Is love blind? It’s an intriguing question that Netflix’s “Love Is Blind” seeks to answer. The set-up of “Love Is Blind” is notably different from other reality dating shows: A group of around 15 men and 15 women are separated from each other and their only chance for interaction with the opposite gender is through the “pods” (small cubicles with a couch on each side and a wall separating the two). This removes physical appearance from the equation and allows participants to get to know the person on the other side of the wall without any distractions (or preconceived notions). In season three, on par with previous seasons, five couples made it past the engagement round, but only time will tell if they actually go through with the mission — marriage.
As with all reality shows, a major contributor to a show’s success is the likability (or unlikability) of the contestants. In order for the show to be successful, it must keep your attention, and the best way to do this is by eliciting emotions from viewers as they are watching. It doesn’t matter much if the emotions are positive or negative ones, as long as they are potent. Many of the “Love Is Blind” contestants serve to create more drama, keeping us hooked. This season, there was an excess of distinctly unlikable contestants who created a lot of drama and provoked many negative reactions. One contestant in particular, Andrew, was seen using eye drops to water his eyes and give the appearance that he was crying after his proposal was turned down. He had seemed arrogant even in the pod, but seeing this blatant manipulation was disgusting. Two contestants, Cole and Bartise, let their true colors show after seeing the women in person — both rejected women they had strong connections with and told other women that they were more physically compatible with them than with their current partners.
Having several unlikable contestants who stir up drama makes the show more engaging, so in that sense, “Love Is Blind” did succeed; however, the show is hosted by a seemingly-in-love celebrity couple, Nick and Vanessa Lachey, and the name “Love Is Blind” reflects a mission to find real love. Instead, it fails to foster genuine connections.
Going back to the main question: Is love blind? Personally, I think it can be, depending on the kind of love, but is the love we see on the show blind? The framing and title of the show suggest it should be, but in reality, that’s just not true. For almost anybody seeking a romantic relationship, a partner’s appearance is important for compatibility. Some people may be able to look past minor physical disconnects more easily, but for the large majority, looks matter significantly.
Audiences, myself included, have grown very attached to one woman in particular, Zanab, who is subject to Cole’s disrespectful enforcement of racist beauty standards throughout the show. After seeing what Colleen, another woman he had a strong connection with, looked like, he had second thoughts. He’s openly said to both women that he finds Colleen more physically attractive than Zanab and has even numerically ranked them both out of 10. Several viewers have taken to Twitter to express a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with: Cole can’t seem to get over his type — white women — and recognize Zanab’s beauty, both physically and internally.
Zanab deserves far better than Cole, and this couple definitely proves love isn’t completely blind. Cole adds to the drama and entertainment factor of the show, but at some point, watching somebody so unlikable treat the most likable member of the cast so poorly might result in fewer people returning to watch. The patience of viewers isn’t going to last forever. “Love Is Blind” needs to decide if they want to go full-on drama reality TV mode, or change something and stop pretending they’re a cut above the rest.
Something I don’t quite understand about the show is why fiancés are allowed to see each other and live together for so long before the engagements. It seems like a true test of whether love is blind would be to wait until both parties are at the altar and have to take the final leap before they see each other.
In the end, “Love Is Blind” is a reality show: Though it claims to be seeking a more noble goal than other dating shows, it is far from perfect. It’s a good show if you want to see people make questionable choices in the name of love, but if that isn’t your idea of fun, you should probably look elsewhere.
Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at email@example.com.