What Channel 4’s ‘Mating Season’ Says About British Society
Opinions surrounding sexuality have received constant attention from both the media and the general public for years. The spectrum of sexuality has always interested me but recently I have become increasingly concerned with whether or not our sexualities should concern anyone but ourselves. Should sexuality ever be made apparent or should it be a completely private matter? Should it even be referred to as an issue at all? Or should it be as irrelevant, when getting to know someone, as finding out they are naturally blonde or they’re a fan of tennis? As these things have often concerned and interested me I was extremely intrigued when I heard of Channel 4’s mysterious Mating Season which was to be broadcast throughout June and July.
For weeks Channel 4 broadcast an ambiguous advert referring to their Mating Season which, as I knew was their intention, intrigued me greatly. It depicted Arthur the lonely Galapagos Island tortoise mourning his companion, Ethel. As the only two Galapagos Island tortoises left Arthur was now the only one of his species remaining, clearly alluding to well known Lonesome George of the Galapagos Islands. The advert goes on to show a forlorn Arthur mourning Ethel before embarking on multiple dates with a variety of people. Arthur is then seen perusing a night club in a desperate attempt to find love and affection. In the end Arthur finds an unlikely companion in a bulldog with two wheels in place of his hind legs; all of this happens within a minute and a half, so it is no wonder I was intrigued. Although that all sounds very strange the message, I believe, Channel 4 were trying to get across was a positive one. It was a message of hope as although there may seem to be none when one is left alone, there always is. It may seem as though a lonely tortoise has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s love life but the programmes featured within Mating Season do. Channel 4 has displayed a huge variety of programmes throughout June showcasing homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual relationships of all varieties and contexts all in positive lights.
The first programme to be featured within Mating Season was Dates. Dates is a nine-part drama series showing the romantic encounters of various characters as they each try to find love. Having been made by the creator of Skins, and including a strong British cast including Will Mellor, Sheridan Smith and Oona Chaplin, it was a recipe for success.
Although the show did not blow me away it was refreshing to see something so British and honest on television. We saw a former-escort dating a lorry driver, a closet-homosexual dating a primary school teacher and a confident lesbian dating a closet lesbian, among others. It was also refreshing to see a homosexual relationship amongst the dates without direct attention being drawn to it. Although one of the women on the date was in fear of “coming out” to her family that only made it more relatable. The series achieves a normalcy around each type of relationship with ease. In the words of episode 6’s Callum, sexuality is an “unknown quantity”, a spectrum upon which we all fall which sums up the series perfectly.
I think the series presented a positive view of British society and the dating habits of Britons. Although many of the dates featured within the series were not successful and did not lead to second dates they were still not displayed negatively. As with Arthur the tortoise and his two-legged canine companion, true love is rarely found easily, quickly or conventionally. You have to date a few emotional wrecks before you find your disabled bulldog.
Another programme featured within Mating Season was First Dates. Whereas I found this to be less successful as an entertainment programme it was interesting to watch as a social experiment. The programme consisted of various couples meeting for a real first date in a London restaurant which, as can be imagined, led to some awkward encounters. Although I did not personally greatly enjoy the programme it did reaffirm a belief of mine in the modern world: people are obsessed with reality television. Whether it is the Kardashians or the Made in Chelsea gang the modern audience seems to be hooked on all of them and First Dates catered to this obsession.
The premise of the show is for the daters to date and the audience to watch and enjoy which all seems harmless enough. However, it all started to seem bizarre to me as the show went on. A large number of the girls on the dates excused themselves to go to the toilet where, instead of using the facilities, they discussed their dates with other girls instead. This seemed strange to me, especially as their dates will be able to watch it on television afterwards. One girl had even arranged another date to go to after the one shown on the programme! I’m not sure that says anything about British dating in general, except maybe that we are realists. Another bizarre aspect of the programme was the fact that, after the first episode, any member of the public could apply to go on a date with any of the people listed on the Channel 4 website. It is almost made it seem like internet shopping! As the viewer is able to peruse the people on the television and decide who they would like to date it takes all of the romance out of dating. However it does fit in with the modern need for instant satisfaction. With Wikipedia, instant messaging and being able to buy things online with two clicks of a button everything is completed instantly in the modern day. I think to put this kind of instant gratification on love makes it feel cheap and fake, as if true love is just a few clicks away.
