CHANNEL 4 has always promoted itself as a programme maker which, at its heart, has liberal ideals. According to its mission statement, it has not only gone further than any other station in positively promoting minorities and those on the margins of society, but has an active duty to do so.
Such an aim is noble, however one of its latest ventures, a TV series called Undateables, brings into question how far it has strayed from these objectives.
Due to hit our screens next year, Undateables follows a number clients of a dating agency, some of whom have conditions affecting their social life. One has Tourette’s Syndrome, another has asperger’s while a person with the sleeping disorder narcolepsy is also featured.
Even before the show has aired a massive swell of protest is taking place via online forums and social networking sites, objecting to what Channel 4 calls the “sensitive treatment” of people with, what is sees as anti-social disabilities.
Although the show’s specific content is as yet unknown, the outline and title of the series implies that people with these kinds of conditions are undateable, veritable social pariahs who don’t live normal lives.
It has taken decades but we’ve managed to make great strides from these Victorian attitudes towards people with unusual conditions. TV is about engaging audiences but TV commissioners still seem to believe they can get away with salacious shows which voyeuristically portray the lives of minorities, like some kind of circus, disguised as exposing social ills.
But they don’t; all they do is perpetuate the myths – such as that all people with Tourette’s Syndrome swear uncontrollably.
Unfortunately bad publicity often has the opposite effect to that intended and excites the masses into watching. However, if Channel 4 really is a champion of the socially excluded then it can prove it by responding to the growing outrage, do the decent thing and drop this white elephant before it creates any more offence.