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Over the past few months, not a day has passed without yet another reminder of how unsafe it is simply to exist in public with men, working and socializing, let alone seeking out sexual or romantic relationships.
Nearly every woman and non-binary person I know, married or single, straight or not, has reported a fundamentally negative shift in their relationships with men as a result of the events of this year, be it in pursuing new relationships or engaging with the ones they have.
Not that things were all that much better in 2016, or the year before that; Gamergate and the wave of campus assault reporting in recent years certainly didn’t get many women in the mood, either.
In fact, the past five or so years of dating men might best be described by involved parties as bleak. Among its six episodes, which hit Netflix on Friday, is “Hang the DJ,” a heartbreaking hour that explores the emotional and technological limits of dating apps, and in doing so perfectly captures the modern desperation of trusting algorithms to find us love—and, in fact, of dating in this era at all.(Spoiler alert: major spoilers for the episode “Hang the DJ” follow.)The story follows Frank (Joe Cole) and Amy (Georgina Campbell), millennials navigating an opaque, AI-powered dating program they call “the System.” With disc-like smart devices, or “Coaches,” the antiseptically calculating System leads participants through mandatory relationships of varying durations in an enclosed campus, assuaging doubts with the cool assurance that it’s all for love: every assignment helps provide its algorithm with enough meaningful data to eventually pair you, at 99.8% accuracy, with “your perfect match.”The System designs and facilitates every encounter, from pre-ordering meals to hailing autonomous shuttles that carry each couple to a tiny-house suite, where they must cohabit until their “expiry date,” a predetermined time at which the relationship will end.
It’s like I’m not really there.”But then, miraculously, Frank and Amy match again, and this time they agree not to check their expiry date, to savor their time together.
But as the credits rolled, even I was bewildered to find myself not just tearing up, but openly sobbing on my couch, in a manner I’d previously reserved only for .(Failure to comply with the System’s design, your Coach warns, will result in banishment.) Participants are encouraged to check a relationship’s expiry date together, but beyond remaining together until that time, are free to behave naturally—or as naturally as possible, given the suffocating circumstances.Frank and Amy’s chemistry on their first date is electric—awkward and sweet, it’s the kind of encounter one might hope for with a Tinder match—until they discover their relationship has a 12-hour shelf life.5 YEARS, the device reads, before loudly announcing he has “destabilized” the partnership and abruptly recalibrating, sending that duration plummeting, bottoming out at just a few hours.Amy is furious, both are bereft, but fear keeps them on course, off to another montage of hollow, depressing hookups; it isn’t until they’re offered a final goodbye before their “ultimate match” date that they finally decide they’d rather face banishment together than be apart again.