The public sphere can be defined as “a domain of our social life where such a thing as public opinion can be formed [where] citizens…deal with matters of general interest without being subject to coercion…[to] express and publicise their views (Habermas, 1997:105)
Unfortunately, Prime Time television consists of many ‘reality’ TV shows that can arguably be targeted with McKee’s five critiques (Turnbull, S 2014). A popular TV Show that can contribute to the debate in a mediated public sphere is Channel Nine’s ‘The Farmer Wants A Wife‘. Under speculation, the title itself suggests this show is too trivialized. Consumers are more interested in the love affairs, romance and drama rather than the important, serious political issues. (McKee, 2005). In this reality show, each farmer picks two or three lucky ladies who move in with them on the farm. The ladies go on alternate dates with the farmer throughout the series until, finally, the farmer can choose one woman with the intention of marrying her. So what’s the problem?
“The girls are all desperate to settle down with someone they barely know, whereas the blokes seem reasonably cautious about what they’re getting themselves into” (Maley, J). We’re talking about love here. It can take months or years for someone to fall in love, let alone get married, whereas this show promotes it can happen within a number of weeks. The women are also competing for love and questions whether it’s more about winning than finding your life partner. The audience gets too wrapped up in the romance on the screen, possibly favouring a particular woman in the hopes she’s the chosen one. While it all looks lovey-dovey in front of the camera, how are we supposed to know how the farmer genuinely feels towards these women?
The public sphere has been critiqued because it excludes women (Turnbull, 2014). What about the women who are rejected by the farmer on the show? No one’s going to remember them when they leave. It’s all about the woman at the end who claims she’s in love with the farmer who chose her. What happens if the farmer is unsure about whether he wants any of the women to be his wife in the end? (In the 2012 series, of the 6 farmers, only 2 of them found a relationship that lasted past the closing credits of the finale). “It is bad for woman, bad for feminism and serves only to confirm stereotypes about the lengths to which women will go to extract commitment from fellas” (Maley, J).
The show also trivializes the issue of farmer isolation and loneliness. Obviously the farmers were chosen for the show because they want a wife, someone to share their life and farm with. Throughout the series, it becomes clear that some of the women don’t have what it takes to transition into the isolated lifestyle and ultimately, that’s the kind of women a farmer needs, but this show is all about the love journey, rather than the end result.
Alan McKee, Introduction to the Public Sphere, Cambridge University Press, 2005 p3.
Maley, J, 2012, ‘The many problems with Farmer Wants A Wife’, Daily Life, 3rd September 2012, viewed 13 April 2014 <http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/the-many-problems-with-farmer-wants-a-wife-20120831-254qu.html>
Turnbull, S, 2014, ‘Media Mythbusting: Big Brother is Watching You’, powerpoint slides, BCM110, University of Wollongong, viewed 1 April 2014