Before we get into it, I know that reality tv is not for everyone. It was all fine and dandy before the Kardashian/Jenner crew came onto the scene, overtaking the entire genre (and our lives. Spoiler alert: Kim K wearing leggings or Kylie changing her wig are not Pulitzer winning stories, journos!) Nevertheless, most people’s complaint about reality tv is pretty valid. They don’t tend to be realistic in terms of the general public’s day to day lives. Us viewers don’t just jet to Turks and Caicos when life gets too stressful. We don’t casually rent yachts to throw parties because it’s a Tuesday. What we do is collapse onto our couch/bed after a long work day and get ready to be transported to the world of reality ‘stars’ living it large.
But as we are watching this largesse unfold, there is some reality rooted in these shows from… their dating lives. Yup, turns out whether you can afford a private jet or you just signed up for your 15 minutes of fame, your boyfriend can still cheat on you. That girl you like can still decide she fancies your mate instead and you can still get ghosted. Don’t believe me? Well, here are 5 reality tv shows that actually get real about dating…
Can I go anywhere without hearing about Love Island? Nope, it is the reality tv show that takes over the summer in the UK. Last year, people fell in love with the OTP of the show… Kem and Chris, the ultimate bromance! Fellow ‘stars’ such as Amber Davies and Muggy Mike have gone on to be famous in their own right. Muggy Mike for his atrocious behaviour of ‘stealing’ a girl from right under one of the male’s noses (isn’t that the point of the show?) is an example of women being seen as objects. This season, however, has seen surprisingly deeper themes explored that the viewers at home can relate too.
Sure, it’s still a bunch of good looking singletons who clearly don’t skip leg day, but it has also shown us men being vulnerable, the consequences of misinformation, gaslighting (psychological manipulation) and how race plays a role in dating. Statistics have shown that in online dating, Asian men and black women are the least swiped upon and this has been seen on Love Island. It starts off with the guys coming in and picking who they like on their first day. That’s right! Before they’ve even gotten to truly know each other, they pick their partner for the first week. The girls line up (ugh, sorry) while the guys pick (presumably based solely on appearance, as they haven’t had a chance to chat yet.) If that isn’t the most live Tinder thing I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.
The Treatment of Samira
Samira, the only black girl, has regularly not been considered as a romantic option on the show. Viewers are also now realising that a lot of her big scenes had been cut. This drastically altered how her character was perceived when she did finally find a romantic interest. Her not being viewed as an option by many of the male contestants is not to say that people are being racist (the black and mixed-race guys do well on the show) but that the idea of beauty ideals run very deeply. People don’t even realise its influencing their preferences. The same can be said for dating as a whole and that, along with who leaves the show and other heavy subjects, have been big topics of discussion on Twitter.
Whether you love them or hate them, at some point or another we’ve all encountered a first date. They’re awkward, wonderful, nerve-wracking, exciting and any other adjective that you can think of that I haven’t. You, of course, discuss (read: dissect) your first dates with your friends, but the show lets you see them unfold for real. True, when you’re out and about, you can always just eavesdrop and snoop on the first dates happening around you. However, with the rise of online dating, I think it’s safe to say that we can all recognise a Tinder first date when we see one (whether that recognition brings back good memories or traumatic flashbacks remains to be seen…)
The most realistic reality show of the bunch, it takes us back to a simpler time. Just two strangers, having dinner while getting to know each other. Even the confessional, post-date feedback is familiar (i.e. dissecting the date with your friends, sometimes harshly) as well as the fact that sometimes the couples click. You see them potentially going on a second date. You see them potentially coming back as success stories and you also see that, sometimes, nothing progresses after the first date. When things go wrong on the date, we relate and isn’t that the best way to get someone to watch a show? Getting them to relate to aspects of the concept or the characters?
