When Three revealed its lineup of "contestants" for Married At First Sight the response among my colleagues and friends was unanimous: Why so white?

My off-the-cuff response was: "No brown person wants to take part in that nonsense, anyway".

If you've spent enough time online the term "white nonsense" will be familiar. It's regularly referenced in pop culture, memes and US TV shows and is applied to everything from pumpkin spice lattes to blackface.

Yes, I can sense hackles raising across the country already but don't blame me, it's a thing. And it's a thing I think is really affecting reality TV representation in New Zealand.

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I talked to a bunch of my friends about this, from Māori, Tongan, Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Caribbean backgrounds and they all confirmed what I thought; black and brown cultures just don't gel with reality TV - it's seen by some as "pākehā nonsense and a ploy for attention".

One summed it up in two words: "Mana wahine" - the idea being that "no Maori woman would want to compete for a man".

Friends from Asian cultures said dating shows clash with traditional ideas of arranged marriages and family-approved matches. People could even be disowned for bringing shame and dishonour to the family.

Another friend from a West Indian/Caribbean background, pointed out that producers also have to think about ratings and in the US at least, people don't necessarily want to see people of colour. That's why they make "black versions", like the Real Housewives of Atlanta and Love and Hip Hop instead.

But then the problem with those "black" shows is they end up perpetuating stereotypes; can you imagine "The Bachelor: Marae Edition?" Because I can, and it's the worst.

Here's the thing; while I originally wondered if brown cultures just weren't applying to share a date with 20 women or cook for a room full of strangers, I soon realised that can't be it, because despite the cultural differences, non-white Kiwis are appearing on every season of these shows, albeit only a few at a time.

The Bachelor always has two or three token non-white contestants to colour to the landscape, but they all leave early in the season - except Naz who made it to the end but only as the series' villain.

Naz Khanjani came runner up in The Bach and copped a lot of flack for being the season villain. Photo / Three
Naz Khanjani came runner up in The Bach and copped a lot of flack for being the season villain. Photo / Three

The Block's only ever had a few non-white contestants in any given season, which is at least better than Married at First Sight which appears to have approximately...none.

The only shows that seem to be caramelising their casts pretty well are cooking series like MKR and Masterchef.

But even then, there's only ever the odd couple and they're always Maori with a strong connection to the culture and the reo - which is awesome, but makes me wonder if those of us limited to "kia ora" and "kei whea te wharepaku?" aren't good enough for national television.

Tash and Hera represent Maori culture and customs beautifully on MKR. Photo Supplied.
Tash and Hera represent Maori culture and customs beautifully on MKR. Photo Supplied.

The point is: If we're applying, I refuse to believe we're only applying in groups of only two or three. So what is it? Are producers picking white faces over literally any other face?

Are they only picking enough of us to fulfil a quota? Are they only picking Maori who showcase Maori culture well enough? Where are the Island, Asian, Caribbean and other faces my friends need to see represented? Why isn't our obvious diversity more of an obvious priority?

Getting more non-white faces on our screens could change how we perceive ourselves, how the rest of the country perceives us, and maybe change the "nonsense" narratives of reality TV.

But then again...I guess that wouldn't really rate, would it? Stay tuned for The Bachelor: Marae Edition, I guess.