The Undateables: What Happened To Our Obsession With Political Correctness?

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A new series of The Undateables began at the start of this year and, following its impressive spectatorship  of 2.8 million viewers, it has recently been announced that the show will return for a third series. Upon its airing, the show was met with mixed response. A number of objections were directed to the Advertising Standards Agency concerning the controversial advert reading ‘love is blind, disfigured, autistic…’ However, the complaints were dropped and any comments considering the controversial marketing of the show have been laid dormant ever since.

So, am I the only one surprised that, in a society where many would argue that political correctness has spiralled out of control, the title ‘The Undateables’ managed to slip through the net? The show takes the variety of conditions which it carefully represents within its content, lumps them together and thrusts them all under the header of ‘undateable’. A header which seems to assume that to be disabled is also to be marginalised in some sense and, ultimately, not able to pursue any kind of romantic relationship.  Jay Hunt from Channel 4 told the Guardian this: "The Undateables was Channel 4 at its best – compelling public service television that engaged an audience and changed attitudes’. You only need to look at the ratings to see that the public were indeed engaged, but to what extent the show changed attitudes I think is more debatable.

Despite the fact that the participants in the show are encouraged to open up about their experiences of dating and daily life with a disability, the deprecating title seems to undermine any attempt at a representation free from stereotype. I’m slightly undecided as to whether the show is a genuine attempt to move towards "changed attitudes" or if it is simply designed to score ratings. The overtly controversial title, unfortunately, makes me sway towards the latter. The cartoon cupid which shoots of the ‘un’ in the opening credits seems a pretty half-hearted attempt to get around this. The titling could of course be seen as an explicit attempt to test and challenge people’s viewpoints using shock tactics, but I’m not persuaded that taking a picture of a disabled person and tacking on a label that reads ‘undateable’ really achieves this at all. In fact, this strategy seems, to me, pretty hard pushed to have any kind of positive effect.

So, although Channel 4 are fast earning a positive reputation for representing more disabled people on screen, maybe they should have a careful think about how they market their shows. If their aim really was to reduce social prejudices, I’d argue they’re not quite on the money. If, however, their rather more disappointing aim was to reel in audiences with a controversial hook and make a ton of cash, then I guess they nailed it.

Jacqueline Agate

I'm an English Literature and Language student at the University of Leeds, aspring to be a journalist. I also write for Leeds Student newspaper and Lippy: No Gloss magazine. Aside from writing, I love cooking, films and losing myself in a good book!

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