What’s wrong with dating a clone?

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I don’t believe in fate, but I do sometimes find that logic fails to explain circumstance. I recently had the experience of finding someone on a dating website who was theoretically a 99% match for me, but was unfortunately categorically unwilling to date me due to the arrangement of my molecules. She was though, somewhat ironically, a professional matchmaker and offered to set me up with someone else she thought I might like who, coincidentally, I already knew. I did briefly consider just saying ‘ok, byeee!’ and running away, but if you’re only willing to walk out of a situation with what you went in looking for, I think you’re likely to miss out on a lot of things. Also, it’s a great story.

We’re a 60% genetic match with bananas and 61% with fruit flies. Our DNA is about 99% the same as the person sitting next to us. We’re more alike than different from the world around us, but trying to find the right person to date still feels like needles in haystacks. Perhaps that’s part of why we never get tired of watching movies where people fall in love? It’s kind of amazing it ever happens at all. Not the least of that is how we get in our own way with our preconceptions. Imagine if we were limited to only ever having what we think we want or could personally conceive of…

Enter Game of Clones! It’s a surreal British dating show where the participants design their perfect date in detail using “avatar building technology” like something out of Weird Science, and then the show producers go forth into the world and track down eight people who meet those exact requirements. It gets weirder though, because they dress all eight of them up identically, tag them with numbers, and set them up in a room together to surprise the person who wished for them. One assumes from the looks on people’s faces when they walk into that room that they’re already starting to question whether they really knew what they were doing.

Next they have to live with all eight of the clones, who presumably are directed to stay in doppelganger state the whole time, and jump through a bunch of the usual ridiculous dating show hoops to decide which clone to reject each night. The least popular clones of the day end up in the Dumping Room, where we get the familiar drawn out elimination scene. All of this is made super bizarre by the fact that they look so much alike. If it truly was a clone dating show, it would go like this: after playing bubble soccer with Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian and Brian, Cordelia decided that she just didn’t connect quite as well with Brian and Brian. In an emotional scene, she decided that Brian would be the one to go home and Brian would ride the Love Mobile with her back to the house. Brian hugged it out with the other Brians before sadly packing his bag.

In a sense it’s the extreme logical extension of Tinder culture, and it definitely demonstrates a complete failure to learn from every girlfriend-cloning teen movie ever made. It’s pretty much an awful idea, and the way it was executed seems to play out in that direction, but it also had the possibility within it to be something else. The initial premise is that looks are really important, right down to selecting body shape and facial features. But once you have eight people who look close to identical, suddenly it’s not really about looks anymore, is it? Somehow the concept of the show manages to both elevate the importance of looks to insane new heights, and render it virtually irrelevant at the same time. Essentially you have 7 days to make a choice where really the only way you can differentiate who you like and who you don’t is based on how they behave and their personality.

It probably doesn’t help that it feels like trying to date in the Twilight Zone. It can’t possibly ever feel normal to talk to one of the Brians when you can always see another one out of the corner of your eye.  The whole experience must be deeply unsettling, but somehow it feels like anyone who would think it was a good idea to design their ideal match in that much shallow detail deserves to be made uncomfortable by getting it eight times over. If the rest of the show had been as strange and over the top as the premise it might actually have been kind of subversive and morbidly fascinating to watch, but unfortunately the originality stops at the concept and the general consensus seems to be that it’s just an extra confusing twist on your typical dating show.

Ultimately I think it makes it hard for the audience to develop a strong preference for one contestant over another as well. I mean, when you get to the end of episode 5 and Cordelia eliminates the last two Brians and finally chooses Brian, do we care? Are we like, “oh yeah, he was totally my favorite one!” or is it just a lackadaisical “woo, she picked a Brian”? I think I’d be more impressed that she managed to come out the other end without experiencing any kind of psychic break. Honestly, it might be enough to put someone off Brians permanently. Which brings me back to the dubious joys of getting exactly what we think we want.

There’s a very clever and entertaining episode of the kids show Pocoyo that I think illustrates the point really well. Pato the duck is very frustrated with his friends for not wanting to join him on the see saw so he clones himself, thinking that the ideal playmate would be someone who likes all of the same things that he does. At first this seems great, but Pato has two favorite tv channels and when he and his clone sit down to watch together, it all goes south really fast. I think it’s hilarious because it seems to me that no one in the world would have the power to drive us quite as nuts as ourselves. Hopefully no bright light in the future of cloning technology decides it would be a good idea to turn that into a dating show.

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alex MacFadyen sometimes imagines he is full of tiny alexes who sit around diner tables with red and white checkered table cloths and argue about how to proceed with his life over club sandwiches and cherry cokes.

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  1. (The the tune of “Home on the Range”)

    Oh give me a clone,
    Of my own flesh and bone,
    With its Y chromosome changed to X.
    For then, my own clone,
    My very own clone,
    Will be of the opposite sex.

    Clone, clone of my own!
    With its Y chromosome changed to X!
    And when we’re alone,
    Just me and my clone,
    We’ll think of nothing but sex…..

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