Isn’t this the kind of thing the War on Terror is supposed to be fighting? Didn’t they learn anything from the Who Wants to Marry a Whore fiasco? Reaching deeper into the pits of despair, and back in time to the feudal era, Fox has come up with a new reality show that will explore the atavistic joys of arranged marriage:
- Take “American Idol,” add a bit of “The Bachelor” and sprinkle in the arranged marriage element of “Monsoon Wedding” — and you’ve got the idea behind Fox’s next big reality franchise.
The network is developing “Married by America,” a weekly reality series that will search for folks hungry to get hitched — and then set them up with arranged marriages. The American viewing public will play matchmaker, voting on which couples will get engaged.
The concept borrows from a practice that, while rare in the United States, is prevalent in many other cultures.
We could have a show involving polygamy, infanticide, female genital mutilation, and dysentery, which are also prevalent in other cultures: we could call it Anthropologist’s Wet Dream.
- “Married by America,” the series — targeted to bow early next year — will likely unfold over six to eight weeks, beginning with a nationwide search “for people who are tired of the dating scene and are open to the idea of having a marriage arranged for them,” said Fox reality chief Mike Darnell.
To me it seems like quite a leap from “tired of the dating scene” to “open to the idea of having a marriage arranged for them.” I would consider several options for meeting my soul mate between those two poles.
- Details are still being hammered out, but producers will likely first cast a small number of people — perhaps four people, evenly split between men and women — who want to have Joe Public find their match for them. These folks will remain the same throughout the course of the show.
After that, another large group of potential brides and grooms will be winnowed down by marriage experts so that each person in the first group has, say, five or 10 potential mates. All of this will take place over the course of the first episode of the show.
Thank God “marriage experts” are involved. Any “marriage experts” who would participate in a mass “winnowing” of contestants in order to facilitate an arranged television marriage perhaps don’t understand the concept.
- In episode two, people in the large group will be grilled by the friends and family members of the small group in a pageant-style setting. The family members will then choose two finalists.
No possibility of lifelong conflict or resentment there: “You picked the obsessive-compulsive neat freak with herpes as my life’s companion why, Mom?”
- In the third episode, viewers will make the final call, deciding — “American Idol”-style — which of the two finalists should hook up with their potential mates. As a result, whoever wins the call-in vote will then ask their mate to marry them — before ever setting eyes on the person.
“Marry me … what’s your name again?”
- Over the next few weeks of the show, cameras will follow all of the newly engaged couples as they live together and get to know one another. Darnell said viewers would still participate in this process with call-in votes, though he declined to give details.
In the season finale of “Married by America,” the couples will announce whether they plan to get hitched on the show or call off their engagement.
It is inconceivable to me that someone – in theory someone smart – thinks this is a good idea. A cornerstone of our way of life is the freedom to sojourn out into the world to find a mate of our own choosing, free from the meddling, pressure, and interference of clan and kin, a situation that has plagued the most intimate of personal relationships “in many cultures” for millennia. What’s next, a return to foot-binding? That would make one snappy show.
And we take this trip a few centuries backward in social relations just to make a mockery of marriage. This is about as far as one can get from the bubbly, jaunty fun of The Dating Game, where freedom of-and-from attachment in the swinging singles modern world was giddily celebrated, and all that was at stake was a weekend trip to some cool vacation destination and some cash to blow as foolishly as possible.
The Dating Game used to keep track of the couples who met on the show and got married, not because they expected it, but because it was so novel that such a thing could happen: the “well, what do you know?” factor.
Who would volunteer for a mess like this new show? Either the truly desperate – they’ll be fun to watch – or those so shallow and aimless that they think letting tens of millions of strangers vote on who they should marry is a fun way to get on TV.
Please don’t encourage this nightmare – vote with your eyes and tell Fox you have better things to do than to witness the reversal of hundreds of years of personal freedom as entertainment spectacle. We do not need this kind of “reality.”
Please see this post for a continuation of this discussion, especially as it pertains to Islam.