The Dutch are currently upset by a proposed new dating reality show which matches up visibly disfigured adults.
Although I generally dislike reality shows – mainly because they tend to pick idiots I wouldn’t want to spend ten minutes with in real life, thereby making me that much less likely to want to welcome them into my living room via television – and though I understand that people feel this exploits people with handicaps, I am kind of intrigued by the idea of a show which features disfigured adults. Why not encourage minorities we usually isolate and consign to loneliness to step into the light and be part of the larger pop culture?
It doesn’t sound as if the producers are doing this as a post-modern freak show, where participants are put on stage so audiences can laugh or jeer or gasp in horror. If that was the point, then yeah, I’d be all for stopping this before it airs. But this could be a useful lesson in diversity. We usually only see the beautiful few on dating shows – sending the message that only the beautiful are desirable and loveable.
It’s fine to worship beauty, as long as you don’t confuse a phenomenon with a norm. People who don’t look the way we expect people to look are socially ostracized, forced into a closet. More than that, people look at the visibly disfigured with a primitive type of suspicion, as if there’s something spiritually or morally wrong with them. Seems to me the ones who are protesting this the most may well be the people who should be forced to watch this show. Maybe if they got to hear the stories from, and develop some emotional rapport with, disfigured people they would otherwise avoid or stare right past on the street, they might discover for themselves that the way you look does not define who you are or what aspirations you should possess.
I think we should encourage everyone to come out of hiding and the only way to do that is to take bold new steps to encourage them to do so. If it upsets people to see those who don’t fit the norm, you know what? Good. Let them be upset and then let them get over it. Let them see that people with physical challenges or disabilities are just as real, just as human, just as deserving of love and romance as anyone else. Let them get used to the idea that physical beauty is not a moral value, just a lucky throw of the genetic dice. Besides, as anyone who has a friend or relative with visible handicaps knows, the better you get to know them the less you notice the handicap.
We give a lot of lip-service to the saying “beauty comes from within.” The time’s long overdue to put that saying into action.