Overall I think this form of dating does reflect something negative from British society. With the increased demand for instant satisfaction many people will be left disappointed with many aspects of their life. If they’re coffee isn’t brewed instantly it will make them late, if the WiFi is unavailable for five minutes all hell breaks lose: we, in the modern day, are far too used to not having to wait for anything. And I personally don’t think that it a good attitude to have towards dating. I fear that people will go on so many dates that they will lose focus and complete this task, as with all other daily tasks, automatically and leave no time for romance to develop.
How to Find Love Online
As an avid documentary fan I naturally enjoyed How to Find Love Online, both because of the form and the content. It consisted of twenty five people’s first experiences of internet dating which were documented and analysed by Dawn O’Porter. Although most of the people had little success, and many didn’t even go on one date, it appear to be a positive experience for all.
Although online dating does, again, seem to cater to our instant satisfaction lifestyles it seems less bizarre than the first dates of strangers being broadcast on television for the entertainment of more strangers. Internet dating did used to be seen as a strange way to meet a potential partner but I think that stigma has been eradicated in the last few years. This shift in public opinion is possibly due to the increased dependency on the internet to complete all of life’s tasks and so perhaps people thought, it I can buy my weekly shop on the internet then why can I not search for the love of my life in the same way? Surely it is no worse to meet someone online, get to know them marginally and then meet up, instead of drunkenly kissing someone in a club and arranging to meet up. The only positive aspect of the latter meeting, I would think, is that you can be sure that the person actually exists. Other than that, I think I would rather be able to soberly talk to someone online and get to know them a bit before meeting up.
The programme did show that internet dating does encourage people to be pickier when choosing a person to date, even down to being able to search for a potential partner based on their salary. But I am not sure that this picky nature is a negative thing. We are able to be fussy within most aspects of life so why not when choosing a person to spend our life with? I think this picky attitude towards dating is generally a positive thing. The divorce rates within the modern day are enough to put anyone off giving love a go so it can only be a good thing to be more selective and not try to force love with a stranger with whom you have no mutual interests.
Although this programme was not technically a part of Channel 4’s Mating Season it was broadcast amongst the others. It displayed a selection of girls at varying stages of sexual exploration and, although it was only a one hour programme, it did manage to display a lot. It followed a few bi-sexual girls at various stages of “coming out” and exploration of their sexuality. It was nice to see an extremely confident bi-sexual girl who was not afraid to approach girls, gay or straight, to tell them they were beautiful. Homosexual dating is often seen as a secretive struggle but this programme presented it as being as simple as heterosexual dating, if any dating can ever be labelled “simple”. Although the programme did show one girl who had had a traumatic experience while “coming out” to her family and difficult homosexual experiences it was an, overall, positive view of female bi-sexuality.
I think this programme succeeded in presenting homosexuality and bi-sexuality as socially acceptable in modern society. With the recent introduction of same-sex marriage throughout various countries around the world both public opinion and the law seem to be accepting homosexual unions more and more. Hopefully, in the near future, I will not even be able to make comments such as this as homosexual love and marriage will just be as accepted as heterosexual relationships that it will not even be able to cause a debate.
Why Am I Still Single?
Why Am I Still Single? was, again, refreshing in the sense that it was unlike anything I had seen on television before. It showed one man and one woman, Lex and Naomi, infiltrate and analyse one another’s lives. Lex and Naomi had never even spoken before they had to sleep in each other’s beds, meet each other’s friends and rifle through each other’s lives. The programme allowed these strangers to decide why the other was single which made for some revealing conclusions. By the time Lex met Naomi’s ex-boyfriend, who she was still in love with, he seemed to feel protective of Naomi and told this total stranger exactly what he thought of him. As Naomi said towards the end of the programme, when they finally met each other, it was like meeting up with a friend she hadn’t seen for ten years.
Compared to the other programmes in the season I found Why Am I Still Single? the most enjoyable and uplifting. Perhaps because it was so honest and completely real, and also as the format of the programme felt quite original. Although the programme said the least about society’s view of dating it explored real people and real lives. Rather than focussing on a social group or age range it explored the lives of Lex and Naomi in such detail that the viewer was left feeling as though they knew the two of them personally. Although it didn’t quite tap in to the message of fated love displayed by Arthur and his bulldog companion within the original advert it did imply that there is hope for everyone who is looking for love, it just takes time and does, often, occur naturally.
What do you think? Leave a comment.