Netflix must-see Love Is Blind is no stranger to critique, with a legion of memes, tweets and opinion pieces centred on its 11 episodes to date.
Commonly described as a mix between Channel Nine’s Married At First Sight and fellow Netflix alumnus The Circle, Love Is Blind is a culmination of every dating relative TV show trope, cranked up to the maximum.
In 2020, dating shows are having a big moment with many scrambling to find a hook strong enough to set themselves apart.
For Love Is Blind, this is a “social experiment” reminiscent of Big Brother’s 1984-based premise.
Male and female contestants are separated into two large apartments, with their own private rooms or “pods”. They’re prohibited entirely from seeing each other. Instead, they’re only permitted to speak to each other through opaque screens.
Here’s the kicker, they only meet in-person once they’re engaged.
It goes without saying that heteronormative gender roles run rife throughout the show.
The contestants can mingle freely with fellow participants of the same sex, allowing the viewer to see a spectrum of behaviours on-screen. Positive examples include shoulder massages and heart-to-heart confessionals encouraging healthy interaction between the male contestants.
But unfortunately, this also inspires certain contestants (ahem, Barnett) to use emotional vulnerability as a manipulation tactic.
Sorry, but you can’t just proclaim “I’m scared of getting hurt” and expect your prospective partners to do the emotional labour for you.
The show’s futuristic space pod sci-fi set is in stark contrast to the female contestants’ experiences.
They’re regularly shown in a distinctly Austenesque ritual of tittering in their common area about the men they want to marry, barely having seen them. Three of them compete for Barnett’s affections.
Contestant Giannina gushes about the fairy-tale quality of it all, an apt description as she sits in a shimmering gold ballgown, betrothed to a man she’s known for less than a week.
One of the more wholesome moments between the female contestants is a group wedding dress fitting, with some of the contestant’s mothers and sisters thrown in to cry happily and gush over them.
The downfall of the show’s premise is its apparent contradiction.
Built on the belief that dating apps are shallow and unfairly biased towards the beautiful, all of the Love Is Blind contestants are conventionally attractive.
Regardless, for at least two couples, the transition from disembodied pod voices to physical beings is tough – an outcome that producers could’ve easily predicted had they spent a mere evening on Tinder.
Getting attached to a voice alone is incredibly easy. Especially so in the physical isolation of the pods, where a simple “how was your day” will foster personal significance quickly.
This is compounded by the relatively low stakes of talking to each other through a wall. It’s difficult to fully perceive consequences when you can’t see the real-time reactions of the other person.
For the contestants, the realities and responsibilities of dating in the outside world don’t set in until they’re already engaged.
Not to mention, the amount of drinking in this show is insane – even by Australian standards.
One contestant Jessica is rarely seen without a glass of wine in hand. She infamously offers her sizeable glass of wine to her dog in Episode 6.
Love may or may not be blind but it’s at least tipsy. This combination of navigating early relationships and a boatload of booze is an uncomfortably familiar situation for many viewers in early adulthood.
You’re left to wonder, do these people really like each other or are they just on a bender? Throw in an oddly competitive environment and the result is a sloppy, tense, innuendo-heavy mess.
Leading up to the finale, the contestants plan their wedding, even if they don’t intend to get married. Families and friends are invited, fathers give away the brides, men stand at a small altar and wait.
“Today we discover if love is blind,” the officiant announces, just in case you forgot which show you were watching.
Contestants are forced into the unnecessarily cruel ordeal of announcing “I do” or “I don’t” in front of their entire wedding party, without knowing the answer of the person standing opposite them. Without giving anything away, contestant Damian looks like he’s trying to swallow down a jumping frog throughout the ceremony.
All in all, the show is an absolute chaotic wreck.
The viewing experience is reminiscent of every dreadful 2 am conversation you’ve ever had around a patio table, complete with a white man rapping to his African American mother-in-law, an excruciating amount of baby voice and a mid-argument Beyonce quote.
Even for reality television, it is hard to see how any of it could be remotely true and I loved every second of it. Lauren and Cameron forever.
Image by Rachael Sharman