The Undateables is back on Channel 4. I refused point blank to watch the first series because I thought it would annoy me. Then I kept seeing the advert for the second series and it looked vaguely interesting and I was bored so I watched the first episode on Tuesday.
The idea is they’ve got a group of single people with disabilities and are following them on their journey to find love. Because clearly being disabled means they are undateable. They’ve even got a cutesy thing where the “un” from the title falls off and leaves just “dateables” there. I didn’t like that. Each episode will follow a couple of different people. In this first episode, there was someone on the autistic spectrum, a guy with tourettes and a 21 year old who’d had a stroke a few years before. They talked about their conditions and how they were affected. I’d expected it to be a terrible portrayal of disability. I can’t say it was a particularly good view of disability but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
A lot of what was said about the disabilities could be seen as positive although obviously emphasis was placed repeatedly on what was seen as the reason being disabled made them “undateable”. I was very pleased not to hear repeated use of the term “suffer” because that’s negative and although being disabled can be very hard it’s not all terrible and most of us don’t want pity.
The point that kept coming to my mind was that being disabled wasn’t actually the big deal when it came to getting dates that they were making it. (I know the fact I’m perpetually single might suggest otherwise but go with me here…)
It’s almost too easy at times to blame things that happen on being disabled. I do it all too often and about the stupidest things too. The person behind the bar ignoring me and serving someone who hasn’t been waiting as long? That’s because I’m disabled. Waterstones don’t have the book I want? That’s because I’m a wheelchair user. Realistically I know that the first might be because I’m disabled or simply he just didn’t notice which of us was there first. OK the second is a bit of a joke but even when I know damn well that something doesn’t have anything to do with disability it can still be there in the back of my mind that little voice that goes “you’re disabled, that’s why this happened. If you weren’t it would be different. Another thing ruined by CP.”
All three of the people featured in the show have disabilities. All three of them have reasons why certain people wouldn’t want to date them. For some prospective dates the two will be the same. Not for all of them. The show seemed to forget about that. Probably because three people looking for dates wasn’t as big of a sell as three poor disabled undateable people overcoming on the search for love.
It’s always difficult to put yourself out there and look for a relationship. Being disabled might make that harder – you need to find a place that’s accessible to go, you might have transport issues getting there and what if you’re having a bad day. The show didn’t cover that which I think is a shame. But again it isn’t just disability that causes that – meeting new people whether for dates, colleagues or friendship needs a leap of faith that it’ll work out and you won’t get hurt. Sometimes it’s easier not to try than it is to take the risk.
I wish there was more about disability on TV. But not stuff like this. Because all it does is perpetuate the myth that disability is all about bad stuff and disabled people need to be pitied. And seeing their lives portrayed that way can make other disabled people feel bad about themselves. Surely the Paralympics showed us that disability is so much more than that?