It's time reality TV stars stop blaming the villain edit

OPINION: In 2023, contestants need to take accountability for how they’ve acted.

Married at First Sight may have wrapped for another season, but if you’re a true fan you know the drama doesn’t stop when the contestants say their final vows. As they regain control of their social media accounts and take on influencing jobs and teeth-whitening deals, the now-household names continue to ignite scandal for months.

If you’re a reality TV lover, you’re accustomed to the villain edit: it’s a tale as old as time – all reality shows are shaping a dramatic narrative to hook us in, and some participants must fill the role of the season villain. Some wear it unflinchingly – take Harrison Boon, for example, the controversial groom from this season of MAFS who admitted on the Kyle & Jackie O Show that there was truth in his portrayal. “I think everyone who’s gotten the villain edit is somewhat fair, I’ll cop that,” Harrison said.

Harrison Boon wearing a white top in MAFS
Harrison Boon said: 'I think everyone who’s gotten the villain edit is somewhat fair, I’ll cop that'. Photo: Channel Nine

Other contestants slam their villain edit, calling out production for chopping and changing quotes and pushing storylines. Last year, Olivia Frazer was MAFS’ most surprising villain yet – fans initially fell in love with her and Jackson Lonie’s love story, only for Olivia’s nasty beef with fellow contestant Domenica Calarco to dominate the season. Viewers were outraged when Olivia circulated an OnlyFans photo of Dom to the wider MAFS crew, and Olivia later revealed she lost her job as a teaching assistant as a direct result of starring on the show.

Similarly, Alyssa Barmonde from the latest season of MAFS recently said she was “coincidentally” made redundant from her job as an executive assistant, a role she’d been in for seven years.

As this year’s MAFS stars face the repercussions of being on the show, should they really blame the edit?


Contestants know better in 2023

It’s been 10 years since dating reality shows took off in Australia with the launch of The Bachelor in 2013. Since then, as other programs like MAFS, Bachelor in Paradise and Love Island burst onto the scene, we’ve seen new heroes and villains emerge each year.

To apply and be cast on a show like MAFS in 2023 and say you’re only in it for love is either being naive or untruthful. The show doesn’t have a glowing success rate; across 10 seasons only seven couples out of 95 have remained together. Using this MAFS math, we can safely assume that contestants saying yes to the opportunity are not in it truly believing they’re about to be matched with the love of their life.

As we see the storylines play out on our screens, we know that people are edited into characters to support a narrative, and the risk will always be that they may not come across favourably – contestants know that going in. It’s stated in the contracts they sign. It’s not new information.

MAFS' Alyssa and Duncan
Alyssa was made redundant from her job following the show. Photo: Channel Nine

In Alyssa’s case, as her relationship with Duncan unravelled, her constant talk about her child became a focal point. While she may have only said the phrase “my child” a couple of times in reality, producers ran with it and made it a major part of her narrative. However, most reality TV fans are clever enough to spot when an audio grab has been used repeatedly or been given a choppy edit.

MAFS is based on contestants being filmed around the clock in high-pressure environments, often with people they don’t get along with, for months on end. This can bring out the worst of participants who don’t deal with conflict well.

While we may not have seen every facet of Alyssa and Duncan’s relationship play out, we saw Alyssa become passive-aggressive, combative and at times immature when she spoke to Duncan. She was filmed blasting him for not giving her attention, walking out of a commitment ceremony, and sticking out her tongue when greeting him at the reunion. She was consistently emotionally reactive, so of course producers would have a field day with these moments.

It wasn’t an easy relationship to see on screen, and there’s no doubt Alyssa would’ve found it hard to watch back, but blaming editors for behaviour on a show that pushes drama to fuel ratings doesn’t hold weight anymore. In 2023, contestants need to take accountability for how they’ve acted.

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