“How far would you agree with the opinion that ‘Blind Date’ as a formulaic programme format depends for its success upon the encouragement of gender, social and cultural stereotypes?”
Write a critical and analytical review of one episode of the programme. You may consider:
Â· Use of character ‘types’
Â· Arrangement of the programme
Â· Technical aspects
‘Blind Date’ is a popular, intellectually undemanding, Saturday night show that attracts over eight million viewers every week. But why? Is it Cilla’s ‘contagious’ laugh? Or is it the interesting, exotic places the couples visit? Or maybe it is the fact that you realise there are people more desperate than you are and they are declaring it on TV. Whatever it is, it works. But how much of it is real?
The contestants seem to be definite ‘characters’ rather than real people. They fit into the moulds of various stereotypes that have been set.
The first stereotype we see is ‘the ordinary bloke’. This is Tony from Reading, he is a working class Royal Mail manager, He goes to the pub for a quick pint with his friends and he is known as ‘the common Joe’. He stresses that he is a lad because he wants to emphasise his heterosexuality and this is because a homosexual male is still not fully accepted in society and is the subject of ridicule among his male peers.
The next stereotype we encounter is ‘Jack the Lad’; a working class male who likes a laugh, his beer and chasing ‘birds’. He is Mike the metal worker from Devon. He has quite a strong Devon accent, which can sometimes make him sound a bit stupid. His answers are obviously scripted because he uses alliteration, ” â€¦I like my birds and my boozeâ€¦” He is speaking in his natural voice, which is laidback but shows him to be loud and cocky. He is an extrovert and loves the reaction he gets from the infamous ‘pork pie story’. He links back to this in all his answers and the canned laughter is overplayed. During the show, the use of sexual innuendo is common and here is no exception, “â€¦and I’m meaty on the insideâ€¦”
The last male contestant is Pete from London who is a surgeon cue audience: Oooooh! He is middle class but is trying to cover this so he can be ‘just one of the lads’. He is wearing an eye-catching shirt, which is casually left untucked out of his fake leather trousers; he also displays some designer stubble. He puts on an Estuary English accent to sound more proletarian. This results in his saying such words as ‘nipper’ and ‘you’ll be larfing’, but he cannot hide his background when he says words like ‘portfolio’ and ‘elegant’.
The lucky lady who has the chance to choose one of these three lads is Vicky from Coventry. She is quite confident and uses lots of sexual innuendo. This is obviously scripted as she is describing her car and she says it is like Cilla, “â€¦and when she goes, she goesâ€¦” She also greets the boys with “Hello Boys” the trademark phrase of ‘Wonderbra’. This is titillation for the male audience. Another example of this is, ” I would be the Eiffel Tower. You can scale the heights with me for a bit of ooh la la and the views from the top are amazing.”
The couple from the previous week’s show return smiling and walking together so the question of whether Cilla ‘should buy a new hat’ is still on the viewers’ minds. The two lovebirds on this particular show were
Natalie and Chris.
Chris is the ‘good catholic Irish boy’ who looks very similar to the presenter Craig Doyle. He is the type of boy your mum would love you to bring home. He looks innocent as if he needs a girl to mother him. He has the all-important happy go lucky Irish charm. His accent is mostly perceived as funny, friendly and approachable. Nevertheless, as soon as he gets the chance, he starts to badmouth Natalie and reveals he had a very interesting time with a singing waitress.
Natalie is obviously not his type. She is the ‘wild one’ with cropped platinum blonde hair and piercings. She is quite masculine and has an assertive manner as her job is a policewoman and is like Charity Dingle from ‘Emmerdale’. She hurls abuse at him; they argue for a bit and then finally come to the not very surprising conclusion that they will not be seeing each other again.
We are then taken into a break but not before we are given a glimpse of the three ‘lovely ladies’ we will meet in the second half and are reminded of the two hopefuls that won last week. This is all to tempt us back after the break. When you do return you are greeted with some jazzy music that you cannot help but wiggle your hips to, some flashy magenta and lilac scenery and a short Liverpudlian woman with fiery red hair calling herself ‘Aunty Cilla’.
You are now introduced to three girls and you can immediately see which social categories they fit into. Number 1 is Alicia from Liverpool who is a good time girl and a bit ‘tarty’. She shows this by saying “â€¦I’m not really fussy about what type of man I wantâ€¦” is short, pretty and blonde and she is wearing a short red dress revealing her legs. She is very similar to Emily Shadwick from ‘Brookside’.
