Has The Undateables Lost Its Purpose?

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By Maria Loizou

The Undateables, a show which focuses on people with disabilities searching for true love, first appeared on our screens in April 2012. Over the years, the popularity of the show has increased, and, as the sixth series has just finished, the question has arisen as to whether the concept of The Undateables has changed. Has the show exploited itself solely so that it can increase its popularity and become more accessible to a wider audience?

I have watched every series of The Undateables, and, when I first started watching, what I loved most about the show was its pure and simple innocence. I believe that everyone deserves love, so to see people who are perhaps less confident in their attempts to find ‘the one’ have the opportunity to find their soulmate is absolutely wonderful. Obviously, this is not always successful on the first try, but, in this show, viewers can also see people gain confidence and then try again, and, sometimes, you can watch another date with someone else in the same episode. The perseverance of the stars of this show is what is truly inspiring to me, and each person has their own endearing qualities that makes each and every one of them a likeable figure. In so many ways, this show is not just an ordinary dating show. Of course, in shows such as Dinner Date and First Dates, we want the dates to go well, yet with The Undateables, we crave for them to succeed.

Over time, and with the increased use of social media platforms, especially Twitter, we are able to provide our instant reactions to shows. This, of course only increases their accessibility and the TV shows we watch have had to adapt to this way of viewing. This ties into my initial question. Has The Undateables changed in order to become more accessible to this new
style of audience?

To address this idea, I spoke to one of the participants of the show, Hadyn, who took part in Series 1. Hadyn suffers from Crouzon disease, a genetic condition which affects the growth of his skull. This means he has to have many operations, therefore spending a lot of time in hospital, and he is also partially deaf. When I asked him his opinion on whether the show had changed, Hadyn agreed that it had.

He said: “I feel as if it has differed from what it once was, especially since the second series. It became more of a ‘comedic’ style of documentary, and sort of began to exploit people with learning difficulties and other disabilities purely for the viewing figures. But still, I do believe the show does still have its nice moments.”

Hadyn originally applied to be on a documentary called Beauty and the Beast, a show focusing on discrimination against people with physical disabilities, but, after the interview, he was instead approached about a new series called The Undateables. Due to having never had a date previously, he decided he would give it a try. I also asked Hadyn, that, if he had seen the show before taking part, would he still have applied, and, almost surprisingly, he said yes:

“I think I would still have been interested, as I want to raise awareness of my condition, and get myself in the dating world as that is something I have always struggled with. Being on the show has raised my confidence a lot, it made me a lot happier and more confident when it comes to interaction with women.”

When it comes to reactions he received from the public on social media, fortunately for Hadyn, he didn’t receive much negativity, as he didn’t have a Twitter account at the time. He also didn’t seem to be phased by the few negative reactions that he did receive. Hadyn is clearly a strong character. Could this confidence have been perhaps triggered by his appearance on the show?

The most recent series of The Undateables featured a participant named Tom who had been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. This gives Tom physical tics. There have been a few people who have appeared on the show with this same syndrome, yet there has been a huge reaction for Tom, due to many people on social media stating that he is ‘attractive’. This social media outburst led to many articles being written about Tom, and even to an appearance by him on Loose Women. On this, Hadyn stated: “I feel like the show knew the reaction they would get by putting Tom on. Women seemed to go ‘crazy’ after purely seeing his appearance, and ignoring his conditions. To me, this shows how shallow society is, and shows that to many people, sadly, looks still are what matter the most.”

He added: “Of course this is upsetting to people with facial disfigurements, as it seems to outline that the majority can’t look past these very visible conditions.”

I think Hadyn has a point. Why such a focus on this one individual purely because he’s ‘good looking’? I thought the purpose of The Undateables was to look past people’s imperfections, whether physical or mental, and even further, why be so surprised that someone with a disability is, and can be, ‘attractive’?

The Undateables was once a show that would give me, and, I’m sure many others, a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’, yet, now, when I watch, that feeling has gone away. The show now seems to be a parody of itself, losing its original, more selfless purpose. Originally, The Undateableswas a television show that demonstrated that, no matter what disability someone may have, everyone is normal. Instead, it now seems to segregate and perhaps even ridicule them, purely for the entertainment value.

You can follow Hadyn on Twitter @Hadyn_Clark

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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