Say what you will about the characters of EastEnders but you can’t deny these people get around.
Ian Beale and Phil Mitchell have had nine wives between them, and that’s if you don’t count Stella, who threw herself off a roof on the day she was meant to tie the knot with Phil. Sharon Watts has married both, and counts Phil’s brother Grant among her exes.
I could go on, but what I’m trying to say is that these characters are bastions of romantic efficiency, and if anyone can help me strike up a conversation on a dating app, it’s them.
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So I logged onto several dating apps and assumed a different character for each match. The rules were simple, I was only allowed to communicate using iconic lines they had spoken in the show. Here we go.
Just as Ian Beale was there at the start of EastEnders, so too is he here at the start of this journey. I decided to go bold with his advice to Minty about weddings, featuring a wife count that is now ever so slightly outdated.
Thankfully my first match played along, so I followed up with arguably Ian’s most iconic moment in the show thus far, in the hopes that this man would be my Phil Mitchell – to my surprise he was pretty nice about it.
He’s right, you know. Ian does get a pretty raw deal most of the time. Case in point, the line about feeling sick is spoken when Phil tries to drown him in the loo.
Effectiveness: 6/10 not sure where to go from here. Ian’s melancholy shctick isn’t really conducive to romance, despite his track record.
Phil is a man of very few words and is more well known for that one monosyllabic grunt he’s always doing. But people love a bad boy and Phil is very much a Bad Boy™ – how would he fare?
I kicked off with Phil’s classic battle cry and needless to say the recipient of this bit of chat responded very positively indeed – a little too positively imo.
Beyond that I really had to bend Phil’s catalogue of lines to my will, but my match honestly did not seem to care and immediately offered his Snapchat so I guess Phil really is the king of the square.
In the end I scarpered once I realised my match was a man of the law, which Phil absolutely would not vibe with.
Effectiveness: 7/10 I am suspicious of anyone who would be into this.
Ben is literally man of many faces and moods, having been played by more people than a Nintendo Switch in one of those rooftop terrace adverts. But to assume Ben’s persona I simply had to go in with his most immortal line.
In honour of Albert Square’s most chaotic gay, I ventured into Grindr for this one, and my audience was as gutter-brained as you’d expect.
A subsequent effort allowed me to roll out some of Ben’s more recent one-liners and they were fittingly effective.
This one actually nearly sussed me out once I dropped the M-bomb, so I gave him the satisfaction of pulling back the curtain.
Effectiveness: 4/10 clearly didn’t fool this guy.
Zoe has a tough time in life when it comes to her family tree, as she knows it is basically sawn off at the roots and replanted upside down, so to reflect that I led with this wham line.
I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond here so I panicked and bailed.
Effectiveness: 2/10 but really depends who you are.
Frank has some great little tidbits in his arsenal, and the unlucky soul I tried them out on actually seemed to really enjoy them.
As an aside, “you’re a wave short of an ocean” is now something I intend to repeat in my daily life and claim is my own humour, cheers Frank.
My match got very chatty at this point but honestly I didn’t want to keep insulting him with Frank’s largely quite mean repertoire so I left him be given he’d been a good sport.
Effectiveness: 8/10 Frank is the man.
Shirley is a gay icon: The leather jackets, the hair, the scowl. But would that translate to a winning opener? Yes, yes it would.
Guys he called me handsome. My self-esteem has been restored courtesy of Dame Shirley Carter.
Effectiveness: 9/10 because you know what I am handsome.
I borrowed this classic from Peter Beale because unlike everything else here it’s the sort of line you could feasibly use in real life and not because I have fancied him, like, all my life.
Peter is a being so lacking in distinct vibe this sort of snappy opener really suits him, and honestly I couldn’t quite find a way to crowbar in my ability to telepathically communicate with my twin, so I left it for another day.
Effectiveness: 3/10 I think you can only get away with being this bland if you are as eye-meltingly fit as Peter is.
Okay, now it’s time for some real Hall of Fame EastEnders goodness. Kat Slater, and the quote to end all quotes. I decided to see if my potential matches across all the apps would be able to complete the iconic line and to my utter disgust most of them didn’t manage it.
Just a total lack of enthusiasm from my man here – where has he been?
I’m not being funny but you could Google this. Next!
This person thought I was making a Drag Race UK reference which is better than the above but quite offensive to Kat.
This guy knows, but was outdone by the man below.
Extra points for the multiple a’s – I’m somewhat relieved. No one passed the second test, however, except one man.
It’s this guy – he knew not one but two of Kat Slater’s most celebrated lines and honestly and even knew to give the second one the caps it deserves. I will probably marry him.
Effectiveness: 10/10 all hail the Queen.
I think if I learned anything from my afternoon substituting EastEnders quotes for actual confidence and originality it’s that you shouldn’t be afraid to be a bit weird because apparently it works.