Did you choose to love the person you are with? Or is the love you have for them completely out of your control?
So I’ve recently finished watching ‘The One’ on Netflix. The show is centered around Rebecca, a scientist who founded a company called MatchDNA. MatchDNA pairs people with their ‘Soulmates’ based on their genetic tests with DNA samples they send in. The company boasts of having made over a million matches between people who have submitted in their DNA and is touted as the solution to all heartbreaks and heartaches, because each person is ‘guaranteed’ to find their ‘Match’ irresistible and fall in love with them immediately.
The show is an insight into a world where such technology exists and depicts the different effects this technology has had in that world – which, on screen, is pretty much just the UK.
MatchDNA markets their products by subtly implying (and at times overtly stating) a set of ideas in their advertising. The product is advertised as the solution to dating and relationship troubles associated with online dating apps and conventional relationships respectively. The company marketing implies that the dating scene is a mess because men and women are meeting and dating people who they aren’t compatible with (which is true for a lot of people), but then presents the idea that the only reason why dating and relationship troubles exist is because people aren’t connecting with their individual ‘soulmates’. There is this idea that once people meet their soulmates, there will be an eradication of all love-related heartbreak and headaches. There will be no work to be done or hardships to overcome in such relationships at all, because the couples will be perfectly matched. MatchDNA’s marketing incorrectly implies that that if you do any kind of work in a relationship, then your partner cannot be your soulmate, and what the two of you share cannot be ‘true love’. They imply that the only thing needed in a relationship is love (defined by the company as a biochemical match), and that happy, successful relationships are built solely on this odd definition of love.
The main idea that is not overtly stated in the branding but is arguably the foundation on which the product is marketed, is that an attraction based on their biochemical matching is the same as love, pushing the idea that anything else cannot really be love. This method of using grandiose implicit and explicit claims to sell products is something we see often in real life too and is basically advertising 101.
Another thing to note is that the company’s definition of love being based on a biochemical attraction, is itself based on a genetic theory tested on ants. As an Engineer with some understanding and experience of/in various STEM fields, I am weary of this. Just because a hypothesis is proven true when tested in ants, doesn’t immediately mean that the same will apply to humans. The biochemistry of humans includes systems that aren’t present in ants and is more complex. It is the reason why when we run clinical trials for biochemical technologies (like vaccines and medicines) to be used in humans, the initial trials have historically used rats, mice and primates as the test subjects because their biochemistry is comparable to that of humans. This is a practice the scientists on the show did not appear to do or even consider, and their research findings did not seem to be peer reviewed by external scientific teams either. Hmm.
Even though some (like myself) may question the efficacy of this technology, most of the characters we meet on the show do not seem to have the same mindset on the matter. From what we can see, majority of the show’s characters have bought into the marketing of this product, and its affecting all of them in different ways. We see people get matched because they have bought into the idea that love is not love without a genetic match. We see (and hear of) people who have been married for years send off their DNA to get matched to find their soulmate, either out of dissatisfaction with their current relationship, or out of simple curiosity, only to leave their marriage when they see they had good-looking options elsewhere. We even see Hannah, a character on the show, get her husband Mark, ‘matched’, hoping to use information about her husband’s genetic match to make herself more appealing to him. In any case, the divorce rate in the world in which this show is set is at an all-time high because of the change in people’s attitudes to love and relationships overall. In this, MatchDNA has manipulated the reality of the world on the show.
Even though the corporation at the centre of the show brands ‘love’ in the ways discussed, the show itself seems to argue against these ideas. Contrary to MatchDNA’s marketing, the show seems to argue against the idea of ‘love at first sight’ instead arguing that love is a choice that each person makes. We see this in Mateus’ demonstration of love for his younger brother Fabio, in his choice not to relocate to England with his match Rebecca, because it would leave Fabio behind with nobody. He chose his brother. We see the same when Rebecca kills Fabio believing he posed a threat to her company and reputation, despite knowing how it would hurt Mateus. She chose her company. We also see the same in Mark’s choice to stay with his wife Hannah, despite Hannah submitting his DNA to get him matched against his wishes – an action she took out of insecurity. Mark chose his wife. The shakiness of Mark’s decision to stay with Hannah I would argue is based on his attraction to Megan, and not his love for her, because from what I see in the show, he cannot possibly know Megan well enough *yet* to claim to love or be in love with her.
In all that happened it seemed as though Mateus only became more willing to go along with Rebecca’s priorities after he found out that she was his ‘Match’, I would argue this happened because he believed she was his match. Not because he ‘loved’ her more in later episodes than the earlier ones. From this, it is demonstrated that at least sometimes, the technology only works when you believe it does, like a placebo. This is further suggested when it is revealed to the viewers that it is actually possible for a person to have more than one match but that this information is hidden from the public by MatchDNA because of the negative effect knowledge of this would have on the marketability of their service. In the words of Rebecca, the founder and CEO, “it loses its magic.” if this information becomes available to the public.
The people in the show seem to be willing to do anything once they believe they have found their match, because they believe their match is ‘the one’ and perhaps more critically, they believe there can only ever be the one. They then will anything to make it work; relocate halfway around the world, step out of their marriages, or even condone criminal activity.
In my opinion, ‘love’ as described by MatchDNA is not love at all, but simply a physical attraction to someone based on biochemistry. There is choice in love and that choice is part of the beauty of love, in my opinion. When we meet people, we choose whether or not we want to interact with them based on whether or not we find them attractive and the first impression we get. We choose whether to date and we choose whether to enter into relationships. When in a happy and committed relationship, it can feel so natural that you can forget that it began with a series of decisions you and your partner made to be together and cultivate the relationship that you wanted to have with each other.
Real love is more complex than what the idea of ‘love at first sight’ or that of having ‘one soulmate’ would suggest. I believe these ideas are oversimplifications of love and relationships designed to stroke egos. It’s designed to tell you not to worry if someone can’t love your flaws, because there is someone out there who will love those flaws and that person is your soulmate. Name any human character flaw – stubbornness, inattentiveness, emotional insecurity – whatever it is, it is not going to be your favorite thing about your partner. But I would argue that when you love someone, you do not love them with their flaws, you love them despite their flaws. Even though it may not be a lot, love involves work that you choose to do because of the value you place in your partner and your relationship with them. The grass is greenest wherever you water it.
But I guess love looks different to different people, so feel free to share your own opinions of this and the show 😊
Oh did I forget the spoiler alert? My bad… teehee