Do we love love?
Livia Cockerell discusses the phenomenon of dating shows and how easy it is to become transfixed by them.
It’s 8 o’clock on a Monday evening and my flatmates and I – three twenty one year old single ladies – settle down on the sofa, pyjamas on, dinner on laps, ready for the next episode of Love is Blind. We sit, mardy as anything, complaining about Shake, cringing at Salvador and relentlessly screeching “NO YOU DON’T” every time someone confesses their undying love for the partner they have known a week. However, despite our complaints, we repeat this same ritual week in week out, eagerly anticipating what will happen next between these couples. We love to hate it.
In the typical British manner, I will moan and groan about the happy-sappy naivety of these dating shows, and yet I still watch them all. From First Dates to Love Island and even (unashamedly) Naked Attraction, I simply cannot resist eavesdropping on the making and breaking of relationships. If I am honest with myself, at heart, I am a closeted hopeless romantic and these shows feed my innate fascination with love. Although our British sensibility may deny it, most people dream of finding ‘the one’ and falling in love, and I think watching relationships blossom on these shows restores our faith in romance.
For me, First Dates does this in the purest form. My heart simply melts into my stomach every time an elderly widower enters the restaurant in search for a companion. Inclusivity is at the heart of the show, there are people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, all searching for the one. And, oh boy, those matchmakers are something else; the compatibility of some of these couples is unreal – I could seriously do with getting in touch with them. Nowadays, I think First Dates is one of the only dating shows that does exactly what it says on the tin. People genuinely enter the restaurant with the incentive of finding a match, there is no ulterior motive of becoming a reality star or gaining millions of followers, they want to find love.
In the typical British manner, I will moan and groan about the happy-sappy naivety of these dating shows, and yet I still watch them all.
As a fan of dating shows, it would be hypocritical of me to sit here and complain about the fact that the likes of Love Island are performative and that they are simply a platform for a bunch of wannabe influencers. But it does seem to have become more and more this way. Back when these shows began, it felt like finding love was the principal objective and fame was a possible bonus, whereas now it feels like people sign up to become reality stars and benefit their own personal brand.
Despite my cynicism, I invest myself in these shows every time; I choose a side, I back a couple, I sit pondering over what everyone’s next move will be, wondering who will mug off who. As psychologist Dr Fisher claims “It’s not unlike watching a football game and feeling better when your favourite team wins.” I now watch Love Island or Too Hot to Handle in the same way that I would watch a game show like I’m a Celeb. They are entertainment shows with challenges, eliminations and incentives to win.
Although I am well aware of the realities of many modern dating shows, I remain a hopeless romantic and optimistic viewer as I watch these gorgeous singles on their quest to find love whilst I sit on the sofa swiping on Tinder.