WARNING: Graphic language
There are many things you can say about Married At First Sight. It’s cringe-worthy and binge worthy. It’s trashy and addictive. This so-called “experiment” is a delicious car crash of egos and libidos and the bumper ratings are proof that Australians can’t get enough.
But a series that makes TV history? That raises profound questions about feminism and the power of language? Nuh uh.
Yet, here we find ourselves, because newlywed-groom and eyebrow ring poster boy Bronson has just made it into the annals of small screen infamy by using the most taboo word you can think of to describe his wife Ines.
He just called her the C-word on national TV.
Last night, the couples sat down for the first round of commitment ceremonies that unfolded with about as much drama and suspense as a bowls tournament. Finally, Ines and Bronson took to the couch to unload about the fact their days-old union is going, well, abysmally.
Explaining his feelings, Bronson told the panel of overly-coiffured therapists: “When we did the questionnaire thing, Ines was really amazing that night, I loved it. Next morning, the Hulk come out (sic). Straight back to being a c**t.”
The former stripper, after a week of being verbally abused by his not-so-blushing bride, had finally gone for the nuclear option.
His comment left the other couples with their mouths gaping and eyes bulging. This was a line no-one was expecting Bronson to so blithely step over, and the show’s psychologists then went into damage-control mode to try and encourage the couple to focus on respect in the week ahead.
But let’s back the truck up here. This isn’t just any swear word. It is THE swear word, the most offensive descriptor you can call someone in the English language. It has the power to truly shock and offend, unlike any other.
Firstly, should he have said it, given he claims he is keen to see if they can make their marriage work?
Well, it is a goddamn nasty word, but Bronson has been contending with a barrage of cruel and deeply insulting language from Ines. For five episodes, she has been verbally abusing her husband with abandon.
Producers chose to broadcast her horrific eruption during their honeymoon when she unleashed hell on Bronson (on a boat no less), screaming, “When I tell you to shut the f**k up, I mean SHUT THE F**K UP!” To call out Bronson for his language but not Ines is a glaring double standard.
Secondly, the bigger question here is, is it ever OK for a man to call a woman a ‘c**t’?
It is the verbal equivalent of blunt-force trauma, but there is a time and a place for it. It has a clout and a weight that f**k just doesn’t carry, and sometimes (emphasis on ‘sometimes’) you need to deploy it to convey just how strongly you feel about something.
More importantly, equality means if we women want to have “c**t” in our swear repertoire, then blokes have exactly the same right to use the word. (It’s also worth pointing that we have long since weaponised male genitalia — calling someone a “dick” or a “prick” is hardly shocking is it?)
In the mix here is also the question of whether the Nine Network should have put this particular exchange to air, in the 7.30pm slot no less. Sure, at a time when free-to-air tele is struggling to compete for viewers against Netflix and Stan, this sort of controversy is just the ticket to keep people glued to the small screen.
Winning the ratings war is a do-or-die business. Still, it feels like a cheap and nasty ploy to bump up the viewing figures.
When all is said and done, last night’s instalment of MAFS has put us in uncharted TV territory.
There is every chance it will end up being added to the list of episodes that have left an indelible mark on the pop culture psyche like Seinfeld’s “The Contest”, the first time masturbation was the focus of half an hour of mainstream comedy, or when Sex And The City’s Charlotte had to be physically separated from her beloved Rabbit vibrator. (Wow, masturbation was a much bigger deal in the 90s wasn’t it?)
Let’s not forget Number 96’s long list of taboo-smashing storylines, such as showing the world’s first live-in gay couple, Carlotta starring as a transgender character and Aussie TV’s first interracial couple.
But back to Bronson and Ines, who are stuck together for another week, which promises to be just as sensational and fraught as the one we have all just survived.
“I won’t drop the ‘c**t’ word,” Bronson says during his piece-to-camera, “if she won’t call me a dick.”
Let’s see how long that lasts, but we’re in a brave new world now.