An Open Letter to a researcher on “The Undatables”

I did a new act competition today (it was fun and Tom Taylor won the heat as he was very good). I had my set all planned out, but then something happened that made me forget all my jokes and write something entirely new in an hour. At 15.45 today, I received this facebook message out of nowhere:

Hi Mabel,

I hope you are ok.

I really hope you don’t mind me messaging you – my name is {Name Redacted] and I am a Researcher on The Undateables. 

The show follows people with various conditions on their quest to find love. The series aims to explore society’s attitude towards people with these conditions and how this can affect relationships. It also hopes to offer a greater insight and understanding into the issues, barriers and prejudices that are faced. To see an episode of the previous series click on [a link to the Channel 4 website]

We do not believe anyone is undateable – the title is meant provocative and thought provoking, and in place to challenge how disabled people are often viewed by others….the Un drops off in the opening credits to reaffirm that everyone deserves love no matter who you are, and everyone can date/is dateable!

I was hoping you would be able to assist us by spreading the word that we are making a 5th series. If anyone you know is potentially interested in being considered for the show could you tell them to get in touch with us.

We would really appreciate your assistance!

Kind Regards
[Name Redacted]”

I didn’t really wonder how they found me, after all I’m on the comedy circuit (albeit an open spot) and fairly open about my stammer but what seems more likely is that they found me by going through those who liked the British Stammering Association’s page on Facebook. More than that the whole message pissed me off. So I wrote a reply and performed it onstage. Once I’ve typed it here I will also send it to the researcher. Here it is:

Hi [Name Redacted],

I hope your internship is going well. Thank you for your message – it’s always nice to be reminded of Channel 4’s existence and be party to its sophisticated programme-development methods.

As it happens, I am aware of your show, having had several stupid but well-meaning friends during my time as a single person. As you presumably know since you found me on facebook, my own “quest for love” has been successful, but I am always happy to help others in their quests, be it lending them chainmail or lances, or giving directions to the nearest golden sheep farm or grail shop. 

However, this is not quite what you’re asking of me, is it [Name Redacted]? No, despite your extremely careful language (which is marred somewhat by your patronising tone, you might want to get that checked out) what you have been forced to do – as a welcome break from making coffee and tickling the producer behind the ears saying “Who’s a good producer then? Are you a good producer? Yes you are!” – is to trawl through the online profiles of people who have disabilities (presumably in the assumption that, even if they are already in a relationship, they must have loads of disabled friends, right?) in order to gain naive and lonely subjects for what is the 21st century equivalent to a 17th century Freak Show.

I don’t need to hear your protests, as you have very kindly attempted to cover your arse in the original message. The semi-academic language that you use may fool a great number of people, but I’m an academic and therefore put up with this kind of bullshit daily. As such, I understand that your defence basically boils down to nothing more than “… but this is a nice freakshow!”

I don’t want more bus drivers patting me on the hand when I finally say my destination. Nor do I want to be told I’m “such an inspiration, like wassisname off telly, he couldn’t talk properly either!” 

You don’t “explore” or “provide insight” to prejudice, you simply encourage a certain type of it that means people feel better about themselves without realising that they’re making the people they direct it at feel worse. 

I do have a “condition” when dating: it’s the condition that I am treated as an intelligent person deserving of respect. And as such I would rather suggest my friends swim an English Channel of vomit-covered razorblades before I recommend they get in touch with you.

Perhaps if you want the series to actually reflect the title “The Undateables”, you should approach some people who are truly held in disgust by sensible people. The Tory front bench, for instance, or whoever came up with this sickening excuse for programming.

And now, as I have performed and written this publicly as an open letter, I’ve let people know you’re doing a 5th Series. How kind of me. Please never contact me again.

Yours incensed,
Mabel Slattery.

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7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to a researcher on “The Undatables”

  1. Colin Leggo’s Edinburgh Show “Leggoland” this year also mentions how he was contacted by the this show following his amputation. What a bunch of patronising [insert expletive here] .

  2. Maria says:

    I don’t see why they have to do a show about dating, just about people with disabilities, nor why, if you get someone with learning disabilities they are always pair off with someone else with learning disabilities, or downs syndrome with another downs syndrome. As if people with learning disabilities are a different species, as if no one with out learning disabilities could ever love someone with learning disabilities or vice versa. As if people in general with disabilities were any different form those without.

  3. I have also received this message, on numerous occasions! They’ve gone through lots members on the many Facebook groups I participate in. Whilst I respect people who have been on that show, it’s definitely not for me. I wouldn’t let them turn my life into a sob story for entertainment. I am glad to find you share my thoughts and thanks for putting it so eloquently!

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