Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dating in Today's Media

In addition to the census, demographic data, and the changing realities, television shows in the 21st century have significantly changed the dating landscape since popular notions perpetuated by the media, while originally fantasy, have a strange habit of morphing into our shared reality. Dating shows have always been a part of the TV landscape, but the bar has been raised, or lowered, depending on how you look at it. In addition to the traditional plethora of inane dating shows, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?, Who Wants to Marry My Dad?, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and My Big, Fat, Ugly FiancĂ© have not only made dating a blood sport but convinced the viewing public that hot tubs and serial necking in front of a TV camera are normal aspects of dating. Rules about no kissing on the first date and no sex until the third date seem laughably out of fashion if you watch television. Dating as a competitive sport — complete with body contact and backbiting — has cheapened, degraded, and sexualized dating as well as increased hostility in ways we’re not even completely aware of. Okay, so most of us probably look at television dating shows and say, “That’s ridiculous!” We know that a lot of editing and prompting goes on. But we are all influenced, subtly and not so subtly, by these shows in how we date, how we view the opposite sex, our own behavior, and what’s acceptable and what’s not. Reality TV has made competition, mean spiritedness, and just plain nastiness part of the social landscape between men and women, making the war between the sexes appear as a bombed-out landscape with few survivors and multiple casualties. Adding to the general confusion is the fact that so many television shows suggest that being gay is not only acceptable but hip and nearly ubiquitous, which has certainly increased the potential for at least considering yourself bisexual, or even more terrifying, having your partner consider him or herself bisexual. Thus dating has become a question of will or won’t your date come out of the closet after you get to know each other. Interestingly enough, the statistics on the percentage of the population reported and reporting as gay is unchanged since Alfred Kinsey’s studies 60 years ago. Thirty years ago, TV would have you believe no one was gay; today TV would allow you to assume everybody is gay.

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