We are sold a fantasy when watching Netflix’s “Love Is Blind.” We are told and shown that two people can solely build an emotional connection sight unseen and it will lead to love, a future engagement, and a happily ever after. But if there’s one thing this fifth season’s newest episodes have depicted to its audience, is that the show’s once-interesting formula has turned into a gimmick that leaves even its biggest fans questioning why they even continue to invest their time.
One could say that this season’s cast is no different from the other seasons’ levels of messiness. In the fourth season, a contestant Zack reneged on his proposal to Irina during what was supposed to be their honeymoon because he was in love with another contestant, Bliss. The two were obviously not in love with each other because, during their first in-person meeting, Irina harshly said that her fiancé Zack looked like a cartoon character and continued to pick apart his physical appearance — defeating the purpose of the show’s “Love Is Blind” premise. Horrible, I know.
But the difference between this season and the handful of the others is that at least we usually have one couple to root for. While Zack and Bliss’ storyline last season was messy and so were so many other couples’ in “Love Is Blind,” I was convinced that they loved each other. Their story portrayed to audiences that love conquers all and that it truly is blind — the sole premise or maybe even the fantasy the show is built on. This season, however, feels like the exception to the rule, or maybe the rule is no longer applicable to this extremely gimmicky way to find love on television. In the show’s tenure, only seven couples are married and still together of the 20 engaged people across all four seasons. This means less than half of the couples have experienced the eternal love that the show is so dead set on telling us that it produces. But nobody is going to be its golden couple Lauren and Cameron from Season 1.
Looking the current season’s Houston-focused cast, the main players in this new batch of episodes released Friday, Sept. 29, are JP and Taylor, Izzy and Stacy, and Uche and Aaliyah, Lydia and Milton. I know it’s a lot to remember but stick with me.
The biggest storyline this season is a juicy and quite frankly convoluted twist that involves Uche and potential partner Aaliyah. After they overcome one rough patch, all seems great . . . until Uche reveals he used to date a woman named Lydia. That is the same sweet, understanding Lydia who is also a contestant on the show and whom Aaliyah has been confiding all of her Uche-related doubts to. Long story short, Lydia and Uche’s former relationship makes Aaliyah so uncomfortable she ghosts Uche, who was potentially about to become her future fiancé. As a result, Lydia and her relationship with her guy Milton is also one that struggles to really land with audiences because of their 10-year age gap and her prior investment in Uche and Aaliyah’s relationship.
Another relationship that disintegrates the second real adversity hits them is the quintessentially American blond-haired, blue-eyed couple, JP and Taylor. He’s a firefighter who loves America so much that every article of clothing he wears is red, white and blue or the American flag — I’m not even being ironic. Taylor is a 20-something elementary school teacher looking for love. If this was a rom-com, they’d be the perfect match. But since misogyny exists in the real world JP and Taylor crash and burn. Whatever fairy tale they felt like they had in the experiment or as the contestants say “the pods” disappears when the couple can’t physically or emotionally connect when they meet each other in person. This makes for a series of incredibly uncomfortable scenes with the couple who fight tooth and nail to get back to the connection they thought had in the pods. Taylor finally confronts JP and he admits that the reason why he is so distant from her is because when she first met him, she was “caked-up” in makeup. The makeup made her seem “fake” to him and he’d prefer her without any makeup. His words, not mine.
Taylor asks, “So the way I looked made you communicate differently?” And he responded, “It felt like you were fake.” The next morning, Taylor returns her ring to him and calls off their engagement, and she absolutely did the right thing. For a show that prides itself on allowing its contestants to form connections regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age and financial status — JP’s physical disgust with Taylor for wearing makeup and regarding her as fake because of it clearly shows the subtle and often frank ways misogyny has infiltrated the show’s dating dynamics. JP withholds affection and communication from Taylor because she wore makeup and he found that to be unattractive. It was a way to control the relationship, and Taylor did not stand for it.
In another instance with engaged couple Izzy and Stacy, who make it further than JP and Taylor, gender and socio-economic triggers have a funny way of playing out too. Stacy is a career woman who owns her house, comes from a wealthy family in Texas and loves the finer things in life. Izzy is seemingly a first or second-generation Mexican-American, who has more of a working-class background. They seem to be a good match regardless of the differences in ethnicity, gender and economic background. But the cracks start to show when they begin to discuss the differences in the standards of living. Even Stacy’s father says to Izzy: “I get the whole love is blind thing but love also needs to eat. Love needs a roof. Sometimes love wants to fly first class.” While these things may sound superficial to ask of someone while you’re dating — the difference is they are considering a permanent future with one another. This leads to fights about how Izzy would serve his dates with disposable plates and utensils.
It sounds childish but the deeper insight into these arguments is fundamentally how incompatible this season’s couples are, which makes me second guess if that just means the show’s formula and experiment is irrevocably broken just like most of the show’s past relationships. Maybe the contestants are so well aware of the show’s concept and its outcomes that they just try so hard for it to work because they want to be one of the show’s success stories. And what is our vested interest in the show if we know it doesn’t work anymore? Is it because we just want to see these doomed couples try so hard to find the connection they seemingly love-bombed their way into? The glimmer of hope and shiny dreams of love died after the first season’s success stories of Lauren and Cameron. As the audience who watches every year, we are just like the delusional suckers who keep signing up to find love on the show every season.
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