America is bursting with singles, and an increasing number of people are meeting potential partners through sites like Match.com and eHarmony. Did we always think “The One” was out there? In the documentary Single (which recently screened July 22 at Anthology Film Archives), Richard Atkinson and Jane Scandurra interview a smattering of real-life singles, experts, comedians and singer/songwriters to shed some light on the increasing years Americans spend out of wedlock. To the sounds of folksy indie artists, men and women of all ages reveal what they think of single life in urban America.
The documentary uses a limited definition of singledom, zeroing in on the changing shape of marriage in particular as opposed to romantic relationships in general, but opens a universally compelling and pressing dialogue about how our relationships are changing. I spoke with Atkinson and Scandurra about their new film to figure out what they really think about single folk.
Why is the trend of increasing singledom in America so significant, and why should we pay attention to it now?
Scandurra: There’s 100 million singles in the country right now, and that’s massive statistical jump. While we were in the midst of exploring the homeowner issue, the meter ticked over to the other side toward singles. Singles currently head the majority of households in the United States, and that’s never happened before.
Experts in the documentary share concerns that media and television have raised people’s expectations to unrealistic heights, leading many to chase after perfect relationships or partners. Given that there are so many singles urgently seeking partners, could we be giving the media too much credit?
Atkinson: I think we’re bombarded with more perfect looking people than ever through Hollywood and the media, further perpetuated by reality TV shows, and it has an impact. TV and the Internet has opened up the whole world and created a lot of options, so expectations rise. People give up more easily when a relationship hits some rocks, and look for the next thing.
Scandurra: Online dating sites and the role of technology may have made meeting people easier, but maintaining relationships is harder, because you have too many options. Previous generations were limited to geographic locations and social groups, but now the options are endless. You could think, “Oh, I don’t like the way he cuts his hair, or the way he looks. I could probably find someone better.” We’ve created a disposable economy of people in the dating world.
Some singles have described living in a couple’s world” and the subsequent alienation. Could the singles’ world be just as alienating to couples?
Atkinson: I think that these singles are referring to the fact that often, friends of single people will get married and just fall off the radar, involved marital life, children, schools and the like. I’ve been married for several years and Jane is single, so we’ve had a great mutual experience coming from different perspectives in many ways while exploring this phenomenon.
Scandurra: I think that singles look to couples and think the grass is greener and vice versa, but it’s also very fluid. People get divorced more easily and remarry, going in and out of the mix. The stigma is still there claiming that people should be married, and shedding light on the reasons might help bust the stigma and there’s something wrong with you if you’re not married by a certain point.
One of the social scientists interviewed jokes about the growing power of women and the eventual transformation of men into pets. Do you think there’s any truth in that?
Atkinson: (laughs) Do I think there’s any truth in it? I don’t know! It’s a joke, but it kind of makes everybody think, doesn’t it? That’s the point.
Single – the Documentary is available on DVD at www.indieflicks.com, or www.singlefilm.com.