Reality TV is taking over in New Zealand; between Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, First Dates, the past Bachelors, Real Housewives and all the cook-offs and DIY drama, there's no denying us Kiwis love a good dose of "reality".

The question is: How much of it is real?

I'm sure many of you are itching to get to your keyboards to tell me it's all scripted garbage designed to get ratings and so on and so forth.

I just wish you were right.


In the past couple of weeks I've been tuning into Dancing with the Stars, Survivor and First Dates, and every single series has shown me sides of New Zealand I wish weren't real, but they are.

The reality check was harshest on a recent episode of First Dates in which almost every singleton on the show seemed obsessed with race.

There was 23-year-old Jessie-May who said she's "got a thing for guys with darker skin", "like Usain Bolt" and was so persistent on the matter it flew directly at the line between preference and fetishism. She was partnered with Damian who said: "My type of girl is basically a white girl...with a nice ass".

When they met at the bar, she hugged him and said: "Oh, you look so exotic" and immediately asked where he was from.

Another singleton specified her type was "brown boys" and described her date as a cultural "fruit salad", while another called a friend who almost immediately asked: "well is he Māori or Pākehā?"

A friend who also watches the show wondered out loud: Is it racism or is it preference?

I won't claim to know the answer. Physical attraction is definitely important, but the way people tackled race like it was a deal breaker, as if the colour of someone's skin somehow impacted on the kind of person they were, is an issue.

And it's an issue prevalent in Kiwi society. A quick look at dating apps proves it, with bios bluntly instructing: "No Indian men", "No Māori women", "No white boys", "No Asians".

That's not all. Over on Survivor there's a different issue at hand.

Franky March has called out Survivor, but it's not the only problem. Photo / Scott McAulay
Franky March has called out Survivor, but it's not the only problem. Photo / Scott McAulay

A recently eliminated contestant claimed sexism was at play in her being axed from the competition. She probably has a point.

The first Survivor voted out was Jose, despite the fact that she led the team, won the challenges and was consistently one of the strongest performers there. Then followed Karla who was voted off for being the "weakest" member - based on nothing more than the fact that she was an "older" woman - then Frankie and Kaysha got the boot despite being two of the strongest players in the game.

Following her exit, Frankie March called her fellow contestants out saying they were "really threatened by strong women" and added there were "chauvinistic attitudes still really prevalent".

Clearly, New Zealand still holds some attitudes that there are separate callings for men and women. The hunter/gatherer aspect of Survivor is for men, and for women, the glitz and glam of ballroom dancing, perhaps?

On Dancing with the Stars, there's no denying the women are being held to a higher standard than the men.

While they are pulled up on small technicalities like pointing their toes, the men seem to be given a gold star just for turning up and giving it a go.

Somehow, Gilda Kirkpatrick and Naz Khanjani have been kicked to the curb. Is it because they're women? Is it because they're Iranian? Is it because they are both no-nonsense, direct, strong-willed women?

It's certainly not because they were bad dancers, because if that were the case David Seymour and Zac Franich would be long gone, but instead they're commended for things like "giving it your all".

This isn't new: The Bachelor, Real Housewives, Married at First Sight, even My Kitchen Rules have revealed some ugly truths.

So while reality TV may not be "real", the way these shows unfold are a reflection of our reality as Kiwis and from what I'm seeing, it's becoming a bit of a horror show.