Hot take: reality TV is, without a doubt, one of the best forms of television. Sitting it in front of a screen and binge watching hours of endless, invigorating drama? Yes, please. And when it comes to deliciously dramatic reality TV, Netflix’s “Love is Blind” delivers. But at the end of the day, the show falls into the same superficial stereotypes it aims to criticize.
From the title, the idea is obvious: Is love really blind? Can you fall in love with someone whom you’ve never seen? After watching almost two seasons, I still have no idea. But it’s an interesting social experiment, accompanied by lovable (or hateable) personalities and a fast-paced, emotionally charged plot. The show begins as most reality shows do — with a large group of men and women (whose names no viewer can remember) on their quest to find the love of their life. The potential couples are forbidden from seeing each other’s faces but can build emotional connections by getting to know each other in their “pods” — tiny rooms where the couples-to-be can talk through a dividing wall. Seems weird, but for some, it works. Upon engagement, the couples finally can see each other for the first time and start their life in the real world together.
As one watches the show, there are a lot of questions that arise besides simply “is love blind?” For example, why is everyone on the show always dressed up, even though their potential significant other can’t see them? Why do the women wear heels every single day? Why is the music they play so unbelievably corny? Put simply, it’s all part of the reality TV experience. It’s cringe-worthy and occasionally terrible, but it’s a very engaging kind of terrible — you just can’t look away. And the interesting and sometimes obnoxious characters make it easy to get hooked.
As in every reality show, from “The Bachelorette” to “Love Island,” there are always the obvious villains. In this case, it’s Shaina Hurley, a hairdresser with a mean streak who is easily the evilest individual on the show. Constantly out to wreck other peoples’ relationships, she is a shameless gossip who is somehow always the root of any on-screen conflict. She’s easy to hate, but you have to admit she does help move the show along. She and many of the show’s other characters can be annoying, but a good kind of annoying: The kind that will make you yell at your TV or throw your hands up in exasperation (or maybe throw something at the TV). The kind that keeps you interested. Don’t let my character assassination of Hurley fool you, though – not everyone is evil or terrible, and some couples are sickeningly adorable. The perfect combo of characters helps make “Love is Blind” the perfect reality TV experience.
Drama and excitement aside, the root of “Love is Blind” is the social experiment. Many on the show in their initial interviews complain of a dating world that’s superficial and materialistic, but the show itself doesn’t do much to separate itself from those dating stereotypes. Almost every individual selected for the so-called social experiment is conventionally attractive — they’re all thin and good-looking. And to make matters worse, those upon whom the show focuses are the best looking of the bunch. It leaves you wondering how much of the show was really manipulated or possibly scripted — sometimes reality TV isn’t all that real.
What’s even more suspicious is that the two couples who are never shown on screen end up getting engaged and eventually married. In a Vanity Fair interview, “Love is Blind” creator Chris Coelen talks a bit about those two unaired engagements, saying the choice to follow the six couples we see on screen was a natural progression and up to chance. While he places an emphasis on the show being a true experiment left solely to luck, the contradiction between the show’s message and its execution leaves the viewer wishing they could just leave the anti-superficial crusade alone and stick with the perfection of reality TV drama.
Daily Arts Writer Annabel Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.