The opening two episodes of hit dating show Love Is Blind draw all too familiar parallels with what we are coming to recognize as our new societal discourse. The set up: ten men and ten women must date each other over a series of days, the caveat being that they cannot touch or see each other during this initial stage, they are self-contained in isolated ‘pods’ where they must get to know one another strictly verbally, only being allowed physical contact after they have agreed to marry each other. So unfortunately, my leading comment about how the premise of the show is more than slightly ridiculous doesn’t really have legs to stand on today.
A whole host of characters inhabit the screen, a pretty variant mix of individuals apart from the damning constant that these are all people who have chosen to go on a dating show, and that perhaps categorizes them all fairly aptly (I’ll let your imagination fill the gaps in my prose). Between them, six couples take the plunge and decide to actually get married (you read correctly) and so, after a week of phone call-equivalent interaction, 30% of these bright-eyed daters are ring-on-finger, what’s-mine-is-yours engaged.
The initial hesitation I have about the series is the ‘proposal clause’. If the makers of this programme are trying to ascertain whether or not love is blind, then the set up is *huffs* all sorts of wrong. The fact that these couples physically meet one another before they actually marry sets up a strange contradiction that love is only blind until the point of proposal. If their theory were to be drawn out to its curious end, surely the couples should somehow get married before they see one another, because as soon as these individuals meet it becomes a bit more of an aesthetic race towards the altar – put it this way, some of them are more pleased to meet their visual match than others.
Love Is Blind has the same satisfying sniff of low budget that all the best dating shows do, except for some distinct exceptions. The pods themselves are a nice visual aid to the concept, and are adequately surreal in décor – a glass panel running down the middle of a circular room reminds one contestant, pawing at its surface, of Frozen. They somehow manage to whisk the fiancés off to a pre-marital honeymoon where they all can conveniently bump into each other in the pool-side bar, or instead, cozy off to their private balconies and on-hand chefs. And then there’s the alcohol. Whereas on most reality TV there is a noticeable limit of units per episode, contestants of Love Is Blind are rarely seen without a glass in hand and get all kinds of office Christmas party drunk, revealing their tragic hamartia of true love for a fellow contestant, or occasionally offering Merlot to their dogs. As entertaining as this might sound, I feel this wasn’t a wise decision on behalf of the producers; the scenes that ensue from such consistent and heavy drinking are the first alert that some contestants rely on distractions to assume the illusion of love.
The show’s hosts, Nick Lachey and Vanessa Lachey, dip in occasionally with Hollywood smiles to reassure you that you are sane, you are still in fact watching a REAL LIFE television programme, that Giannina is not a sims and a man like Barnett does in fact exist outside of a frat house. But it’s a welcome reminder, a tad friendlier than Netflix that after 5 consecutive episodes feels the need to check you’re still alive and well.
And so this show is addictive, that I will concede. But what keeps you hooked on watching is the awkwardness, and pseudo-theatrics in the fleeting recognition of real-life emotion within this strange non-scripted script (or is it scripted non-script? I can’t tell).
Love Is Blind was actually filmed two years ago, but has recently taken on a new lease of life. In the aftermath of reception, one of the contestants, Jessica, has emerged as its most talked about persona. I’ll refrain from discussing the personalities of these contestants with judgment, as I feel mass criticism on people you have only seen in a very strange and stylized format is a problematic endeavor, reflected in the treatment of our own Love Island. I do however feel that Jessica has been unjustly criticized, for what we see emerge on screen is only interesting to us because it hits home with such truth. Jessica, after being let down by a man she knows is probably not good for her, settles with 24 year old Mark, her younger by 10 years – a fact that she dwells upon continuously perhaps not because it is the biggest concern to her, but because she just isn’t in love with him. This fact is painstakingly obvious to an audience and watching, you cower from behind the sofa as she drunkenly confronts Barnett about her true but suppressed feelings for him. The whole thing is gripping because it is ultimately filmic in its adherence to the stereotypes of unrequited affection. Ironically, Jessica proves not that love is blind but that she herself is blind to her own declarations of love, and that’s where the social experiment should take notes and adjust its hypothesis.
I can’t help thinking that watching this show is a form of aversion therapy. And that’s an idea probably only realised when you watch the full thing in a matter of days. But as the rule stands, just because it’s flawed, doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. My takeaway? I don’t think the series says that love is actually blind; it says that marriage is a big commitment; that you can still date whilst in social isolation; and that if you drink enough wine you might just reveal an ugly truth about yourself.
Emmeline Armitage (Senior Culture Editor)
Visuals by Emma Burberry