Arts & Entertainment, Film and TV

The insipid paradox of ‘Love is Blind’ season three

Reality TV tends to teeter between frivolous, Kardashian-esque antics and deranged social experiments. Combining these unique worlds is a puzzling balancing act, but one that’s kept the genre afloat for years. Arguably the most prominent category of reality TV is dating shows, such as The Bachelor, Love Island, or, more recently, Too Hot to Handle. Typical dating shows feature overblown arguments and theatrics, usually thanks to the artifice of overzealous editing. 

Authenticity isn’t exactly a trademark of reality TV—yet it is the central theme of the Netflix original, Love is Blind. The show aims to have contestants get engaged “sight unseen”, as hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey put it. Condemning the shallowness of modern dating culture, contestants decide to marry solely based on blind conversations held in windowless pods over the course of 10 days. Only those who accept their proposals will finally get to meet their partners face-to-face.

Love is Blind flaunts the promise of a blissful world where appearances don’t matter—because every contestant is conventionally beautiful, anyways—and everyone is loved for their true selves. But this obvious farce has made for a tedious third season compared to its predecessors. As in the previous seasons, we see couples toil to stay together for the sake of upholding the show’s gimmick, a routine that quickly becomes exhausting. This season, five engaged couples leave the pods, three of which almost immediately crumble in the so-called real world (i.e., a resort in Malibu). Their endless cycle of vapid arguments eventually grows stale, only enlivened by changes in location and royalty-free pop music.

Season three features the most dysfunctional relationships we’ve seen so far, but their dysfunction isn’t absurd enough to be entertaining—at best, it’s uncomfortable. For instance, Bartise and Nancy’s tense disagreement on abortion takes a jarring shift towards an uneasy tone that feels intrusive to watch. Most of the other, lighter conflicts arise from the contestants’ insecurities, which seem to reinforce that love is not, in fact, blind. It’s a tiresome charade that takes up most of the season.

This season embodies performative authenticity and thrives on proving itself wrong. If love really was blind, we’d be left with an unbelievably dull show. It capitalizes on the entertainment value of watching relationships crash and burn—the sadistic tradition of dating shows. Drama is indispensable. But Love is Blind lacks the self-awareness to make this paradox work. 

It’s near impossible to enjoy the chaos of the show when, all the while, it preaches authenticity under the most contrived circumstances possible. Even as relationships unravel, contestants continue to obnoxiously proclaim their faith in the blind engagements. Reality TV depends so heavily on its own messiness that it seems entirely antithetical to clutter it with eye-roll-inducing mantras about the power of being you. This, paired with the repetitive drama, places Love is Blind in a monotonous in-between, where it fails both to entertain and to make social commentary. It doesn’t lean far enough in any direction to be compelling.

While other dating shows tend to embrace artifice and gratuitous drama, Love is Blind maintains a façade of realism that isn’t sufficiently sensible. Season three’s contestants are all based in Dallas, Texas, which is a commendable departure from other dating shows where couples are often split up by long distance. However, the show’s structure undermines this addition, only giving contestants 10 days to “date” before getting engaged.

It is unclear how Love is Blind will retain its intrigue throughout its fourth and fifth seasons, which have already been greenlit by Netflix. But one thing is for certain: Reality TV is no longer the debaucherous jumble of contrived drama that we know so well. No, reality TV is intelligent now. Reality TV is deep. And most of all, it’s “authentic.” Because if there’s one place where you can truly be yourself, it’s in a room full of cameras.

Love is Blind is currently streaming on Netflix.

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