My earliest memories of learning about online dating come from “Napoleon Dynamite.” In the 2004 film, the character Kip meets Lafawnduh online and she comes to visit him. The comedic portrayal of an online relationship turned IRL was just a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Now in 2019, meeting people online is normal and almost expected. However, while films and TV shows have portrayed online dating, some debate whether or not they portray it in a realistic way. Most of pop culture is hesitant to begin portraying the realities of dating today for fear of sacrificing the “meet-cute.”
“Meet-cute” is a term to describe the spontaneous and charming meeting of two characters in a film that leads to a romantic relationship. Meet-cute can be seen in “Romeo and Juliet”, “500 Days of Summer” and “Bridesmaids.” According to a Refinery 29 article, meet-cute has become “an essential component of Western love stories.” But why hold onto the meet-cute if people’s dating habits have changed?
For one, the escapism involved in watching films helps keep the meet-cute alive; when the reality for actual people is to turn to Tinder to find a date, viewers want to dream of having their own meet-cute. Meet-cute has the spontaneous and romantic flair that mindless swiping and matching doesn’t.
TV and dating today
Pop culture is beginning to incorporate online dating into their plot lines. “Catfish” is an MTV show that explores the dangers and manipulation that can go into online dating. The hosts of the show help people discover whether or not their online partner is actually who they say they are. From the beginning, most of these relationships were not formed on dating apps, but from online interactions in chat rooms or on Facebook. But this show was a tidal wave in the world of online dating.
I like "Catfish" because it shows that people cannot be 100 percent manipulated by online dating. Most people in the show become angry when their online significant other turn out to be lying. No matter how addicted to technology people can become, it gives me have hope that having a real relationship still matter to people.
In "Black Mirror," a Twilight Zone style Netflix show, one episode revolves entirely around online dating. “Hang the DJ” features a society that uses an intelligent device called the "System" to match them with people who could potentially be, or lead them to, the perfect match. The System, however, also tells them the expiration date of the relationship. The System itself is supposed to find your perfect match, and the two characters yield to the device until their love for each other is too much.
The ending is the most interesting part of all. *spoiler ahead*
In the end, the characters flee the world they know to choose each other, despite what the System says, and as they make their escape, the viewer is shown that the characters were only one of many simulations of their true selves. The true characters are shown in a bar together and their phones show them that they are almost of perfect match.
I find this portrayal of online dating very fascinating. It shows a whole society that listens to a piece of technology over their own heart. While in 2019 we don’t have apps that guarantee they can find your perfect match, it is an interesting idea of what could happen to us if we rely on dating apps and technology too much. This could also be something that could come about if a business, like Tinder, wants to capitalize more off of people using their apps by guaranteeing them the perfect match.
(Above) "Hang the DJ" characters Amy and Frank check the System for the expiration date of their relationship.
Photo 1: https://www.amazon.com/Catfish-TV-Show-Season-5/dp/B01CH3OMZG