We have confused a many of our fellow Australians and international friends with this question, "Do you love Maths or MAFS?"
When we ask whether they know maths? However, our actual intention is in reference to the reality tv show, Married At First Sight aka MAFS, their answer is usually a sure affirmation that they know of 'maths' ranging in its practical sense of existence from simple to hardcore arithmetic.
But, do people love maths? That answer was just as consistent as, do people love MAFS?
Ok, we are not going to beat around the bush any longer.
We love season 9 of MAFS.
Over the many seasons of MAFS on Australian primetime Channel 9, we have seen the evolution of ethnic representation as well as all shades of drama on mainstream Australian TV.
On this year's MAFS, the casting was well crafted to include Asian representation. Despite the usual trash, bickering and irrational disputes that escalates to near political flash point status, we love seeing Bondi tradie, Al Perkins and bubbly Selina Chhuar represent 18% of Australia's Asian population on screen.
How could you not love 25 year old Bondi Al with his genuine, kind hearted and wholesome persona?
Look, we are more than happy to conclude that Al's successful upbringing was all due to his Chinese mother. Maybe, she could have eased off spoiling the only son in the household. We know what Asian mothers are like when it comes to their only boy. Asian sons are pampered like a prince, hence Al has never lifted a finger in the kitchen or seen a washing machine.
What may have astounded the Australian and Asian-Australian, or more specifically Chinese heritage audiences during MAFS is the fact that Al could be mistaken as any nationality. His non-distinct boyish appearance and "Australian" characteristics, one to always initiate a shoey with an epic fondness for football, has propelled him to be one of the better characters on the show.
Al's presence on MAFS has also sent a strong message that he is one of many Australians with Asian ancestry who are part of the Bondi community and more specifically, part of the new Australian identity.
Al is someone you can relate to as an Asian-Australian who has adapted and accepted the more traditional Australian social norms.
But more importantly, Al's presence on tv showcases to the mainstream Australian audiences that as someone with Asian heritage, he is not too different after all. Al is a shoe in with his constant public display of drinking prowess, a show of Australian masculinity and rite of mate-ship passage on and off the footy field. Al is the epitome of your average Australian bloke.
Then, there's the yearning to be loved and floating lily, Selina Chhuar.
Where do we even begin with Selina?
Selina is the embodiment of so many complex things, issues, topics and symbolism!
Perhaps the best place to start was our overall reaction to her surname. Selina's surname is closely associated with one of China's most well known street food, 串 aka Chuar which is translated to spicy cumin lamb skewers or Xinjiang lamb skewers.
Everyone loves 串 and every Aussie expat swears by it as a midnight snack on their regular bar crawls in China. We fell in love with Selina Chhuar before we could even have a first taste of MAFS' episode one.
What makes Selina a loveable character is her constant battle to be accepted in Australian society.
Her relatability resonates with so many Asian migrant kids in Australian society.
Selina is half Cambodian and half Chinese. The earliest migrant arrivals were the Chinese during the gold rush followed by the greater Cambodian community fleeing their motherland during Khmer Rouge.
Currently, there are more than 60,000 people of Cambodian origin and more than 1.2 million people of Chinese origin living in Australia. To put this into perspective, the Australian population is nearly 26 million. Which means, Selina's combined heritage attributes to nearly 7% of the Australian population.
Selina's presence on MAFS is both courageous and inspiring. Courageous to let herself be shamed. Inspiring to have her shame discussed at the national level. Her stories of shame and longing to belong in Australian society are felt by many Asian-Australians in the past and on a present day-to-day basis.
What a way to represent girl! We are so behind you!
Selina has experienced the harsher realities of growing up in Australian society. Being the only Asian kid in her school and feeling she never truly belonged or included. Her pains are no doubt felt by many empathetic Asian-Australian audiences with shared experiences throughout school and in life. Not only in Australia, but a constant shared Asian diaspora experience prevalent across Western countries.
No matter how hard you may try to fit in, but as an outsider and with a distinct outsider appearance coupled with next to none role models who look like you on TV or in the media, it's a constant up hill battle to be accepted by your peers and society.
