Monday, July 20, 2009

"Dating In The Dark"

A new show called "Dating In The Dark" is about to debut on ABC tonight and also on A Channel here in Canada.
Here is the premise:
"Dating in the Dark is a unique alternative series that asks the age-old question, "Is Love Blind?" Each week, three single men and three single women, all looking for love, will move into a house together, but be totally sequestered from the opposite sex. While they will have no chance of seeing each other in the light, they will have the opportunity to date in a completely dark room. Looks will be taken out of the equation as the men and women get to know each other and form bonds in total darkness. After several days of dating in the darkroom, the participants will select the one member of the opposite sex that they want to see revealed in the light. For the first time, the participants will see whom they've been dating, wooing, kissing, snuggling with and forming bonds with. And after they see each other in the light for the first time, they have to make the difficult they stay with the person they fell for in the dark, or leave them behind? Hosted by Rossi Moreale (Can You Duet?, Temptation)."

Oh great, just what we need another excuse to humiliate someone in front of a few million people! From the promos that I have seen, the men and women meet up in the darkened room, then have discussions with the other members of the same sex about there experiences and what may or may not be happening in the dark. Then they also have individual "confessionals" in front of the camera to talk about what they like/don't like about the person and what they would/wouldn't want in a potential partner.

Okay, let's see if I've got this straight.... They spent this time getting to know each other and then after a few days they actually see what the other looks like. Is it still "Love at first sight" or do you want to run for the hills screaming "My eyes! My eyes!"?

How desperate are these people, that they are willing to subject themselves to such scrutiny and in all likelihood humiliation and rejection from someone they got to know "in the dark"?

This isn't exactly a new concept. It has been done on TV series in the past. Back in 1986 - January 6 to be precise - CBS aired an episode of "Kate and Allie" titled "Dark Victory". Kate was headed for a dentist appointment when a power outage occurred. She makes her way to the office, and finds one other person waiting in the dark - a guy with a really nice voice - they start talking. They hit it off wonderfully and agreed to go out on a real date at a later time. When the power came back on, they were both in for a surprise. Kate, who is white, questioned her otherwise liberal values when she realized that she was hesitant to go out with a black man.

I don't have any issues with interracial dating. Been there, done that and would do it again if I liked the guy.

What I have an issue with, is the superficiality of appearance and how society is so quick to judge and reject purely on appearance.

Think about it. We cross paths with strangers constantly - and I'm guessing that if we were all totally honest - that we also judge those people as we pass by. We wonder what that person is really like or how they possibly thought that outfit/style could look good on them. We see couples together and wonder what they could possibly have in common or what they see in each other. We see what is in their cart/basket at the store and make a judgment on what the person is like.

When you take the visual out of the equation, you are forced to listen more closely to what and how something is said. You learn to rely on your instincts rather than your observations of the person and perceived external imperfections.
Back in the golden age of radio, people used their imaginations to fill in the pieces for the countless programs that aired. Unless you saw a newsreel in the theater or a photo in a magazine, you didn't know what someone on the radio looked like.

I read an article once about legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. She had won a talent contest as a teen, but was also told that she was too ugly to ever have a career in music! Luckily for us she never listened to those critics and went on to have a hugely successful career with countless hits and millions of fans.

It isn't that long ago that people actually did get to know each other through letters. They sometimes sent along a photo but you never knew if it was a recent photo or was even really that person. Some people still get to know each other through Internet dating sites. Not everyone is honest or forthcoming when it comes to their bio - let alone what they look like!

How many of us have talked to someone on the phone or gotten to know each other through letters/emails? We don't always get to see what the other person looks like, but you form a connection with them through what they have shared.

Meeting that person can be terrifying. What if they are not at all what you imagined or worse yet they reject you because of how you look in real life.

I've been there and done that too. About 15 years ago, I tried a new phone intro service that was offered here in the city. I was looking more for friendship than romance. I agreed to three meetings over coffee in very public areas - mall food courts. We gave just enough descriptions of ourselves so that we could be recognized and a code word to be sure it was the same person. Only one guy actually came and sat with me and he turned out to be married!

As for the other two, well I strongly suspect that they didn't like what they saw and beat a hasty, cowardly retreat rather than spending 15 minutes with someone they didn't think of as attractive enough to be seen with them. Their loss. Yes, it hurt, but, at the same time, I really wasn't that surprised. I'm not going to hide the way I look just to satisfy the superficiality of society. If people can't accept me for who I am on the outside, then why would I possibly want to let them know who is on the inside? I don't need the hassle.

Whether they admit it or not, people are far too focused on the visual to really pay attention to what is on the inside.

Until the advent of TV, there really wasn't a huge emphasis on the overall appearance of how anyone looked. It has only intensified over the years - to the point of ridiculousness if you ask me. I don't care how well you take care of yourself or what your "beauty regime" entails. The reality is that beauty fades and becomes less important as a relationship progresses. It isn't the exterior that holds people together - it is what is on the inside. The common bonds that unite people in friendships and if you are really lucky - a deep and unconditional love that lasts no matter what nature and genes dictate.
Those of us who are visually impaired/blind have an advantage in that respect. Because we can't really see the detail of who we are with, it is easier to concentrate on really getting to know who the other person is. Sure we are curious as to what the other really looks like, but it isn't going to end the relationship because of what they look like.

Don't get me wrong, not all sighted people are that superficial, but it is harder for them to take the external out of the equation. In that respect, I can see where this show is coming from.

When it comes to dating and reality TV, I guess that "Dating In The Dark" would be considered new and different, but I have a hard time believing that this is going to make anyone see how superficial society really is. All it is going to do is hurt a few seemingly nice guys and gals who are searching for love. My guess is that at least a couple of people will wish they never had to have seen the light of day. They may say they will not be so judgmental in the future, but old habits die hard.
If I thought that this show could be done with taste and actually show people how superficial society has become, then I might be willing to give it a chance. However, I'm afraid this is just one more opportunity to embarrass and humiliate people for the sake of a few laughs and better ratings. It is bad enough to be rejected in real life for what the other person considers a visual imperfection such as too tall/short, skinny/stalky, or just a fashion disaster, but to do it in front of millions of viewers, shows a whole new level of desperation for both the network and the participants.

I have no desire to see this dating experience played out on TV as a supposed form of entertainment.

"Dating In The Dark"? No thanks. Been there. Done that in real life.


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