‘Don’t treat the audience as fools. We see. We hear. We know everyone is doing their job for the brand.’
Replied Darren: ‘Don’t be confused. My words are clear and they speak for themselves. I’m not homophobic. I’m gay.
‘I’m not sure what else is needed to be clearer. We judge finished rooms. We don’t know the contestants. We’re not judging personalities. We don’t get to see personalities.’
Darren then retweeted an earlier argument he’d had online about Mitch and Mark, that also related to complaints about the show's treatment of its rare gay contestants.
Writing that he has always defended ‘Mitch and Mark’s valid and earned place on The Block’, Darren was referencing an earlier social media controversy over the way the men have been depicted on the show.
Amid some sharp Twitter criticism at the time from New Idea’s own Matt Denby that The Block was seemingly only interested in casting gay male contestants as ‘cartoonish comedy figures or bitchy antagonists,’ Darren stepped in to defend the show, which Matt had not even named at that point.
He replied that he feels the show has a good record with the portrayal of gay people - nominating himself and fellow judge Neale Whitaker as balance to Mitch and Mark. Darren further claimed the show is great for the gay community.
‘Our community has so many diverse kinds of people, Neale & I represent other facets,’ he wrote. ‘Seeing different types of people represented on our screens is positive.
‘With 2/3rds of the judges being gay & a large amount of people behind the scenes the block does a lot for our community.’
But Matt wasn’t having it, highlighting The Block’s record with contestants.
WATCH: Mitch and Mark lash out at Scott Cam on The Block
‘Thanks to you and Neale for the great job you do, but casting of contestants is another matter,’ he responded.
‘Australian reality TV has a problem in this regard, and that’s widely recognised. The days of gay people being given space only if they perform as the clown or the bitch are over.’
Darren responded by saying that was his point, adding, ‘I’ve worked on tv as a contestant & judge for 10 years & was not cast as the clown.
‘Diversity is worthwhile. No personality types are less than. To criticise someone for being themselves is the opposite of the what we as a community need.’
Matt clapped back at the judge for his representation of his views, clarifying that he was not criticising Mitch and Mark, but was rather highlighting how Aussie reality TV seems to disproportionately cast gay male contestants to play certain pre-determined characters.
‘I haven’t criticised [Mitch and Mark] and I won’t criticise them,’ he told Darren. ‘I’m criticising the casting process that consistently shoehorns gay men into those limited roles.’
Mitch and Mark are experienced house flippers who have renovated 15 properties and previously starred on another reality show, Aussie Property Flippers.
The drama began when the couple deemed Scott's words about their living room ‘inappropriate and offensive,’ after Cam referred to the space as their ‘party room.’
The host said that the judges noted a competing team had placed their second master bedroom on level two, ‘considering the party room on top of Mitch and Mark’s house,’ which left the men unamused.
When Scott compared their work with the other team, who has adjusted their plans "to get away from the noisy people in your place," Mark lashed out.
‘There’s no noisy people. People need to cope with the fact that there are multiple living spaces in all metropolitan homes and they need to actually step away from it because they have no idea,’ he argued, holding up his hand in protest.
As Mitch stood glowering on by his partner's side, he continued:’"It is a living space as any house in any suburban part of Australia has. And if they’re making a judgment about us — because they’ve often said, “People like us” — I need to understand what does that mean? Are you judging us?’
Things have continued to escalate since then, with further confrontations milked in a series of promos for future episodes.
However it all works out, one thing is for sure – The Block continues to have a major diversity problem, and that can’t be papered over like a dodgy TV renovation.
WATCH: Meet The Block's Mitch and Mark