pay check doesn’t mean you’re going to have “strong resources” in the marital bed.
But even if it doesn’t sound like the most thrilling, dreamy way to find a life partner, it’s oddly moving when the successful applicants are told they’ve been found a match. Their fear and excitement brings home how much humans will do to find someone to share their life with.
And there’s the issue. There’s nothing I love more than a good dating show, but the marriage twist seems an unnecessary, rather silly addition to what would otherwise be a great example of the genre. It all feels pretty conservative too, for something so modern. While it’s futuristic in that science is trying to control human love, it’s also what would happen if a dystopian sci-fi show met a slightly trashy Jane Austen adaptation.
While the women choose their white wedding dresses and flowers, and the men pick their very dull tuxes, all I’m thinking is “who cares about all the colour of the lace when they haven’t even shaken hands?” And why would you pick such a conventional dress when the guy has already agreed to marry you? Go for something as crazy as the decision you’ve made!
My sartorial concerns aside, the show is massively entertaining, and gets you wondering about your own partner. Could you have done better if you’d turned to science instead of meeting at your friend’s sister’s birthday dinner? (In fact, it’s best not to think about that one too hard).
The high stakes of Death Do Us Part make it an unusual and controversial show. But I’d rather just see the scientifically matched couples go to the pub and have a few mojitos before confiding their drunken thoughts into a camera. A sort of Big Brother meets First Dates. With some science thrown in, of course.