People are always looking for new ways to connect. There’s always new speed dating events, new apps, you name it. Naked Attraction is like that, but way, WAY extreme! It takes the idea of judging people on their appearance, then tells it to strip and cover its face till the end. That’s right, like the name suggests it’s all about naked dating. Forget about working up to getting their kit off, they start there! The contestants stand behind various coloured screens, whilst a guy or girl decides if they’re interested. The screen moves up from their feet, finally landing on their face as people are eliminated as each body part is revealed.
I will say one thing for this show, the contestants are bold AF! A common part of dating is stressing about being seen nude and these lot just go for it. Pretty admirable, really! Many have been known to date someone, have it go well and then when it gets down to the bare necessities (sorry, I had to!) bolt because they’ve seen something they never want to see again. This is the same here. Some people decide that some body part isn’t to their liking and the person has to do a solitary, naked walk to the changing room. Some do it with their head held high, others with a noticeable droop to their shoulders. The playing field is levelled though when the person choosing gets naked for the final round too. Everyone should get to see the ‘goods’ eventually, right?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the premise of this show, Undateables is not a reality tv show about people who have just been unlucky in the dating world (my initial thought before I watched it.) Honestly, I should’ve known better, it’s on Channel 4 after all. Undateables is about people who have ailments or disabilities and their journey in the dating world. I still maintain that the show’s name is a bit much, bordering on pretty offensive, but the show also has a lot of heart-warming moments. It shines a light on people who might not be seen in mainstream media otherwise.
The truth is, a lot of people have a ‘type’. At the very least, they have qualities and traits they would like their future partner to possess. It’s not often that those lists include people with disabilities, unless the person making the list is also on that spectrum too. We all know that dating is difficult, but I’m sure that many of us hadn’t thought of it from this perspective before. How can you have love at first sight if someone is blind? How can conversation flow if your date is unaware of social cues? Not to mention, the mechanics of sex with someone who paralysed from the waist down. This show takes us into that world, giving us insight that is much needed.
Bonus: Made in Chelsea
I know, I KNOW that Made in Chelsea isn’t actually a dating show and the rest of them are, but let’s face it. Over the past few years, the premise of MIC has gone from rich youngsters who are all friends hanging together in the royal borough, to rich youngsters who sleep with each other’s exes. Half the time, they don’t even wait for a ‘formal’ break up to start something new with someone else. Add a medium sized dollop of the MIC originals (looking at you Jamie Laing and your string of fresher’s aged girlfriends) cheating on their partners regularly, lying about it and somehow being forgiven. This is sometimes interspersed with manipulative and emotionally abusive behaviour that is never really addressed on the show.
It seems that the twist for every episode of MIC is ‘who slept with someone they shouldn’t have this week?!’ They’re an incestuous group of ‘friends’ and who doesn’t know a group who were/are like that? I knew some in uni and I never did understand why everything had to be within that circle. It never seemed worth the bickering and tension. While we’re asking questions; who doesn’t know a guy who is ‘oh-so-charming’ and somehow seems to get away with unspeakable behaviour? Who doesn’t know a scenario where a girl in that same group has partaken in similar behaviour and been heavily shamed for it? The flip side being that the men get a ‘that’s just how the boys are.’
We may not be able to relate to the fact that the MIC cast is forever on holiday (when does Jamie Laing actually run his sweet business?! Is Liv Bentley still a photographer?! Does Ryan actually have any personal training clients or is he just Louise’s glorified bodyguard…) We CAN relate to the unfair standards placed on the characters based solely on their genders. Boys will be boys is not an acceptable excuse, but it’s used a lot in dating to no avail.
Conclusion: Reality TV Shows Can Be… Educational?!
All these shows depict aspects of the dating world that many have encountered. It shows us things to aspire to and a lot of red flags to watch out for. It also highlights topics we may need to urgently discuss in our dating lives. These shows aren’t always educational, but when they are, they truly become worth the watch. They open up spaces to get us talking and that’s a pretty good starting point. So, let’s talk 🙂
By Jordan Enaboifo