Far from having optimised our dating practices in this enlightened age, 21st century TV presents us with a number of matchmaking models designed to help us find Mr(s) Right – or Mr(s) Tonight. It’s the 21st century so I can do what the hell I want, man. Are any of these models useful, you ask? Read on.
(1) Matchmaking great-grandma style: Married at First Sight
Format: some ‘scientists’ match applicants for compatibility, they meet for the first time at the altar, genuinely get married, honeymoon, move in, and six weeks later decide whether to stay together or not.
This show works on the premise that being committed gives you a reason to make the relationship work that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have the commitment (sounds like something I’d say?!) – ‘I do’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. The benefits of commitment are so great that it’s best to get it out of the way on the first meeting. That’s right: the first time you should see your future spouse is when you’re walking down the aisle to them. Said your great-grandma.
But it’s not as regressive as it seems! If you don’t get on with them after all, there’s always no-fault divorce to save the day, raising the question of whether, knowing there was a get-out clause and they could flog the dress on eBay afterwards, the newlyweds never actually felt the commitment the program’s format is designed to induce, and whether they’d have been better off actually back in great-grandma’s day. We’ll never know.
(2) Matchmaking auntie style: First Dates
Format: applicants go on a blind date in the ‘First Dates restaurant’ in London, run by Fred Sirieix. They decide afterwards whether a second date is on the cards.
What you need is someone who knows your likes and dislikes to match you with someone compatible, and who better to do so than someone who knows you as well as your Auntie Mabel?! (That is, the producers after you’ve filled in a questionnaire.) You’re not committed til death do you part, only until the end of a fancy dinner: plenty of time to let out all your vulnerabilities, ailments, childhood trauma and How All My Exes Have Treated Me Really Badly stories. This is the definition of 21st-century oversharing (and on national TV!), but it’s actually rather endearing. And anyone who doesn’t play by the blind date politeness rules is roundly abused on social media, like this unfortunate:
And actually, 21st-century daters could probably learn something from the older couples on the show. The older couples chat away with no awkward silences, no I’m-freaked-out side-eyes, and no judgement. They seem so accepting.
(3) In da club style: Take Me Out
Format: 20-odd women get to size up, view a short video of, and ask a few questions of, one single man, before he picks his date from the last two standing. They swan off for a first date on the Isle of Fernando’s in Tenerife. Irritating catchphrase: ‘No likey, no lighty’.
Ed Sheeran was wrong: the club is the best place to find a lover, apparently. What better environment to scout out a mate than flashing lights, a screaming crowd and Saturday night vibe. Unlike in #FirstDates mode, here you need no better reason to reject someone than their football team of choice, or simply the cut of their jib. Unlike most nightclubs, however, this show features far more ladies than men, and since it’s the ladies who do most of the choosing, it’s probably meant to be empowering or something. Personally I’m not sure how much chemistry it’s possible to have with someone I can’t get within three feet of and who spends the show comparing me to all of my mates, but 🤷♀️
The screaming and running around is barely any more comprehensible than the presenter’s accent 👀
(4) Who even knows: Naked Attraction
Format: Around ten naked people of the preferred gender are slowly revealed, feet first. The hopeful contestant comments on their body and also strips off before finally picking a date.
This show obviously doesn’t base itself on a real-life situation. I’m not sure this kind of brutal selection happens even at a nudist beach. Does a successful relationship really hinge on having genitals that match up to a checklist? Does anyone even have a genitalia checklist?! I feel like body positivity and accepting yourself for who you really are should extend to others, y’all. Of course a baseline of attraction is necessary, but rejecting someone on the basis of, I dunno, their having too much body hair? Get outta here. It’s like a worse version of standard dating apps: it’s too easy to screen people out if you find them unattractive at first sight, even though it’s entirely possible you’d find them attractive if you actually knew them. Sigh for humanity.
(5) UPDATE: World’s oldest profession style: Love Island
Format: Geordie Shore/TOWIE types congregate in a tacky Majorca villa and couple up, hoping to escape periodic eliminations and win a 💰💰💰 prize.
Now I’m not saying anyone on this weird program is a prostitute. But isn’t there something a bit fishy about the £50k prize dangled in front of the impossibly waxed and somewhat plastic contestants as a reward for coupling up? He might be less than 100% your type on paper, but the program incentivises you to have sex with him on national TV anyway. PROBLEMATIC.
While each method has its anecdotal success stories, there doesn’t seem to be a clear winner. Perhaps we could get more wisdom from The Bachelor? What should the 21st-century dater do before saying hello – get hitched, or check out the private parts? Which matchmaking method do you think is supreme?