ITV’s New Dating Show Ready To Mingle Revolves Around Cheating & Lies

Courtesy of ITV.
As summer comes to a close and the nights draw in, you might find yourself looking for a new reality TV obsession to fill the Love Island-sized gap in your life. Enter ITV’s Ready To Mingle – and there is a lot to unpack in an unconventional dating show that revolves around lies, encourages cheating and proves that the bar is literally on the floor for men in 2021.
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Ready To Mingle may sound like a tacky hour-long shagathon underscored by house music and b-roll of luscious beaches, but it is actually a mind game-packed escape to Devon, where one lucky girl is presented with 12 boys and told to, over three weeks, pick one.
But there’s a catch. Half of the boys are actually secretly in relationships, and Sophia – the beautiful lady aiming to find love in this West Country villa – along with uber pregnant and extra randy host/comedian Katherine Ryan, must discover which of the boys are truly single and looking for a genuine connection, to win £50k with her. 
But, who actually has a partner on the outside? If she shacks up with a taken man, he and his partner take home the cash, but if she couples up with someone available, the cash is theirs, together.

It is lying with a cash prize, and even the boys who are telling the truth behave problematically enough that you don’t know whether you dislike the single or taken blokes more.  

It’s like The Circle meets Love Island and has a slightly more diverse group of participants than the latter, so at least some producers are listening. It is the perfect show to sit back and watch, being grateful for the fact you are in no way involved. 
When you boil it down to what this show is about, it is deceit – something you probably don’t want to be a key foundation of a relationship. Worse than that, it is lying with a cash prize, and even the boys who are telling the truth behave problematically enough that you don’t know whether you dislike the single or taken blokes more.  
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Courtesy of ITV.
Ready To Mingle house
On the show, the partners of contestants must watch from another house, literally just a stone’s throw up the road, as their significant others do everything they can to woo Sophia and convince her they are not only single, but also a great romantic prospect.
From lap dances, to stripteases, kisses and cuddles, the line is pretty hazy on what you class as cheating and how that affects each individual and their relationship. 
The show ultimately encourages cheating, to try and convince Sophia that they are single, with a kiss being the main weapon for deception. 
Whether or not you believe a kiss constitutes cheating, or a flirty text equals an unfaithful partner, when one of the taken contestants on the show, Rudy, kisses Sophia to ‘prove’ he is single, his partner cries, and expresses that she feels hurt by this action. But, in the next breath tells him she is ‘proud’ of him for doing it.
While we would all like £50k as much as the next person, is this kind of lying, cheating and questionable decision-making that could ruin your relationship really worth it?
“Often people don’t appreciate what they have and when carrots dangle they follow them,” says dating expert and therapist Rebecca Lockwood about the dangers of encouraging any kind of cheating, or behaviour you may be unhappy with. “It’s only until the thing they had is gone that they realise it was a mistake. By then it’s too late and the damage is done.” 
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A common portrayal of men in the media can condition us to believe that men are less likely to be monogamous, that they enjoy being single, and "playing the field", whereas women are viewed as the moral repository of the couple or family system.

Dr Kathleen Hertlein, therapist
But the truth is, the men’s behaviour could actually be fulfilling an age-old stereotype. “A common portrayal of men in the media can condition us to believe that men are less likely to be monogamous, that they enjoy being single, and 'playing the field', whereas women are viewed as the moral repository of the couple or family system,” explains Dr Kathleen Hertlein, lead therapist at digital sex therapy platform, Blueheart.
However, the balance of control is tilted far more in favour of Sophia. Like Bumble users, she gets to call the shots, eliminate men, make the calls that will influence the show and get them to work hard to win her approval. 
This puts the men in the show in a position to work as hard as they can to impress and seduce her because she is their ticket to cash. You’d think in this case, they would work hard to get to know her emotionally, understand what she wants and learn what makes her tick. But, instead the show promotes the use of hyper-masculine social norms to woo her as though she is a damsel in distress, not a bombshell in a Boohoo dress, and some of the men do the absolute bare minimum to win her affections, like taking her tea or breakfast to make themselves look good. 
Courtesy of ITV.
Ready To Mingle house
With men bench-pressing Sophia, flexing their muscles, even building her a shoe rack to show off their masculine prowess, it seems gender norms are alive and well in 21st century dating. But is this real life? If we cannot distinguish whether it is real or not, how can the contestants?
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“This may be a reflection or an exaggeration of systemic patriarchy and constructed stereotypes of what a ‘typical man’ is,” agrees Dr Kathleen Hertlein. And this kind of entertainment has a genuine effect on real-life relationships, promoting damaging behaviour and toxic masculinity that could skew the perspectives of people watching the show.
“This is where the lines between ‘entertainment’ and ‘real life’ become blurred. For those who are not savvy to the impact of media in our lives, it may reinforce strict gender role stereotypes and could lead to toxic behaviour amongst individuals,” Dr Hertlein elaborates. “If a TV show is setting the bar that low for men - even if it’s for ‘entertainment’ – then viewers may think that it’s okay to replicate that behaviour in the real world.”
When so many questions are being asked about how ethical reality shows are, you have to ask how moral a show like this is, pitting men against one another in the name of cash, hurting their real relationships and potentially damaging viewers' perspectives of normal behaviour along the way.
This show is smart, challenging and frustratingly enjoyable, but, where will we draw the line when it comes to toxicity and dating shows?
Ready to Mingle airs on ITV2 and ITV Hub.

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