I just heard Eva Longria comment about how the majority of "dating show" marriages end in ruin and breakup. She further went on to say that her new show, Ready for Love would be different because it would use professional matchmakers to bring together people who want to get married.
Well, ever since hearing that sound clip (and seeing the show promo) I really don't think there is anything different from this show and The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Love in the Wild or Battlestar Galactica! (Just kidding about that last one . . . I'm just making sure you're still reading!)
Sure, the process in this new show is different than the umpteen similar basic cable knock-off shows. But at their heart, these shows force the "contestants" to ask one question: "Which one of these people do I want to marry?"
Now, that might not seem like too bad of a question . . . but think about it in context of nearly every other dating relationship. Right before a person gets engaged, he or she isn't asking themselves, "Which one of these people do I want to marry?" No, we've spent some time with one person, and only one person, and ask ourselves "Do I want to marry this person?"
Do you see the difference?
The first question gives one person (usually the man) a number of options and he chooses the one that best suits himself. In the second question, however, the individual still must make a choice to commit him or herself to another person, but they are only making that decision about one person.
The dating show paradigm introduces an unhealthy and unfair precedent into the relationship: comparison. The decision to marry a person was arrived at via comparison to other persons.
The rest of us, certainly decided to initially pursue a relationship based on comparison . . . but by the time we came to the marital commitment we made our final decision based on the person and the person alone.
So, the foundation of the dating show is one of comparison and competition. The foundation of pretty much ever other marriage is based on commitment to an individual.
I'm not saying that it's impossible for dating show marriages to survive. But I am saying that they don't have a very strong foundation to start off with.
One last note: If the dating show paradigm was adopted into the everyday culture it would be correctly denounced as misogynistic (or whatever it would be called in the case of The Bachelorette), but we put it on television and it becomes "tender," "sweet," and "romantic."
What do you think? I'm not damning the shows . . . but I may be suggesting that we think of them as fictions a little lower than sci-fi.
But am I totally off base here?