Love Is Blind: Netflix’s hit is dating TV at its most awful and compelling – The Guardian

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 12:48 am

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A Trojan horse for trashy television ... Love Is Blinds Giannina. Photograph: Netflix

By now, in the final days of Netflixs three-week event, you will have at least heard of Love Is Blind. You may well have watched all of it, suppressing your horror and self-loathing for just one more 50-minute episode. If not, then here is the premise: 30 men and women date each other, in rotation, from isolated pods where sight unseen they pair off, which is obviously to say, they get engaged. Only then do they see each other for the first time one month before their wedding day.

Then, they must zip through relationship milestones first holiday together, cohabitation, meeting the parents before they decide, at the altar, whether or not to say: I do. The weddings episode, the finale, will be available on Netflix from Thursday.

Love Is Blind is, undeniably, wildly addictive as you would expect of a show that combines some of the most controversial reality concepts of the last 20 years with the data and resources of the worlds most powerful streaming platform. Take the close confines and body-con of Love Island, the sensorial restriction of Dating in the Dark, the shonky pseudoscience of Naked Attraction, the prom-y pageantry of The Bachelor franchise and the stakes of Married at First Sight. Throw in Nick and Vanessa Lachey as hosts and a group of extremely free-feeling Americans (some with acoustic guitars) and you have Love Is Blind.

No wonder you cant look away Netflix has its Frankensteins monster of trash TV. In a crowded field, Love Is Blind is reality television at its most compelling and its most repellent; an unparalleled push-pull of programming that you can hardly bring yourself to watch through splayed fingers. For eight straight hours.

The idea we are regularly reminded, especially by the participant who is a scientist is to test the working hypothesis of the title: is love blind? The unhappy singletons complain of a distracted, superficial dating culture (the much-moaned-about apps are not singled out, but we know which ones they are talking about). Without exception, they are ready to meet the person they will spend the rest of their life with.

But the setup of Love Is Blind does not grapple with the question suggested by its title. For a start, all the contestants are highly photogenic. The time spent blind dating, too, is so short as to barely commit to testing the premise: our cautious scientist Cameron proposes to Lauren from behind a wall after just five days.

Ive had meals in my refrigerator longer than that, gushes his charming bride-to-be, with some self-awareness but not enough to save her.

Just as Naked Attraction justifies the gleeful scrutiny of genitalia by posing the question: Can chemistry be judged on physical attraction alone? (before always finding that the answer is no), the faux-scientific experiment of Love Is Blind is in fact a Trojan horse for trashy television of a potency previously unseen.

By one metric (and probably many of Netflixs), that makes it a success. But in some ways Love Is Blind is less than the sum of even its parts.

No one watches a reality TV show for its insights into modern life and love but sometimes you do pick them up along the way. In 2019, the US Bachelor franchise got its first same-sex proposal, four years after same-sex marriage was legalised by the supreme court. A contestant is embroiled in furore for her alleged support of White Lives Matter memorabilia; past seasons have taken in questions of consent, same-sex attraction, consensual non-monogamy, and abuse.

In the UK, love it or hate it, Love Island is an accurate reflection of some part of modern British culture, from fashion, slang and beauty standards to societys social media-centricity and sexual mores.

Conversely, Love Is Blind says curiously little while claiming to say a lot. In fact, the picture of love and dating that can be extrapolated from its contestants musings through the wall is conservative and weirdly anachronistic. The playboy Barnett dreams of a wife in no more specific detail than a woman whose face lights up when he returns home. Ex-tank mechanic Amber speaks with regret about her abortion. Carlton worries that his bisexuality and past same-sex relationships will repel his future wife on the other side of the wall.

The conservatism of the US means its reality television has never quite managed to separate sex with love but still, all this talk of happily ever after and honey, Im home lands oddly from isolated dating pods. If Love Is Blind really is as has been suggested the final blow to the final nail in the coffin of civilisation, and possibly humanity, it is of a piece with the so-called boring dystopia, where we may not even see the end coming. If we could bring ourselves to look away.

Hugely compelling for containing nothing of substance, Love Is Blind is the output of an algorithm catering to our worst selves. Really, all it tells us is that Netflix knows what we want, in our heart of hearts, better than we do ourselves. Thats the real relationship behind its success dare I say: the only one.

Love Is Blind: Netflix's hit is dating TV at its most awful and compelling - The Guardian

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February 27th, 2020 at 12:48 am

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