The Undateables is a UK reality documentary show that first aired on Channel 4 in April 2012, since then 6 series' have been shown, series 6 is running at the moment which is what made me want to finally write this post. The series follows people with disabilities, mainly those with learning difficulties though, as they go on dates hoping to find love.
Before the show had even aired there was controversy surrounding it, mainly when it came to the name. Social media users and doctors (according to wikipedia) expressed their opinion that the title was offensive and horrible as it branded those with physical and mental disabilities as being 'undateable'. I agree with this and I have been against the show since it first aired. Back then I wasn't even disabled, I was in some pain but I definitely wouldn't have referred to myself as being disabled. However, I was still able to see the problems with the show. However as my health deteriorated and I started using a wheelchair my eyes were opened even further to the world of ableism and this made my anger towards the show strengthen even more. I've wanted to write this post for a while so I could share my opinion but as I started planning it I thought it would be good to get other people's opinions too, from both disabled and able bodied people. I wanted to see whether perhaps there were any clear differences in opinion depending on someone's ability. I also just wanted to be nosy as well!
WHAT DO I THINK?
My first problem with the show is unsurprisingly the title. Just suggesting that disabled people are undateable is a horrible thing to do, based on offensive stereotypes. The title is just helping to keep such an idea alive, the idea that disabled people are not desirable. I know that in the opening titles the 'un' part of undateables is taken away as though to say 'we are challenging this' but I feel as though that is lost on most people and the title is still what it is, offensive. It's harmful and demoralising to call anyone undateable simply because they do not fit into what societies considers to be 'okay' and 'normal'. Whenever I have begrudgingly watched the show I've found that most of the time, especially in the cases of those with learning difficulties, people are only paired up with others with a disability. This sends out the message that all disabled people should only date other disabled people because able bodied people clearly wouldn't be interested or we aren't 'good enough' for them.
I hate how the whole show is just set up for people's entertainment too (I realise that is the role of all TV), this is particularly true with people with learning difficulties too. Often they will show the person doing something that is often not considered appropriate, these kinds of clips seem to be shown just to get laughs, so people can laugh at the disabled person and how they interact with the world. I also have a feeling that the dates are often set up in a way to maximise these kinds of interactions, forcing people into situations that will highlight their disability. If I had watched a show like this when I first became disabled as a young teenager I think it would have seriously affected my self esteem, the messages this show gives out could seriously harm someone and how they see themselves.
One thing that I found rather interesting is that First Dates Hotel is on right after The Undateables at the moment and whilst First Dates do feature disabled people every now and then it does feel like there is one dating programme for disabled people and another for able bodied people which does not sit well with me.
I have plenty more I could say but most of your opinions actually say it all for me so I'll pass things over to everyone who contributed to this post!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
'I am able bodied and love the show. I cry a lot (with joy) and I have learnt so much about different disabilities.' - @MissJTulip
'I'm able bodied and the whole premise (and name!) makes me feel super uncomfortable. Never watched it though for that reason. I think ableism is so ingrained and not talked about so people just don't realise when shit is problematic.' - @oawoodward
'I hate it, I hate the freak show thing going on. I hate that they are using people's disabilities for 'inspiration', so ableist. Also the title itself adds to the stigma of disabled people being subhuman, the underlying messages are toxic' - @p0ppyfield
'I know someone who was on this and married the girl he met. But it seems like they are trying to make a 'freak show.' I know I used an awful term there but I think the premise of it is atrocious.' - @jessicacwx
'I have a disability and when I first heard the show I thought it was a horrible idea, then I watched it and realised that it raises awareness for conditions and shows that we're normal people too- I just hate the show's name!' - @500daysofsarah_
'I've never watched it but I feel like they're making fun of much bigger issues than raising awareness.' - @WishHopeDreams
'Genuinely cannot stand the title, it drives me mad that people would assume someone is undateable. They're beautiful people.' - @amiehayward
'I absolutely love it! So pleased there's a special dating agency so everyone can find love! So happy for them all!' - @sunshinesarahxo
'The title, The Undateables, just from that they are trying to insinuate that the people on the show aren't good enough for other dating shows that were around before. Instead of having a show purely about these 'undateable people' why not include them into the other 3000 dating shows that already exist. On the flip side the amount of awareness raised could have potentially saved lives, helped with diagnoses or just helped people who might have the same condition as one of the participants which of course is amazing! It's a mixed bag.' - @aroseforepona_
'I love the idea behind it because it's something that isn't talked about in society unfortunately, but the name is so rude and the way it is edited makes it seem as if they aren't allowed to find love, like it's a joke.' - @chaptersofkat
'The name is problematic but I love the show, most relatable and romantic dating show I've ever seen! - @Hannwinn
'Hate the title of the show, I find it offensive.' - @HannahHeartss
'I hate the name, nobody is undateable, and I don't like when they use people for entertainment. I get it wouldn't be on TV otherwise but there is a massive difference between raising awareness of a condition (which I am all for) and editing it in a way that's funny. Though I get that sometime's it's laughing with and sometime's at, I found it increasingly uncomfortable to watch. This was most common with those with learning difficulties which just didn't sit right with me.' - @laurabooth88
