From the television network that brought us Catfish, the latest scare tactic of MTV’S with regard to online dating is ‘Eye candy’. Whereas as the former is a reality based documentary series focusing on the psychological and emotional aspects of online love, the latter is a loose adaption of the book by R.L Stine, taking a more macabre, but no less real, approach to the subject.
Following 21-year-old hacker and tech extraordinaire Lindy Sampson (Victoria Justice), the series is initially premised on the abduction of Sampson’s younger sister, an incident that occurred three years prior to the present day. Though this continues to be an underlying theme throughout the show, the focus soon becomes the dating life of the protagonist when her roommate Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) creates a profile for her on the dating app ‘Flirtual’. “A slot machine of men in her hands”, Lindy hits the jackpot on her first spin, coming away with three potential suitors. As luck would have it, she is victim to a faulty machine and receives the payoff of a cyber-stalking serial killer. Bitten by the gambling bug, she raises the stakes and bets her life, deciding to date all three men in order to find out which one is the killer. And thus the games begin.
But not the games you expect. What should have been a heated game of poker was in fact a darkened version of Go Fish; so instead of Clown fish or Blue Tang (yes, I’m referencing Nemo and Dory), it was piranhas and eels. This was the only alteration to the much-loved classic, as the simplicity of the show was perfectly in keeping with the ease of the game. Did that sound like a compliment? It wasn’t. An uninspired script combined with monotonous acting make for a very uninterested viewer. If not for George’s humour (Harvey Guillen), Detective Tommy Callaghan’s dashing good looks (Casey Deidrick) and a brutal portrayal of the danger of the internet, my patience would have dwindled to non-existence very quickly. To the latter, I give the greatest credit. The storyline lent itself to three different perspectives concerning the manipulation of online information, and each was handled in a, dare I say it, intriguing way. The first perspective, commonly known but given little thought, was that of a hacker’s. From logging in illegally to the NYPD’s missing people’s database, to manipulating the machinery in a hospital, the viewership was made aware of the ease with which someone can penetrate even the most meticulously formed security system. The second perspective was that of the Cyber Crimes Unit, an organisation formed to lead and assist in investigations where criminal activity is conducted on or facilitated by the use of technological devices. Using our social footprint, this division can piece together our life and develop an eerily thorough knowledge of us. The final and most disturbing perspective is the psychopath’s. The show kindly reminds us in its first few minutes that “The internet is God’s gift to psychopaths”, and during the season reiterates the fact that God spared no expense. Lindy’s stalker awakens us to both the prowess of cyber stalkers and to a troubling reality faced by modern day society; in the hands of a predator, technology is a weapon, and humanity in its entirety falls prey to victimisation.
This particular predator has a taste for “the freshest, the juiciest, the most tender, USDA prime, Grade A, low fat, ultra-lean” – in other words, perfection. And through his obsession the issue of lying online is addressed. In his hunt for “the one”, he mercilessly discards of women with the slightest flaws, infuriated by the disparity, or so it seems to him, between their online profile and reality. His murders are illustrative of his desire as he ‘corrects’ the person’s imperfection, before exacting his warped notion of comeuppance. And here is where the appeal of Eye Candy arises; masked in a plot that is sure to entertain the intended audience is a series of warnings. On the internet, a white lie is a shade of grey, and our naivety with respect to online behaviour is putting our lives at risk. Without so much as a second thought we upload pictures, broadcast our locations, and disclose what should be personal information. From Sophia’s good intentions, something dangerous was bred, and the same could just as easily happen to us.
Whether the typical MTV viewership took heed of the show’s message, I cannot say. In all likelihood no, but any attempt to alter the relationship between youth and social media will most likely prove fruitless. Though I would like to say all is not loss, it is, as the development of a dedicated fan base was not enough to secure a renewal of a second season. This decision would have come as a shock to the cast and crew, as the finale ended on a cliff hanger which opened up a whole new storyline. Whether this storyline could have redeemed the show is a matter of opinion. While it is nice to think so, the sad truth is that the probable continuation of the poor acting and script would have made it just as tedious as the first season. I would recommend Eye Candy only to those who have time to spare and possess no interest in becoming involved in a long series. But to those of you who, like me, become emotionally invested in your choice of television, it is not worth opening up your heart to this show.