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FYI's new series Married At First Sight dares to ask us if future Americans will order marriages crafted by experts the same way we now order plump Chipotle burritos and then, almost in the premiere, answers that question with a resounding NOPE.
Much like Chipotle, Married At First Sight creates the illusion of a multitude of options for its subjects while having a very small pool to draw from; just as Chipotle promises a perfect bespoke burrito while boasting about 2 menu items and 5 actual ingredients, Married At First Sight promises its subjects their "scientifically perfect match" but neglects to mention that perfect match is pulled from the pool of 50 people who agreed to be on this cockamamie show.
If I told you I'd found you your perfect match out of 50 randoms who sat through the welcome speech at a convention center about marrying someone sight unseen– excuse me, more like 25, if we limit it to the gender you're attracted to– you might figure your odds are better just winking at strangers on the bus.
There has not been a reality show this blatantly gimmicky since Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire, so the series is countering that with an oversized amount of gravitas.
For once there's no smarmy host mainlining exposition into the audience and there's a Rockettes line of smiling sexologists, psychologists, and sociologists in charge of pairing up their tiny pool of singles. They explain very vaguely that they're using profiling practices possibly associated with the CIA and FBI, and continually refer to the show as an "experiment" or "project" that they've been driven to because of the failures of non-arranged marriage.
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The statistic quoted is that arranged marriages have a divorce rate of around 4% or 1/1%, non-arranged hovers around 50-60%. Of course, what they're neglecting to mention is that a lot of arranged marriages occur within societies where women have no agency, limited civil rights and would rather quietly commit suicide than publicly divorce a husband, but "whatevs" I guess, they don't mention that part.
Still, my Amazon account knows what flirty tank tops I want before I know they exist. Everybody I know who's single is on OkCupid or Match.com, diligently filling out profile questionnaires and assessing their compatibility matches. Is it so far fetched to think we'd trust marketing algorithms more than our own intuition in another decade? Could corporate matchmaking be the next wave of big branding? Is a market opening up for a CB2-curated marriage to match all their cool housewares? Would you sign on for matchmaking services from Urban Outfitters?
They've already sold us on the idea of a better self. Why not a better half?