TV Feature: Leave It Out

 
 

With its sexist outlook, Take Me Out ultimately does a disservice to both males and females alike, writes Jon Hozier-Byrne

Men and women aren’t equal. They should be, of course, the same way Communism should work, or how I should recycle instead of using my green bin only when the black one is overflowing. In theory, men and women should be treated equally by society, but like a lot of idealistic theories, the practicality falls short.

Women are still paid less on average than men for the same work, and are grossly misrepresented in government. Men still hold the majority of the highest-paid jobs in the country, and there is an unfair social bias against women who pursue these careers as opposed to more traditional gender roles. You’d be forgiven for thinking women are given an unfair lot these days – but that was before Take Me Out.

TV3’s new dating-show Take Me Out, serialised from the ITV show of the same name, features thirty single ladies and one single man looking for love, or most likely sex and/or momentary attention.

The premise is admittedly clever – thirty young women, each with a lighted podium in front of them, are introduced to a single man. The single man must do his best to impress the voracious ladies. If the women like what they see, they keep their lights on. If not, they turn their lights to red, indicating that they want nothing to do with the lonely bachelor.

If any lights are left on after three rounds of introductions, video testimony and talent, the boy gets a date. If not, the boy has to go home dateless to gently weep in the dark while watching old episodes of Blind Date.

So, it’s all good, hormonally-charged fun for all the family. Wait, no, not that, the other one. Oh yes, it’s hugely objectifying and demeaning.

Granted, everyone on the show signed up to do it of their own free will, and frankly, if you have the magic combination of brash arrogance and low self-esteem that makes you want to be on a show like this, then good for you. But just think about the actual mechanics of the show for a second.

A man comes down a suitably phallic elevator to the music of their choice, introduces himself, and then the women get their first opportunity to turn their lights off. That’s it. The entire first round of the competition is based entirely on physical appearance, possibly resulting in massive humiliation for the hapless gent.

Consider if the genders were reversed. Imagine a show where thirty sweaty men have a woman lowered down to them, judge her entirely by physical appearance, and then immediately press a button indicating, essentially, whether or not they consider her worth sleeping with. If there was vast public outcry over Hunky Dorys’ adverts with women in revealing rugby jerseys, what kind of response will this show get from the viewing public?

Add to this the fact that about half the men they actually choose to be their ‘hunky bachelors’, are in fact weirdoes, geeks or old men, who they naturally intend to be humiliated. TV3 knows watching people socially prostrate themselves makes good television.

While a good few are hunky beefcake types, a lot more emphasis is put on the kind of men who’d be rejected from an X Factor casting session. The gentleman who are professional Elvis impersonators, or have an extensive Mickey Mouse doll collection, are intended to be the true highlight of the show. Again, imagine a show when the gender roles were reversed and socially maladjusted or just plain unattractive women were exploited in the exact same way – would that also just ‘all be in good fun’?

Ultimately, this reflects badly on our culture on a whole. The show implies that it is perfectly acceptable that men are subjugated and taken advantage of in such an obvious and perverse way. One might raise the surprising argument – and many have – that it is morally justified as a form of ‘social reparation’ for hundreds of years of women being the so-called ‘second sex’.

While no one could dispute that sexual bias existed in the past, it is exactly that: a thing of the past. Men of my generation cannot rightly be held accountable for the unfair sociology of times gone by. Some poor unfortunate kid with a Disney collection and thirty red lights had very little influence on universal suffrage.

There is an indubitable social bias that pervades the modern media, showing men as incapable, idiotic and childish. Take RTE’s new project, Don’t Tell The Bride, in which a couple, Anthony and Doireann, are given ten thousand euro for their dream wedding – the only catch being that Anthony has to plan everything without Doireann’s knowledge, right down to the dress. The entire marketing hook is that we men, oh, us hopeless men, are incapable of functioning without grown-up supervision, and if left alone, we’ll just wander off and play football or look at breasts.

Men and women aren’t equal, at the very least in the way the media deems it appropriate to treat each gender. I say this not to diminish the very real inequalities faced by women in our society, but it does not make the patronising and objectifying of men any more acceptable.

Take Me Out is broadcast on TV3 on Fridays at 9.00pm.

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