The Undateables: a phenomenon or just exploitation?

Nowadays proposing TV programmes in which disabled people are portrayed in their common life has become a norm.

Nowadays proposing TV programmes in which disabled people are portrayed in their common life has become a norm. But this phenomenon has developed over the past two decades, in which television brought us a new concept of TV programme, the ‘reality,’ which brings common people life in the ‘idiotbox.’

The idea is to narrow the gap between ordinary and famous people, to draw the spectators into the programme in order to make them feel more confortable and happy with their life. I wonder whether it is a new phenomenon or simply a dull and simplistic way of applying the ‘15 minutes of celebrity’ claimed by iconic pop artist Andy Warhol.

For those who did not watch the TV series, shown on Channel 4, ‘The Undateables’ is a TV programme about people with disability who, in normal life, struggle to find a partner. For this reason the series follow their attempt to find a date with the support of a specific agency, charged of matching men and women by combining their profile and interests.

Is it a kind of anthropological experiment to demonstrate that also disabled people can be happy with someone and cope with their situation or just a terrible and hypocrite exploitation of disabilities? Probably it is a ‘dangerous’ combination of them. It is an example of how people can be helped to cope with their disabilities but is also a misconceived attempt of transforming a painful and daily ‘struggle’ into a spectacle. I wonder whether this idea is fair, in terms of ethics and respect towards those people.

On the one hand, it could be gorgeous but on the other hand it seems that either the two opinions are unfair. In fact stressing the attention on their lives could bring them more confidence developing the idea that they can have a normal life. But it is a misleading belief, because people who suffer from autism or Asperger’s, for instance, need daily help and support to cope with.

The ‘spectacle of the self’ is something that British novelist and journalist George Orwell foresaw in his satirical and political novel ‘1984,’ published in the far 1949.  The Big Brother, interpreted as an extended metaphorical concept, is a kind of powerful and obsessive control on our lives that, in this particular case, leads to overwhelm also people who suffer from severe disabilities.

Today words as Big Brother are part of our vocabulary and everybody knows what we are talking about. The media-hammering message seems to be that ‘Everybody can become famous.’ But we should draw the line at this widespread phenomenon because disables cannot be exploited.

I must admit that, despite my criticism, I usually take a glance at this TV programme. At least they are lovely and sensitive people to spend your time with, and I am always impressed by their candour. Nevertheless, I cannot watch television without taking a hard look at Western culture and its ‘choking’ desire to make everything spectacular and gorgeous, even serious illnesses.

What do you think of The Undateables? Does Channel 4 have a hit or is it merely exploitation? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.