Monsters and Critics columnist Liz Long delves into the controversy surrounding current MAFS contestant, Chris Williams … looking at the timeline of events, statements made by the experts (pre and post-casting), backlash from fans, and posing the questions, Why and What’s Next? (A video complimenting this post is at the bottom.)
I’d like to take a “simple” position on the controversy that has been the choosing of Chris Williams for Married at First Sight Season 12 and the “MAFS experts” standing by their decision to cast him--despite all the “ugliness” that has occurred since the show has aired.
My position (or rather question) is this: Excluding all of the (what some might call) “personality flaws” of Chris, how could the experts--in good conscience--put him on the show, knowing that he was engaged only approximately FOUR WEEKS prior to them meeting and casting him?
My conclusion is this: They could not have.
Trying to be as objective as possible, in this article (and video below), I consider the timeline of events, including statements made in an Instagram Live with Dr. Viviana Coles. The experts stand by their defense that their casting of Chris was not for ratings. But how are we, the viewers, reasonably left to believe anything but?
The editing/production alone highlights Chris in the first couple of episodes as follows: “I want a submissive freak.” “She better not be ugly.” “Your name is your brand.” And last, but not least, “I view marriage as a business.” We didn’t get much else.
For the record, this is NOT a “Chris bashing post.” This is more pointed at the experts and the backlash they have received for what they might have thought was “ratings gold.” …. I sure hope not.
Ex-girlfriends matter but recent ex-fiancees do not?
As I point out in the video, there is a clear discrepancy in the Matchmaking Special between what Dr. Pepper shares about Chris and the questions Pastor Cal asks of Chris. Pastor Cal asks Chris in the barber shop, “is there any ex-girlfriends, ANYONE at all, who would be upset that you’re getting married.” Like, “oh I thought I was with him.”
Now I’m a pretty faithful MAFS-watcher, and I honestly do not recall Pastor Cal (or any of the experts) really asking this question to other contestants … or, at least, in this manner. Of course, we could say that’s just production doing their thing, knowing how the season plays out. But, then again, that gets at the show feeding off what is truly a heartbreaking situation. (Not to mention the way they have formulated all of the previews surrounding Chris.)
Dr. Pepper tells Cal and Viviana, “He was PREVIOUSLY engaged.” There is no discussion of the fact that this “previous engagement” was a mere 4-8 weeks prior. And, certainly, Dr. Cal didn’t think this worthy of mentioning when he was quizzing Chris on “ex-girlfriends.”
Sure, you’re ready for marriage, but where’s the healing time (or even professional responsibility)?
Moreover, where is the healing time? The processing time? Seriously, within four weeks, we are expected to believe one is ready to go from a broken ENGAGEMENT to a whole new marriage …. to a stranger …. in an environment that is already a “pressure-cooker” so to speak.
This is a “social experiment.” But, really, what kind of experiment are we conducting here?
Dr. Viviana Coles told the AP Press (clips of which are included in the below video) that “recent engagements” don’t phase her much. She doesn’t see them as a “red flag.” The reason she doesn’t see recent engagements as red flags is because it shows her that the person is ready to get married.
Now that may be all well and good, but, again, we are talking FOUR weeks here! As relationship experts (including a Pastor), can they honestly believe that someone can (and should) be so ready to move on so quickly? Even if the contestant is telling them, “I’m so ready for marriage … this prior engagement didn’t work out for this or that reason …,” I ask, where is the professional responsibility to these people? (As in, perhaps you could come back in a year for next season.)
There comes a time to say, we messed up.
The backlash they probably didn’t want
Bachelor Nation is in an uproar (currently over racism issues), but the franchise was already getting heat this season for their choosing to highlight nothing but drama surrounding a sorority of mean girls. Fans of The Bachelor already had begun the uprising before the racism issues even started.
And, now, it seems MAFS fans are doing the same.
We get that shows thrive on a certain level of drama. But the MAFS franchise is even worse for exploiting relationships in this way (over The Bachelor) because these are real marriages here.
When fans retaliated with this chant, Dr. Coles took to her Instagram live.
Dr. Viviana Coles Instagram Live shows a flippant response
Many called her response “callous” and “flippant.” As she did her makeup, she smiled and dismissed fans’ reactions to Chris. “You all are freaking out.” “Go along for the ride.” “I can’t imagine fans of other reality TV shows having this strong of a reaction about every episode.”
As Monsters & Critics previously reported, MAFS-alum Kate Sisk responded to Dr. Viviana’s remarks.
I’ve always tried to go along with the belief that these are experts who want the best for these people. Their own reputations are on the line, I tell myself.
I think MAFS fans deserve better. We miss the days of when the show was truly about pairing two people who genuinely wanted marriage. I’ve always thought it’s so much more fun watching the couples get along and have fun together (Woody and Amani, anyone?) than watching the couples who constantly argue.
True, the experts might not know what will actually happen when those cameras start rolling.
But surely there is a level of responsibility going into the process of choosing who is cast. And I find it extremely hard to believe that this person (who we saw have nothing but somewhat egotistical things to say during the premiere episodes, coupled with being fresh off an engagement) is the answer to Paige’s prayers. In all the sea of people and applicants, they honestly felt this was the best casting choice?
What is also unsettling as I did research for this article was finding out that they film “Unfiltered” AFTER the season has wrapped. Therefore, Paige (who was put on the spin-off multiple times) had to comment on every disturbing episode. And leave it with a sort of “you’ll have to watch and find out” teaser.
I also realize people might say Paige is choosing to stand behind Chris, and argue that she is as much to blame as Chris (not my words but a sentiment among some viewers). As much as I wanted to shake Paige this last episode and scream at her “know your worth!,” I also understand she might be trying to make it work for a number of reasons, and yes, her belief that this was God’s will seems to run deep.
But her reaction shouldn’t dictate whether this was a wise--or even reasonable--casting call in the first place.
I, at least, hope that the experts will learn from this season. Understand that this is not what we want. And do their due diligence more next season. If nothing else, exclude applicants who are fresh out of an engagement.
Thanks for listening, friends.
Married at First Sight airs on Wednesdays at 8/7c on Lifetime.