The second ‘lovely lady’ is Sarah from Hampshire who is a self-confessed snob and she is the ‘villain’ of the show. She has high standards for men to meet and says, “â€¦They have to have a salary of at least thirty grand a yearâ€¦” She acts like a middle class ‘yuppie’, being ‘a financial advisor’, but in reality will probably only have a lower middle class background. She comes across as being ‘nouveau riche’ and she likes the idea of this. She speaks in ‘refined’ English because she must keep up the pretence of her being superior. Her natural language and accent is accidentally displayed when she is trying to sound domineering, “so come on Alex and pick number 2.”
The last possible winner we see is Catherine from Solihull who is an A-class bimbo. She has long blonde hair, a sun-bed tan and she loves Britney Spears. It is accepted that she seems to be obsessed by another woman and in our society many men find this a ‘turn on’. This is another example of sexual titillation as Cilla comments, “â€¦are you sure you should be on this show?” because ironically the show features ‘normal’ people. She is a typical dumb blonde and is immature.
She lives near Birmingham and so speaks with a ‘Brummie’ accent. This can sometimes give the impression of stupidity or gormlessness. Number 3 lives up to this as she is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen. She would never be able to think of her answers in such a short amount of time and she would have trouble thinking of a coherent answer all by herself. After she has done her cringe-worthy impression of Britney Spears we meet the lucky man who has to pick one of these three hopefuls.
The ‘fortunate’ man who has to pick a lady is Alex. He is a Grade 1 ‘yuppie’ who is in college studying business and has smooth Italian looks like Beppe from ‘Eastenders’. He provides the female members of the audience with sexual titillation as he tells his story of posing for a nude calendar with his dignity covered by a piece of fruit, a satsuma, in case you were wondering. After he picks the ‘Brummie Britney’, we meet the couple from last week.
The pair from last week was Naomi and Richard. Richard is an Australian and is very laidback but says what he means. He talks a lot and this enables Cilla to make a joke at the end, “â€¦can I get a word in?” when he does not stop talking. He uses colloquial Aussie language such as ‘bonza’ and ‘G’day’ but he is not a ‘typical’ Australian in his looks as he is tall, scrawny and pale skinned.
Naomi is self-conscious, spoilt and of mixed race. She expected Richard to have a tanned surfer’s body, blonde hair and blue eyes. When he calls her a whale she is almost in tears as you can see that weight is an issue for her. He later explains that is not what he meant. She does not seem to accept this and is very angry.
This couple go beyond the usual stereotypes, he is not a ‘typical’ Australian and she is not a ‘typical’ demure girl of mixed race. This may confuse the audience but they accept it with out question because it does not occur to them to query the stereotypes that have been set.
We were given an article written by an undercover reporter posing as a contestant on ‘Blind Date’ who was able to confirm that our suspicions of pre-planned answers are correct. She also revealed that the make-up artists and researchers give the contestants advice and clues on whom to pick. They do this by underlining the intended winner’s number on the script.
The contestants all have their lines to learn and if these are said wrongly, it is cut out. In the article, we read a woman explained the one of the male contestants kept on fluffing his lines so they had to keep reshooting that piece until it was correct. That does not sound like ‘reality TV’ to me.
Cilla always has to be shown as the funnier, clever one. If anyone disregards this, it will be edited and cut out. She is not a specific stereotype; she is ‘a scouser who made it big’. The answers or character information that is given are always easy targets for Cilla and ‘our’ Graham, the commenter, to make jokes about.
The holidays they win seem to be very expensive and the camera work accentuates this by filming the entrances of grand hotels and the beautiful landmarks. This makes the show look classy instead of brassy. The holiday video is careful not to give too much away and always leaves the audience wondering if this is the ‘one in a million’ couple that fall in love. They also use background music to create a certain atmosphere and make the show seem modern and trendy, but to me this fails.
The show is popular for various reasons. Some people watch it and realise their prejudices are correct; some watch it to have these prejudices confirmed. People are naturally inquisitive and like to know what other people do with their lives. ‘Blind Date’ gives a painfully accurate view of youth culture today. People watch it and believe it is real when it is more similar to ‘Coronation Street’ as opposed to ‘Big Brother’.
In the world people are always going to be judged and then pigeon holed. ‘Blind Date’ obviously encourages this but it just shows the mentality of the eight million British viewers who watch it every week. The people on the show are pretentious and fake but they are encouraged to be like this. Surely, this is wrong because when the programme is seen by its target audience they will believe that they too have to fit into a certain stereotype. ‘Blind Date’ crushes your individuality and the only thing it is good for is to raise your self-esteem by reassuring yourself that you will never be that desperate.