I knew I was watching a different dating show when two people who had been on screen for less than 30 minutes began weeping over the intensity of their feelings for each other. These two people were in two separate rooms, unable to see one another. Soon they were engaged.
Netflix’s Love is Blind defines itself as an “experiment” seeking to discover whether lifelong bonds can be formed in a bubble, without outside distractions or knowing what the other person looks like. The contestants meet each other in “pods”, where they have long, hopefully meaningful conversations: the intensity of this experience (which sometimes resembles a therapy session) causes people to fall in love. When couples form, they must get engaged, after which they will be sent on holiday and then to a new shared home: after four weeks have passed, weddings are staged and the couples must decide at the altar whether or not to marry. Of course, the real experiment is an entertainment one. Can Netflix convince us to watch yet another dating show, one that runs over ten hour-long, documentary-style episodes?
Thanks to the bizarre commitment of the show’s conservative participants, who visibly pine to be married, and the instant high stakes, the show picked up a huge audience from the off. Love is Blind is hard to watch and even harder to look away from: it is compellingly horrific. It veers from uncomfortably realistic relationships to absurdly insincere ones: insecure Jessica and intense Amber are desperate to win over the bland jock Barnett; the dramatic Giannina is clearly just thrilled to be on camera. There are cringeworthy proposals and brutal rejections. Grown men talk about “butterflies”. Dogs drink wine. And that’s before the weddings…
This article appears in the 11 Mar 2020 issue of the New Statesman, How the world is closing down