American Viewers Are Criticising MAFS For Its Lack Of Diversity — But In Australia It’s Old News

Image courtesy of Channel 9
Married At First Sight contestants Olivia Frazer and Tamara Djordjevic
The most recent season of Married At First Sight (MAFS) featured a mere handful of ethnically diverse contestants, and to be honest, I was disappointed but not surprised given Australian reality TV's shameful track record when it comes to representation of people of colour (POC).
However, viewers in America have been rather astonished by the lack of cultural diversity on MAFS after it recently began airing in the US. It somewhat makes sense given American reality shows like Love Is Blind and The Bachelor have showcased more ethnically diverse casts in recent times.
A series of Instagram comments quoted by the Daily Mail show US viewers questioning the apparent whitewashed casting choices, some even saying they will no longer tune in because of the lack of diversity.
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"No POC. I won't be watching," one person wrote, while another viewer asked, "Why is everyone blond and white?"
"Are there no spanish, black or asian people in Australia? Every season they all look the same," read another comment.
This season of MAFS, which ended in Australia last week with a bombshell finale reunion, featured 20 contestants. The majority were white people and of those who were ethnically diverse, storylines around race were rather limited or unsettling.
Take Selina Chhaur for example. The 33-year-old daughter of Cambodian and Chinese immigrants was left feeling humiliated and hurt after her on-screen husband, Cody Bromley, admitted he wasn't initially physically attracted to Chhaur because of her Asian heritage. Yes, you read that right.
This season also featured Brazilian contestant Carolina Santos, plus biracial contestants Al Perkins, who has Malaysian heritage and Ella Ding, who has Taiwanese heritage.
Image courtesy of Channel 9
Married At First Sight contestants Cody Bromley and Selina Chhaur
MAFS isn't alone in terms of dating shows that have attracted criticism for a lack of cultural diversity. The Bachelorette had its first Indigenous lead star in Brooke Blurton last year. While The Bachelor and Love Island have started casting more diverse contestants. But is it genuine representation or rather tokenistic?
In an interview with HuffPost Australia back in 2020, Carlos Fang (aka Carlos Jay F.), who appeared on Georgia Love’s season of The Bachelorette in 2016 said, "I knew going on a show like The Bachelorette there would always be a ‘token’ guy.
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"It’s your advantage because you know there’s always one person cast to represent that mix but it’s likely to be a disadvantage for the final outcome of the show. Rarely is there a person of colour standing there at the end of the season."
At the time, a Network 10 spokesperson told the publication, "Eligible contestants on all Network 10 shows are considered regardless of race or background. Network 10 takes its commitment to diversity seriously and we cast as broadly as possible across our entire slate."
Another perspective to take into account is that perhaps a lot of people of colour don't want to audition for dating shows due to familial pressures and stigmas, or the fear of being tokenised on telly.
Former Bachelorette Australia contestant Niranga Amarsinghe migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka when he was three years old. He previously told news.com.au that "from experience, there are less POC auditioning for reality TV", explaining "very strict cultural backgrounds" could be one of the reasons for that.
"For the ones who do and are successful, there is another hurdle an individual has to conquer to actually make it to the filming stage. They have to convince their families they are happy for them to go on reality TV," he said.
As the daughter of Fijian Indian immigrants, I know my family wouldn't approve of me going on a dating show, but then again I've never harboured an interest in finding love in the public eye.
Having said that, like many women of colour (WOC) in Australia, I'm eager to watch other WOC who do feel comfortable auditioning and would like the chance to meet a partner on national TV. And not only should they be afforded that opportunity, but we as viewers should also be able to sit back and watch a show that's actually reflective of the multicultural dating scene in Australia.
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