Falling out with Take Me Out

Out of all the days in a week, Sunday morning holds the greatest potential for one to sink into those weekly rituals that bring unexplained comfort, and enjoy the conclusion of another week. Perhaps it’s a leafy walk fuelled by the thought of a bacon sandwich at the finish line. Maybe it’s a Sunday newspaper read between bites of an unhealthier variant of the week’s breakfasts.

For the past few Sunday mornings I’ve bestowed the privilege of the top slot to Take Me Out. Or at least, the first five minutes of it, after which my brain thinks ‘hey, I’ve seen these idiots in this exact scenario with these very same teeth-clenchingly bad chat-up lines before.’

It inevitably stays on in the background while I flit between reading in an attempt to fill the self-imposed numb void in my brain, and making unattractive snorting noises to complement Paddy McGuiness’ exasperations over a female contestant’s pointless metaphor about their potential suitor being a ‘puppy’, when she wants a ‘dog’. I always thought, as a sex, we preferred puppies, but whatever.

The women, however, are relatively harmless compared to the format of the show. For those who have better things to do on Saturday nights, this consists of a row of women who turn off their lights if they don’t like the man in question. At the end of the show, the remaining women are subject to the contestant running up and down, looking at them, and if they deem the woman to be unattractive, turning off their light with an accompanying loud noise.

Why am I complaining about this after 3,000 previous series of the same format? I think because I expected it to have changed by now, or been complained about more. I thought it couldn’t be that bad if no one else seemed to have a problem with it. I blame the Bystander Effect.

But every weekend, the same scene unravels. A man runs past a row of women and extinguishes the hopeful lights in front of the ones he deems not good enough based on a quick judgement of their face.

I see articles all the time about everyday sexism, sexism in the workplace, on panel shows, in the world of publishing. And then there are the articles on why women should age gracefully, and isn’t it a shame that recent statistics say that we accounted for 90% of cosmetic surgery last year?

The people who are allowed to decide what entertains us through the television have too much power, and they are decelerating societal improvements. Channel 5’s The Big Benefits Row was completely overshadowed by Katie Hopkins, who was plonked there to keep our tiny minds ‘entertained’.

Many of our improvements in equality could be completely undone by a child watching Take Me Out and assuming the sort of behaviour displayed is acceptable. In the real world it isn’t okay for a man to publicly disregard a women solely based on her appearance. Nor should it affect us if he does. Women shouldn’t be compared to the appearance of other women, pitted against each other for a man’s affections and be publicly rejected (minus the lights and sound effects).

But the women get to turn off their lights if they don’t like the man, too, I hear you say. This is true. Except the absolute absurd and ridiculous reasons they conjure up for not liking a contestant – from a dislike in his socks to his reminding them of a family member/former lover – proves that even if they think it, they very rarely admit to their rejection being based upon a dislike of an inherent physical feature.

There’s little doubt the women on Take Me Out aren’t briefed beforehand not to take these things personally. But if I get a little offended watching a man look at a women and think ‘nah’ because of the size of her nose or hairstyle, then I can’t help but think it must get to them, too. 


  1. Great post! I completely agree with everything you've said. I've only watched the show a handful of times but I just could never get over the format of it which, like you said, seems to be solely based on a quick decision over someone's appearance!


  2. I agree with your broad thrust. But I don't think the problem is gender-specific. It certainly was a generation ago; but things are evening out. Our obsession with looks is now, I would argue, gender-blind.

    The shallowness of Take Me Out, for example, cuts both ways. The guy only gets to say "Hi" before the girls get the first opportunity to turn their lights out - at least he's been able to see them in action for a few minutes (smiling, moving, sometimes talking) before he makes his choice.

    Male TV presenters and pop stars are now just as likely to be "fit" (and correspondingly bland and talentless) as their female counterparts. Football players are now valued as much for their looks as their skills; there's a similar gulf between David Beckham's and Wayne Rooney's earnings as there was between those of Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis.

    Why? Market forces. Look at Twitter. Just having an attractive avi (especially a female one) will guarantee you 10 times more followers, and favourites, and retweets, than a funny or candid or abstract one. Since the advent of photography, the more attractive candidate has won just about every election in history. Even those of us who are aware of the dangers of the halo effect are slaves to the halo effect.

    It seems gender equality, at least in this area, means the worst of both worlds for all.

    1. Oh. And TINDER? Don't fricking get me started on what is essentially Take Me Out on your phone.

    2. I see what you mean. Could you imagine if it was the other way round, and it was a row of men with lights and one female contestant? There's absolutely no way that would ever happen. Oh, and is it bad that I didn't even know what Tinder was? I'm old before my time!

  3. Hey! I'm British but I live in Frankfurt, Germany. I'm completely out of the loop when it comes to British media and so on, so when I was home last summer and saw this show for the first time I was really shocked that something like that existed. I commented with mouth words to my family that it was stupid and sexist and reminded me of 50's dances where women would stand on the walls waiting for them men to pick them. I was told that life is too short to waste worrying about this kind of thing...
    I'm so glad there are other people out there who think as I do.

    1. Haha that's very much what it's like! You're very lucky you don't have this show in Germany, it definitely brings our country down a few notches on the culture scale!

  4. I agree, it's one of those TV shows that's exactly the same every week - so it's great for a season but then you start to realise how awful it is! I haven't been able to watch any of this series x