Channel 4 has announced they are to launch a new addition to their line-up of reality TV programmes in the form of 'Married At First Sight'. A relatively simple concept (inspired by previous versions carried out by other media), it's causing much controversy; 6 couples who have never met before will be matched by experts and legally wed. They will then spend 6 weeks co-habiting (under the watchful eyes of cameras, of course) after which they must decide whether they wish to continue with the marriage or be granted an uncontested divorce.
Reality television is not a new spectacle and by the very nature of modern entertainment, boundaries are being pushed all the time. Much as the Romans used to watch men fight for their lives against lions for fun, now thousands of people sit in their homes glued to their screens, waiting for events to unfold that will make the tabloid headlines.
Previous programmes that have sparked heated debate both online and around the water cooler include 'Big Brother' and 'Benefits Street', plus Channel 4 have recently announced a new show entitled 'NHS: The Cost Of Living' in which viewers decide whether patients should have their treatment funded or not. This seems shocking enough, but, for me, 'Married At First Sight' is taking the word 'entertainment' and utilising it in its very loosest terms.
Growing up I was never the sort of child that dreamt of a big white wedding. Of course, I love my boyfriend and if he asked I would say yes, but it's not something I've ever felt would define my life and I lose no sleep wondering if and when he will pop the question. However, I do believe in the sanctity of marriage and that if you choose to take that step and make a commitment to somebody, it should be done with the true and honest belief that you are in it for life. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.
But I can't help but feel that the format of 'Married At First Sight' tarnishes that. Just as you may buy an item of clothing to try on at home, decide you don't like it and return it to the shop with your receipt, Channel 4's new show seems to imply marriage is something that can be taken lightly as you can get out of it at the first sign of stormy waters.
Society is much more 'throw away' than it was in previous generations, with more materials and knowledge at our fingertips than ever before, but there is something to be said for old fashioned values when it comes to relationships. Treat people well, be loyal, be respectful and be kind. Likewise, I believe marriage should only be entered in to when you believe you will be with the other person for life, not because you want a big celebration with your family and friends, or to be able to tick a different box on the Miss/Mrs/Ms section of a form. Nor for a 'social experiment'.
I am by no means anti-divorce; my own parents fell out of love and stayed together for many years for the sake of myself and my siblings, but it is clear to see how much happier they both are now. Sometimes separating is the right thing to do - life is short, you shouldn't spend it with the wrong person - but marriage remains something to be taken seriously.
With marriage and healthcare treatment being reduced to entertainment fodder for the viewing pleasure of others, what is next to be rid of its importance in society?