The MAFS storyline that went too far
In news that will likely shock and horrify, it seems that even contestants on reality television shows eat food.
Sometimes, they even eat multiple times a day. When there are cameras around. Filming their every move for us to later judge from the comfort of our own homes. And occasionally, they make the decision to eat junk food over kale salads. Gasp!
Take Tuesday night's episode of Married At First Sight, for example, in which jilted bride Elizabeth Sobinoff was shown eating pizza for breakfast in her apartment, eating a piece of chocolate she seemed to have had rolling around in her bag while walking along the street, later eating more pizza again (this time heated up in a toaster), and eating Nutella straight from the jar in the evening.
The amount of footage the show's producers chose to share of Sobinoff eating on Tuesday was not only relentless, it was totally unnecessary.
I suppose it's possible they used so much to try and portray just how stressed she was at having been abandoned by the stranger she married 24 hours earlier.
But it seems more likely it was to feed into the narrative that her AWOL groom Sam Ball painted when he told cameras at their wedding ceremony, "I've never really dated girls as big as Elizabeth in the past" and suggested he'd have to get her "running".
(For the record, it's hard to understand how anyone could describe Sobinoff as "big".)
What is obvious, though, is that whatever the motive it was no accident producers included so much footage of Sobinoff eating while other female contestants were shown cosying up to their new partners while watching the sun set, and walking around with their flawless bikini bodies on display.
The inclusion of the food footage paints Sobinoff in a certain way and helps sell the storyline that Channel 9's producers have cooked up for her.
In early promos for the show, Sobinoff was called "Australia's Most Confident Bride." Close ups of her intense stare and loud conversations were paired with images of Ball's conventional good looks and impeccably maintained body.
But in being filmed reaching for junk food during a time of stress a silent commentary is presented that whispers, 'she is the kind of person who can't cope'. That she's emotionally unstable. That she's irresponsible. That she doesn't take care of herself or value her appearance. That her confidence is just an act. It says that the most offensive thing a woman being offered the prestigious opportunity of appearing on a reality television show to find love can do is to eat. That when it comes down to it, she's not as deserving of being loved as the other women in the show because she doesn't put in the work.
What Channel 9 and Married At First Sight's producers clearly haven't thought through, though, is that the majority of the show's viewers are women.
Instead of being disgusted by Sobinoff's behaviour we sent text messages to friends asking if anyone else had ever toasted leftover pizza and if we'd all been doing it wrong. We saw her pull chocolate out of her handbag with the deftness of Mary Poppins and thought, 'brilliant'. We suddenly had uncontrollable cravings for Nutella.
It was when Ball announced that if their marriage were to succeed he'd need to get her jogging in the mornings, before he promptly pissed off overseas and cut all contact with Sobinoff, that the narrative truly fell off the rails.
Sobinoff responding by being confined to an apartment that's not her own and eating out of what was probably a mix of stress and boredom isn't the problem, the idea that her doing so is a shameful act is.
Here's hoping we've seen the end of this subliminal plot line, because reducing an adult to what they choose to consume is getting really, really predictable and doesn't make for interesting television.
Katy Hall is a writer and producer for RendezView.