An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Review of The Dating Project

Review by Elizabeth Plaza, Office Assistant

Dr. Kerry Cronin is known by the students at Boston College as “the dating professor”. How did she earn this unique title? Each semester Dr. Cronin assigns the students of her class a task that is becoming increasingly challenging – she requires that they ask out and take somebody on a date. After a discussion with some of her students, Dr. Cronin realized that dating culture was disappearing amongst young adults. She saw that traditional dating was being replaced by hookup culture on college campuses across the country. To combat this trend, Cronin began requiring the students in her class to go on a date. By assigning the “dating project,” Dr. Cronin hoped her students would “experience the courage of stepping outside of the dominant social script of the hookup culture”.

The first few times that Dr. Cronin assigned this project, she had very few guidelines. After receiving feedback from her students and seeing that they needed some guidance, Cronin created some criteria for a date to satisfy the requirements of the project. First, the student must ask out someone on a date in person. They cannot hide behind their screens – a trap which so many young people fall into. Additionally, both parties must know that it is a date. This may seem like an obvious parameter; however, in the world of “hooking up” many people do not know the intent of the other person with whom they are engaging in physical acts. Dr. Cronin also stipulates that if “you ask, you pay”. This is not too much of a financial burden, however, because she also tells students that a level one date (where two people spend time just getting to know one other) should cost no more than $10. She states that the date should only last between 60 and 90 minutes. Also, the students are told that they should refrain from all physical contact, except for “a-frame hugging”. The last rule laid out by Dr. Cronin is that there can be no drugs or alcohol involved in the date – something that she admits can be hard for college students.

The Dating Project, produced by Steve McEveety (producer of Passion of Christ), follows two freshmen in Dr. Cronin’s class, Matt and Shanzi, as they complete this assignment. The film opens with a montage of young people struggling to define dating. As suggested by Dr. Cronin, it seems like the knowledge of this practice has gotten lost in translation as it was handed down from generation to generation. Young people need a refresher of what they are worthy of and what dating is supposed to be. The film also traces the romantic lives of three other single people, two women and one man, ages 25-40. From navigating dating apps to living out one’s faith in a relationship, The Dating Project invites viewers along as the men and women tackle the challenges of dating in the modern world

The film is an uplifting reminder that it is okay, and sometimes necessary, to step outside of the dominant culture. Dr. Cronin’s gentle yet sage wisdom scaffolds the film and guides the narrative as the stories of the 3 single adults unfold. The reassuring “where are they now” end to the documentary-style film provides a glimmer of hope and a testimony for authentic love. Cecilia, a 25-year-old woman who had not found success on Tinder, shares that she is now happily engaged after thinking she would never find love. Rasheeda, a TV producer and church volunteer in her 30’s who had claimed to be too busy for love, started dating a man from her parish. Christopher, an actor in his 40’s who had struggled to maintain long-term relationships, discussed how he needed to make some changes in how he approached dating before he could be successful. The Dating Project is a film filled with inspiring examples of young people going against the grain of the less-than-productive modern model of dating. It offers many take-aways for a wide audience and advice that every young person deserves to hear.

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