by Shaker Katebears
MTV has a new reality prank show called Disaster Date. From their website: "Disaster Date is MTV's hilarious new hidden camera dating show that puts unsuspecting singles on the worst blind date of their lives. And it all comes courtesy of a best friend looking for payback." So the "unsuspecting single" friend gets set up with an actor, and that actor will usually personify the person's biggest pet peeves. For example, the actor will talk way too loud or smoke at the non-smoking table or send his or her food back multiple times. The unknowing dater gets a dollar for every minute he or she lasts. After 60 minutes, the date is over and the ruse is revealed.
The dates are usually unpleasant but not dangerous. They are annoying and maybe even embarrassing but never scary... Or so I thought.
The recent episode shown on March 29 featured as the unknowing dater a woman roughly in her 20s, whose pet peeves were controlling men and people who insulted her fashion sense. At first, it followed the established pattern of obnoxious but not sinister—her date made fun of her hair-vest and made a big embarrassing fuss when her food tasted gross.
Then, it took a turn for the worse. He started talking about her facebook profile, telling her that he had visited it several times. She seemed weirded out by this but continued with the date, uncomfortably giggling and smiling. He then pulled out a collage he had made of pictures he'd found on her facebook profile. He'd left a space in the middle for her to include a picture of the two of them, and he asked the woman sitting at the next table to take a picture. The unknowing dater continued to look uncomfortable.
Then he mentioned coming over to her house and visiting. That made her more uncomfortable. Then, he said that he had already been in her house and took a lipgloss out of his pocket which she confirmed was hers. He explained that he had taken it so he would have something of hers. To this girl's knowledge, he had never been in her home. Finally, this was the breaking point and she got up from the date to get the hell out. Like many prank shows, this is where it is revealed to the victim that it was all a joke.
Hilarious, MTV! Really, really funny. And by funny, of course, I mean horrifying. This disaster date was not the same kind that they usually feature on the show. The jokes usually just rely on making the dater feel annoyed and embarrassed. This young woman, however, probably felt fear, terror, and extreme anxiety at the notion that her date was a stalker and an intruder and likely dangerous. Her fleeing from the date wasn't out of annoyance, but was of self-preservation and fear.
And here it is again: the rape culture. Rape culture is the belief that unwanted and frightening male attention is just an annoyance and similar to other "disaster" dates.
I am sure that all of the women who are raped on dates and by dates don't consider those to just be "disasters" in the way that MTV is defining the word. I am sure that all the victims of stalking in real life don't think of it as merely an unpleasant blind date. I am sure that those dates are life-altering and terrifying and terrible.
Those dates aren't fiction, either, MTV. Those dates are not exaggerations of bad dates like many of the other scenarios are. People really do go on dates with stalkers who terrorize and abuse their "dates". Not so funny, really, when it is the truth.
Rape culture is when violence against women is made to be a joke and prank and something that could casually be dismissed as a "disaster date".
Contact Viacom, owner of MTV, here.