Freakshow television hit a new low with C4’s latest sniggerfest, ‘The Undateables.’ That’s a weak pun on Untouchables I think but the title says it all; take a bunch of people with various illnesses, syndromes and disfigurements, people who have difficulty forging relationships because of how they look or how they behave and then set them up with potential girl/boyfriends.
Yes, Channel 4 will say that this isn’t exploitation and nasty voyeursim but is a ‘social experiment’ or present it as highlighting the issues facing people with disabilities and disfigurements but just look at their posters; heavily featured is Justin, a 39 year old man who suffers from the same kind of disease as John Merrick aka ‘The Elephant Man.’ As the most severely disfigured person on the programme, Justin was the poster boy for the series and you can just see the marketing ghouls at C4 creaming themselves as they design their campaign. ‘This’ll pull the punters in!’
C4 are far from the only broadcasters dealing in this type of hideous voyeurism but they’re by far the most prolific. Just a few examples :
Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (aren’t gyppos funny?)
Supersize vs Superskinny (dead fat people meet dead thin people!)
One Born Every Minute (placenta porn)
The Secret Millionaire (Big Society help ro the deserving poor)
Bodyshock (weird illnesses)
Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder (mad people who live under tons of garbage)
The World’s Worst TV Presenter….and Me! (wannabe Louis Theroux get to meet loads of ‘exceptional’ people)
15 Kids & Counting (benefit cheats deserve sterilising)
Accused; The 74 Stone Babysitter (really fat person accused of soemthing or other)
Inside Nature’s Giants (blood and guts porn)
Born To Be Different (kids with ears where their eyes should be n’ shit)
The Fairy Jobmother (patronising unemployed northerners)
Katie; My Beautiful Face (acid attack victim puts make up on)
Dolphin Boy (erm)
There are many more along simialr lines; ridiculing fatties, doleys, the mentally ill, the pikeys, the poor, the desperate, the lonely, the ill, the depressed. The bulk of C4 ‘documentaries’ now resembles one of those sub-human magazines with headlines such as ‘Raped By My Own Ghost’ and taps into the glut of books, films and magazines that have capitalised on the demand for bad luck stories and extreme behaviour. Ofcourse this isn’t a modern phenomenon, freak shows and penny dreadfuls have been with us for centuries but for a once challenging, idealistic and brave broadcaster like C4 to wallow in this sub-ITV2 shitpool should make ‘Sir’ Jeremy Isaacs weep.
Maybe C4 would reply that they’re ‘only giving people what they want’ which is why their titles are Ronseal-esque telling you everything you need to know about the programme by its title, although I had to look up Dolphin Boy which isn’t a programme about a boy with a dorsal fin and a hole in the back of his head but the story of a boy who was kidnapped and tortured and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He thinks swimming with dolphins will help him to deal with his demons and maybe it will, but perhaps the last thing the poor bastard needs is a tv crew following him around to see if it works.
From the BBC’s ‘A Life Of Grime’ through ITV’s ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’ and the ‘X-Factor’ as well as the raft of digital permutations on mocking the weakest in society as a form of entertainment, there is something incredibly depressing about the popularity of some of these modern freakshows parading as scientific and/or social insight. Here are a few I’ve come up with….
Stab Your Nan For A Tenner
Inside Prince Harry’s Arsehole
The Only Way Is Auschwitz
Desperate MILF Dwarves
Conjoined Scouse Suicide Bombers
Send Em Back! Why multi-culturalism has failed with Prof Niall Ferguson
Amish Poledancers On Acid
Fat Disgusting Fucks USA
Jason Orange; my story
Afghanistan On Ice
The Queen’s Mad Cousin Meets Joey Essex
Gok’s All Night Paedo Procession
Man v Geordie