I don’t usually write about factual TV here, but First Cut: The Rules of Seduction on Channel 4 last Friday was of particular interest to me because it was the latest mainstream ‘expose’ of the previously secret world of seduction, a world I discovered eight years ago when I was working for a prodco and researching a TV show about sex.
Here was an online community of men who had discovered a whole new solution to the perennial problem of male-female relations and in particular, the science of seducing women.
I was fascinated (what single man wouldn’t be?) and delved deeper and started to study it. I wrote about it for magazines like Arena, and I’ve just finished a pilot for a drama series, Players, that explores their world through three guys and a girl (there are female players, by the way) who practise the art of pick up. It’s sort of Hustle for Don Juans, Cold Feet for Casanovas, This Lifefor Lotharios.
This seduction underground went overground a couple of years ago with the publication of Neil Strauss’s brilliant book, The Game, and a rash of TV shows and films have followed: Keys to the VIP, The Pick-Up Artist, The Tao of Steve, Roger Dodger, Hitch, but no one has yet made a TV drama about it (which is where I come in).
The fact that so many shows now have no problem with the completely normal activity of guys trying to pick up girls makes this First Cut documentary all the more ridiculous, because it employs cack-handed shock tactics to make us feel it’s all so disturbing (whooooo, spooky music while they’re chatting up girls in the street – they must be EVIL!).
I’ve seen exactly the same stuff in shows like Would Like to Meet, where it’s all cosy and nice and fun (maybe because they have nice, cosy, fun music under it). The thing is, using music like this to control the viewer’s response should have no place in a documentary, but it’s increasingly prevalent and a sign of how much standards in documentary filmmaking have plummeted in recent years.
What this programme did get across, though, was how addictive the ‘community’ can be (something already covered with much more insight in The Game).
Darren is a Russell-Brand-a-like who’s dropped out of everything but going out every night despite only having a tenner to his name (now there’s a skill I’d seriously like to learn). For him it’s simple: ‘You learn how attraction works, how girls get attracted to a guy, and you start developing those traits; you start becoming that attractive guy.’ To prove it he picks up a random girl in the street at night and walks off with her.
But documentary evidence like that isn’t enough for aspiring filmmaker John Farrar, who can never seem to let go of his prejudices whatever it is his camera films.
At the end, despite having witnessed the undeniable effectiveness of the techniques, he ends his documentary with the assertion that he still wouldn’t like any of these guys to go out with his sister.
Is that so? Did it not occur to you, as an aspiring documentary filmmaker (i.e. someone who documents reality) that it might be a useful exercise to perhaps askyour sister what she thought of these men? You might even have filmed it so we could hear it for ourselves. Or (and excuse me for coming at you from way out of left field here) how about filming your sister meeting some of these guys and seeing what effect they had on her? Wouldn’t that have been more interesting than you telling us what you think she would and wouldn’t enjoy?
But it seems that when it comes to women, the game-haters refuse to accept that they can think and feel for themselves.
Stephanie Merritt in the Observer wheeled out the usual tired old mock outrage: ‘It would be impossible to overemphasise how revolting this programme is.’ But her real anger was aimed not so much at the ‘nasty’ men who practise seduction (and there really is no evidence at all in the programme of any nastiness, Darren even stresses that he refuses to lie to girls, unlike most men, and spends his last tenner on flowers for them) but to the women who are stupid enough to fall for these men. How could they let the side down so much?
What the haters fail to take into account are that the techniques these men practise are based on scientific studies of what the female of the species is uncontrollably attracted to (it’s a fairly complex set of triggers but being a New Man is pretty much not in there). Is it any different to women showing off their legs and cleavage because they know that’s what triggers male desire?
The answer to that question is ‘no’, just in case you were hesitating. Pick up a copy of Cosmopolitan and you will find more tips and techniques for seducing the opposite sex than you’ll ever find on any PUA chat room. Female seduction is taught at a very early age and with society’s complete approval. Male seduction is a science in its infancy by comparison.
But we’re getting there.
PS. In a telling follow-up to the programme and its portrayal of nasty old Adam and his horrid manipulation of the lovely Amanda, here’s a video that Adam put on YouTube for her:
Soft bastard ;-)