Bravo's new series, Online Dating Rituals of the American Male, grants us a compelling glimpse into that shadowy and elusive underbelly of the American populace: online daters. Finally, someone is brave enough to answer all of our myriad questions about the strange and baffling practice... and the results will shock you.
Ha ha; just kidding, they won't. As Emily Shire points out at The Daily Beast, this is a totally uninteresting thing to make a show about. 38 percent of single people who have used the Internet have tried online dating. This concept would have maybe been intriguing like ten years ago. Now, though, online dating is remarkable only in the sense that it's a remarkably dull topic to pontificate about at length.
In the premiere episode of this — the realest of reality TV programs — we're introduced to two bachelors. One, Marcus, is portrayed a great online dater who hopes to find his soul mate and settle down soon; the other, Alex, serves as his foil. The leitmotif of this episode is that Alex is a dick. But this searching look at online courtship ends up not revealing much about anything other than our own shitty cultural attitudes toward sexuality — Alex is a dick, but not because, as the episode implies, he wants to date several women at once (that's kind of what online dating is all about, right?). It's because he is a gross creep who gropes and harasses women: here's a clip of him slapping his date on the butt, and here's one of him playing a bongo with his crotch while haranguing a woman at the park as a toddler looks on.
But Marcus, too, is far from ideal: he's judgmental and prudish and quick to dismiss any woman who doesn't live up to his rather antiquated standards — standards that Bravo eagerly and gleefully holds up. As Shire notes, Marcus huffily walks out of one date with a woman whom Bravo "tries to cast as a slutty slob for a) enjoying food and b) mentioning she is on her period." On the same date, Marcus almost spits up all over himself with indignation when the woman says she doesn't believe in the institution of marriage. It is currently the year 2014, in case we've all forgotten.
It's very conceivable that a reality show could compellingly follow Modern Men as they search for love. However, there's nothing really secret about the habits of online daters — and implying that it's somehow news to women that sometimes men are only looking for casual sex is pretty retrograde (COOL SECRET: women, too, look for casual sex online). It's also gross to turn any woman who isn't the picture of delicacy and female modesty into a heavily-edited caricature, but I guess that's just what we've all come to expect from the Bravo network.