YOUTH: Wise Dating Is No Game


This article originally appeared in Issue# 40-41

Dating can be an exciting beginning to getting to know someone — but you'd never know it from The All New Dating Game. Although promising the latest ways to entice the opposite sex, the show instead teaches teens to base date selection on the most sexually exploitative answers to the most sexually exploitative questions.

Because participants select dates from three unseen candidates, word images instead of physical attraction are the basis for the decision (although appearance certainly plays a role when prospects are chosen initially). Suggestive dialogue and snappy answers are emphasized, and the viewer is given the impression that images of lust, instant gratification, few (or no) commitments and physical manipulation are requirements for 'new dating."

Ironically, in many cities the show is immediately followed by The Newlywed Game, another show whose impact depends on the same kind of titillation. It tends to confirm that the process used to select dates in the preceding show created the problematic relationships it portrays.

Teens can be provided with better dating role models. Your groups can help set the record straight on what new dating can be. Stage your own All New Dating Game, You might even bring in a video camera and recorder to approximate the show that many young people see daily.

Go through the sequence of selection a couple of times as they do on the show. If necessary, an intermediary can be used to convey answers so that they don't give away candidates' identities. Discuss the questions, the answers and what they revealed. You might want to record and play back a segment from the program to add to the discussion. Be sure to discuss the contrast between the show and reality:

How do questions compare with regular conversation and other methods of dating selection? What's the best way to distinguish hype from truth? In your mock show, who felt good about how he or she was presented? Why?

A blackboard or chart can be useful in comparing the values demonstrated by TV contestants with the thoughts and feelings of your real-life participants. Chances are, your game playing will stimulate some serious thinking about the qualities that make for a good date a good relationship and a good spouse. And your group members will never look at that show in the same way again.

Author Bio: 

Bill Wolfe, longtime director of senior-high educational ministries for the United Methodist Church, is now a producer for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, TN.