'The title 'Undateables' gets me riled! They shouldn't be labelled as undateables at all. Everyone deserves to be equal.' - @ofaglasgowgirl
'I think the name is offensive and I feel like they're just using disabled people to take the mick out of and to get views.' - @astoldbykirstyx
'I'm autistic and it dehumanises me and hundreds of others with disabilities. I am NOT undateable.' - @LornaAParsons
'I just can't get comfortable with it. I've only seen a few episodes and found it patronising. I also find that if there is someone able bodied that goes on the date with The Undateables, they are hailed a hero!' - @KatieJayneVale
''The name is horrible! It seems very segregational to me. Not a fan.' - @hayhaylala
'I feel very uncomfortable watching it as it feels quite exploitative. Obviously hard to know what really goes on from the sofa!' - @farawaylisamae
'I like the concept of the show and the fact it raises awareness for disabilities and illnesses, but I do think that the name and parts of the show mock those very things. Without those parts though, would the vast majority watch? - @LottieUnlimited
'I love it. Makes me feel better in the way of my anxiety stopping me dating. I actually applied to be on it.' - @KymmieHPeace
'I like the concept in a way but the name of the show implies they are not worthy of dating which is so wrong.' - @thriftyvintage_
'It's demeaning to the people who are termed as undateble, it can't be good for their self worth. However, it also raises awareness of certain disabilities that people may never have had experiences of. Catch 22!' - @DatBlogDoe
'Can't stand it. Feels too voyeuristic/exploitative, though I do initially agree with the premise/concept in general. Particularly regarding disabled persons dating and having sex which isn't always discussed or acknowledged.' - @htlcy
'I think it's a fun show but they don't need to separate less able people from the abled. It's made into kind of a joke, also they're not undateable!' - @sarahjdocker
'I find the show offensive, especially the title. Why should people with disabilities be singled out? They want to fit in.' - @theawakndindigo
'I can see why some people don't like it because of how they see it make disability a little voyeuristic, but as a wheelchair user it's almost like the winning point in a Hollywood sport movie when it goes well. Plus I'm a soppy sod.' - @DJVillan
'I don't like the name of the show- I think it's pretty harsh, unacceptable and damn right rude. Why does it make them undateable because they're disabled, everyone deserves a chance at love. It's quite personal for me having a disabled brother and being in charities for disabled people. I think what they're aiming for is a good idea because it's helping those who wouldn't necessarily get help from other dating agencies because not all of them cater for those who are disabled (which again is wrong). But then again, my brother as I said is disabled and he's found relationships on regular dating websites/agencies and he's in a very happy relationship right now! I just dislike the whole idea of them being subhuman and dehumanising them basically.' - @katiexmiddleton
'I think it's demoralising personally to call someone undateable because they don't fall into the 'norm' is horrible.' - @sophieandlouie
'I'm disabled and I hate the title. If it's meant to challenge the idea that disabled people are undateable, I think that's a subtlety that passes most people by. If it's not meant in that way, it's dehumanising & ableist as hell, not to mention terribly demoralising.' - @sexblogofsorts
'The mere title offends me as does the show, it's vile voyeuristic TV setting disability back.' - @lopsidedpixie
'The whole concept of The Undateables makes me really uncomfortable. Just the labelling people with chronic illness/disability as being undateable is so harmful. It worries me the message this show sends out to teenagers. I know how much it hurt to be told that no one would want to go out with you because of your difficulties, because a teacher said it to me.' - @whentaniatalks
'Have always hated the name but found the show not too bad. However in a recent episode with the narcoleptic girl I thought the whole thing was super manipulative. They engineered the situation to make her fall asleep on the date. They deliberately made the date long and also made her go in a car knowing she'd fall asleep. Very much not okay!' - @dearlucy
'Just for background, I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair, I also have experience working with people with Asperger's, Down's Syndrome and various other learning disabilities- the kind of conditions featured on the show. As someone else mentioned, I think the irony of the title is lost on the majority of people- so the programme is actually reinforcing the undateable stereotype. My major issue with it though is that the disabilities are presented as an obstacle to dating. In many cases they're not, for example, there was a guy with a degenerative blindness on the show and his disability didn't actually stop him meeting people, interacting with them or having a relationship. He wasn't very confident and THAT stopped him approaching people. Also the people with Asperger's often do things in the show that would be considered socially inappropriate- like proposing to someone or writing love poems on a first date. But this is filmed, as far as I can see, with the intention of making people laugh which completely undermines the participants. It makes me wonder how aware some people are of how their footage will be used and how thorough the consent process is.' - @campbellscat
So, there are definitely some comments that have come up a lot! What surprised me most though is that there wasn't really a split between the opinions of disabled people and able bodied people, most people had some kind of problem with the show. Most of those who didn't like the show had a problem with the name but there were words that came up a lot: ableist, uncomfortable, offensive, dehumanises, voyeuristic and exploitative. I think that says a lot on it's own.
I wanted to address one of the comments from people who enjoyed the show in some way, just to offer a counter opinion from someone with a disability. I saw that some people believed that the show raises awareness of some conditions and disabiltiies but personally I think the ableism and offensiveness of the show completely outweighs any benefit of awareness. If Channel 4 want to raise awareness then there are certainly better and more effective ways of going about it, without supporting harmful stereotypes.
So, that's my opinion and some of your opinions, I really hope that one day the show stops and Channel 4 stop using disabled people for entertainment but unfortunately I can't see that happening any time soon!
What do you think of the show?