With the second series in full swing, Eleanor Healing and Josh Taylor ask whether this controversial show is really just a form of social mockery?
Searching for love can be a treacherous and unnerving task; a task that may be near impossible if you’re disabled for that matter, or so Channel 4 would have you believe at least.
The Undateables – a show that follows people with different disabilities along their arduous quest for love and belonging, aims to challenge our general preconceptions of disabled people in modern society.
Both controversially titled and explicitly vague about the true aims of the series, The Undateables has most definitely reeled viewers in (whilst no doubt angering a healthy quantity of the disabled population also).
Channel 4 believes that in our image obsessed world, “people are too quick to make snap judgements or assumptions based on first impressions.” The title, however, does not indicate a strong intention to challenge these assumptions. From tourettes to deafness, the series demonstrates the most awkward of social situations by using disability as a platform to provide comedic entertainment.
The problem is in Channel 4’s idea of how to challenge preconception. They promote that the series will somehow absolve the societal sin of quick-judgment, but instead of tackling discrimination the series exploits it. If we are to tackle negative preconceptions of disability in the UK, using a national platform to humiliate people in social situations for our own comedic gain isn’t effective or informative. It’s a shame to see a platform that could make such a positive change stooping so low for ratings.
words: Josh Taylor
Channel 4’s The Undateables has returned for a second series and has been quickly met by fierce criticism. Yet the show can be praised for giving disabled people a voice on television and aiming to better our understanding of the anxieties that often come alongside learning difficulties or physical impairment, especially when looking for love.
With wonderfully uplifting stories (when the stars of the show end up finding companionship) and an honest insight into the difficulties of having a disability, it not only helps raise awareness but encourages understanding and acceptance. In episode one, Steve, who suffers from Crouzon Syndrome, speaks frankly and honestly about the problems he encounters. His facial disfigurement often means that he has trouble escaping prejudice against his appearance.
In episode two, Samantha, who has dwarfism, reveals the terrible verbal abuse she receives as a result of her condition. By allowing her to speak out about the treatment she’s encountered, the show raises anti-bullying awareness and helps to show disabled viewers that they are not alone, even advertising dating agencies specifically for people struggling to find the relationships they crave.
Those claiming that The Undateables is presented as a ‘freak-show’ are forgetting the very human element of the programme. Disability should not be hidden away, and if a show like The Undateables helps broaden at least a few people’s understandings of the difficulties faced by those dealing with disability on a daily basis then I consider that a great thing.
words: Eleanor Healing