Dora Guo

“Love is Blind” is a cultural reset.

Now, I am not a trash TV connoisseur in the slightest. I’m a casual “Dance Moms” viewer with a little bit of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” put into the mix every now and then, but when it comes to the matching TV shows, I never really found “the one”…

…until it slapped me in the face via hundreds of Netflix ads in January of this year. At that moment, my life changed forever.

I won’t lie. “Love is Blind” is trash, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. It is shallow, unsubstantial, cheesy… and yet I can’t get enough. In this dumpster fire of giving wine to dogs and Gia exclaiming, “I lost my butterflies!” every other episode, lies a more complex understanding of love, humanity, manipulation, jealousy and deceit.

“Love is Blind” consists of dozens of (conventionally attractive) singles who partake in a “scientific experiment” to determine whether or not love is truly blind. The contestants are told to date in “pods” separated by a single screen as they get to know one another… without even seeing each other. One by one, the singles are coupled off — aka engaged — until there are six main couples that the show follows for the remainder of the season.

Every now and then, you find the initial “spark” among the conversations in the pods. The instant chemistry is akin to that first date nervous energy… honest, open, yet undistracted by other factors. In this isolation, they quickly become acquainted with one another.

In the scientific sense, the social experiment was a disaster from the start. From the innate biases the contestants may have, based on accents, cultures, etc., to the fact that the producers only chose objectively attractive contestants, we have yet to find out if love is truly blind.

As much as this show tries to lean into the flimsy scientific narrative, it is the underlying philosophical implications that determine the show’s true legitimacy as a work of art.

“Love is Blind” is so human. Because looks and attractiveness are factors erased in this “experiment,” what’s left is purely personality and voice inflection.

This show surveys the best in people, primarily through the early phases of love. As we are taken into the pods with the singles, we watch as two people gradually form bonds through a screen. The screen, a stained-glass blue and purple clouded window, represents the confusion both contestants deal with. Not only do they not know how they feel romantically about each other, but they’re also unsure what the other looks like — unfamiliarity of face and uncertainty of heart. However, as their connections grow, the physical glass changes color with time, and the metaphorical uncertainty in the mind… fades away. At the reveals, all that stands between the newly-engaged couple is a single door and a shadow. Then, finally, the fog is lifted.

But also, this series shows the worst humanity has to offer. After their brief (literal) honeymoon phase at a beach resort, the six couples are whisked away into real life. As we become flies on the wall and watch two lives become intertwined, the “real world” implications of their relationships often muddy the waters of the beach vacations and face reveals. You can see the uglier parts of humanity within the fights and the reconciliations. Issues such as racism, homophobia, cultural differences, politics, immigration and religion are all covered within the span of ten one-hour episodes and a chaotic reunion.

Without giving away too much, two of the couples bear the burden of dealing with societal pressures regarding their own engagements. These two couples serve as foils for each other in the way that they navigate through these very complicated issues: Lauren and Cameron must face the implications of interracial dating, while Jessica and Mark grapple with their 10-year age difference.

Lauren and Cameron, who eventually become the show’s greatest success, face their families’ differences and cultural points of view as a single unit. In one pivotal scene, Lauren’s father, a Black man and protective father, speaks frankly with Cameron, who comes from a white, suburban background. At the end of the conversation, Lauren’s dad shakes Cameron’s hand in approval, saying, “If Lauren loves you, then I like you.”

On the other hand, Jessica and Mark deal with the “cougar” narrative with less sensitivity. Eventually, this becomes the main stressor in the relationship, so much so that Jessica is seen multiple times drunk, unsure about her future with her 24-year-old fiance. Although Jessica is demonized throughout the show because of her impulsive (and often immature) actions, these moments actually portray an inner struggle and we see that she is the most conflicted contestant. She doesn’t want to hurt Mark, but at the same time, she is the one stopping herself from loving Mark fully.

When the wedding bells eventually ring, each of the couples has a decision to make: live happily ever after, or go their separate ways. At every wedding ceremony, my heart was in my throat. Although the more logical side of me knew that most of the couples wouldn’t last, the suspense put me in that room… that makeshift wedding chapel in the Lahey mansion. The relationships that end at the altar fall… and fall hard. Runaway brides, crying husbands and groomsmen, a mother ready to pounce on her daughter’s ex-fiance… the whole shebang. But within that you see the genuine hurt, betrayal and utter turmoil coming from both parties.

The most poignant emotional shift, however, is the viewer’s. As you watch the couples grow — either together or apart — you become invested in the outcome, leaving you yearning for more. During my first watch-through, I was the typical skeptical viewer, watching the first couple of episodes just so I could understand the memes on Twitter. But then, as I grew excited for a new episode every week, I found myself becoming an avid watcher. It wasn’t the drinking or the bits of “comedy” that keep the viewer entertained. It is the humanity… the truth that comes with the growth of relationships. I started to believe that their connections were true, especially with Lauren and Cameron. It felt genuine, more than any snippets of other reality shows I’ve watched in the past.

Say what you want, but “Love is Blind” is doing things that “The Bachelor” or “Love Island” never could. If you want to see connection in its truest form (without being able to go out and get it yourself), then this is the show for you. It is not only for the trashiest reality TV fans, but also for the tasteful philosopher in everyone.

Move aside, Freire, there’s a new humanistic revolutionary in town, and she goes by the name of “Love is Blind. It’s a hot mess. It’s problematic, unscientific, a mere mockery of love itself.

I can’t wait for Season 2.

Lauren Moore | l.moore@yale.edu