‘Undateable’: Progressive or insulting?

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Is the TV show ‘The Undateables’ insulting? Georgie discusses the controversy.

Undateables has been a hot point for controversy since it began in 2012. Is it a way of making fun of those with a disability on a more established, acceptable platform, or is it a helpful tool to destigmatise those with serious or long-lasting health conditions?

As a member of the disabled community, for years I found the notion of The Undateables to be insulting, and a perpetuation of my fear that I was in fact un-loveable due to my crooked spine and former sailor’s gait limp. However, as time has progressed and my knowledge of the world and facilities available to me and my less able-bodied colleagues increased, I have seen a flip side.

In its essence, The Undateables, similar to the other Channel 4 show, First Dates, is a match making process, allowing anyone with a condition from Tourettes to Down Syndrome to be set up on a blind date, and hopefully meet the love of their life. This in itself is a wonderful concept. Who doesn’t love, love? 

The issue I have with this is not the idea, nor the notion of needing a dating service. Especially in our hyper sexualised, technological world, there are very few people even amongst the able-bodied community that are not in some way involved in a dating site or app. Since the year 2012, up to 50,000,000 people have subscribed in one form or another to technological dating.

My issue is the title. The Undateables, to me, is insulting, and the aspect that I find inherently problematic. I don’t know who decided that this was an appropriate label for a show that in its essence is positive and inclusive, but I can pretty much guarantee it is someone that has never had to experience what it is like to be ‘disabled’ and trying to find love.

“The Undateables” as a label perpetuates the idea that, just because someone is born with or experiences a condition which makes their experience of life different from the norm, then they are inherently less ‘dateable’. Intensifying the ‘us and them’ theology, even in this progressive world, casts those with disabilities further into the fringe. After re-watching old and new episodes of The Undateables, I am pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity of the producers and interviewers. In a world that is full of so many voices and for the most part a lack of education on disabilities and all-round inclusivity, the show is good at representing a lot of crowds that have all too often been left in the shadows. These include racial diversity, the LGBTQ+ community and, of course, those with physical or mental ‘impairments’.

The Undateables: a problematic title with a wholesome message of helping people find love, happiness and confidence in a world that still somewhat perpetuates the idea that those with a condition, no matter what form it takes, are something ‘other’. Thanks for creating awareness and encouraging inclusivity. But please, God, change the title.

Georgina Fuhri 

Images: Channel 4