Selina's tragic story behind her low self esteem and confidence may have been a wake up call to some mainstream Australian audiences. Her emotional hurt, but always the little Miss Sunshine attitude has hopefully sent a message that the damage caused is irreversible and the validation that she needed from society at the time could have reversed and reassured her insecurities.
It's pretty obvious at this point in Selina's life that she still masks herself the way she 'should be' in Australian society so she can feel she belongs. Whilst, her true self is still tucked away, shielded by the bleached blond hair and sparkling blue contact lenses, and unreachable for her own acceptance.
A key moment on MAFS was Cody's response to some tough questions poised by the expert relationship panel which then motivated Selina to dig deeper on the topic of race and attraction. All her buzz points. The topic of race and attraction, and ultimately, the issue whether you are accepted by someone you love and society itself, and the manner in which these issues have been delivered on screen is a first on primetime TV for the mainstream audiences.
The power of MAFS is indescribable. It is a concoction of reality trash, mixed with heightened drama and emotional pull, yet capable of addressing 'serious' issues. MAFS has successful addressed the elephant in the room where no other shows on Australian TV have tried and succeeded. Instead of force feeding audiences on 'serious' race and acceptance discussions, MAFS producers have crafted an indirect, relatable and human-centric way to address some of society's toughest topics. MAFS has cleverly crafted 'serious' issues in the context of day to day life to show the mainstream Australian audiences what if feels like to be in the shoes of each contestant.
MAFS key ingredient is generating 'empathy' on and off screen. Feel what the contestant is feeling and for viewers to look within themselves to ask some big self reflecting questions - Why? - How? - What can I do differently?
In Selina's case, why is she always crying? Do you feel what she is feeling the way she's been treated all her life in Australia which is now repeating itself with her partner, Cody. How can Cody make up for the hurtful things he has said and how can Selina try to build up her self worth? What can I or Australian society do differently to be more accepting and inclusive of Australians with diverse cultures?
MAFS has opened the door for mainstream Australian audiences to see and hear the trauma felt by Selina, echoed by millions of Asian-Australians. MAFS is breaking that barrier and shedding light on Australian society to be more cohesive and accepting. To perhaps think twice about Australians with Asian heritage, who have struggled to fit the traditional mould, but are trying their darnest to be part of the modern Australian identity.
In fact close to 18% of the Australian population would have experienced Selina's cry for acceptance and belonging at some point in their life in Australia.
MAFS popularity is astounding with an audience growth of nearly 4.8% per year over the course of 9 Seasons compared to falling numbers seen in the Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises. MAFS is surpassing Survivor and The Voice viewership, and hitting over 1 million viewers per night and taking the top spot each night it is aired.
Whether it was intentional or unintentional, Selina's story has been well crafted by the MAFS production team to shed an empathetic story for those with Chinese, Cambodian or Asian background. Timing is critical given Australia's rapidly deteriorating relations with China and Asia in general during the discourse of Covid19.
For all we know, the story could have been produced to give entirely the opposite effect.
Thank you Selina Chhuar for putting yourself out there in the Australian mainstream. We wish you all the best on your MAFS journey. Continue to be Playful. Bubbly. Optimistic. We need more of you on Australian mainstream TV.
And, we will love you just as much if you dyed your hair back to black #selflove
ELLA MAY DING
If we had to speculate if another contestant on MAFS might have Asian heritage, then Ella Ding is our best bet. Ding is a very Asian sounding surname.
Although we have not been able to dig up any public information as yet regarding Ella's ethnic background, we do have our suspicions that she could be another bae with Asian heritage representing on mainstream TV.
Please be true!
P.S. To answer our own question. We love MAFS just a little more than MATHS
UPDATE 5 APRIL 2022
Since the publication of 'Do You Love Maths or MAFS', the gorgeous Ella May has certainly left some bread crumbs regarding her Asian heritage for us! It is true, she is in fact half Taiwanese and half Italian! We tracked down her brother, James John Ding, on Instagram and found an adorable post about their father.
No wonder Ella connected so strongly with bestie Domenica Calarco and post MAFS seen strolling the streets of Bondi with Selina Chhuar and Al Perkins #AsianItalianSisters
We can only hope Season 10 of MAFS will see more Asian representation in all its spectrum to mainstream Australian and global audiences.