My Guilty Pleasure: Reality Television
Admittedly, dating shows are one of my guilty pleasures, and for many people, they appear to be a source of harmless entertainment; however, their unhealthy undertones can often be apparent, highlighting how the media perpetuates stereotypes and gender inequality.
The British dating show ‘Take Me Out’ is an excellent example of gender warfare disguised as lighthearted entertainment. It consists of a panel of dolled up women who each have a light, and as bachelors sequentially parade onto the stage, the women choose to leave their lights on if they are interested in dating the man. Finally, the man gets his choice of which woman to take on a date from the women who leave their lights on.
The inequality is seen initially from the fact that the women base the man’s eligibility not only on his appearance but on his personality and lifestyle, whilst the man picks a woman based on her shallow answers to silly questions—so otherwise, based on her looks.
The most shocking part of the show is when the man chooses his date. He does this by turning off the lights of the remaining women except the one that he selects. Often the man feeds off cheering from the crowd and the women scramble to defend the lights of their friends. The frenzy of this selection process seems cruel and primitive, as shown in the faces of the rejected women.
The sad reality is that the show is enjoyable because we witness prejudice and rejection. We mock the women who give ditzy answers, and we expect the men to pick the most stereotypically attractive women.
However, the men are not left out of this harsh game of judgement. The women are given the opportunity to scrutinise each man’s appearance, and when a man is left without a date the audience mockingly sings ‘All By Myself’ as he leaves the stage. The show never fails to provide at least one man who is clearly there to be a laughingstock, whether he is old, fat, or wears peculiar clothing.
So clearly there is sexism to both genders. Is that what makes it lighthearted fun or is that what is endangering us to become deeply rooted in stereotypes and prejudice? The show affirms what we “should” find attractive and look for in a partner, despite a huge majority of the pairings being unsuccessful.
I watch this show every week, and I enjoy scrutinizing it—I presume it is like that for many others as well. It makes me cringe and squirm, but many would agree that that is preferable to watching something bland and politically correct. Media producers know what we find entertaining, even if it is unoriginal and trashy. Despite feeling aware of the negative stereotypes being perpetuated, I still find myself sympathising when the women turn their lights off for an ‘unsuitable’ man and judging them when they give corny responses to questions. The question is whether these shows accurately reflect the stereotypes already innate in society or if they encourage and solidify them? Is it harmless or is it harmful?