(Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers from the Netflix reality series "Love Is Blind.")
Confession: I hate-binge-watched "Love Is Blind," the new Netflix reality dating show about couples who commit to marriage before meeting in person because, well, I can't take another word about the coronavirus. And also the premise was insane. If you had told me that 15 people were seriously going to consider getting engaged, sight unseen, after less than a week of intense conversation, I'd tell you, No way.
But then I watched it and I realized that our society is even more desperate for love marriage and fame than I realized.
No fewer than six couples decided to get married, sight unseen, after getting to know one another in discussion "pods" that let them hear but not see one another. For a week. The actual marriage is set for about one month after that, when the couples get to meet in person, frolic in the surf, meet each other's families for a nanosecond and then pick out wedding gowns. They have the choice of backing out of the wedding itself, but free will being what it is, most only decide to make that decision while at the altar in front of friends and family.
"Love Is Blind" is brilliantly amoral in incentivizing otherwise decent young singles to get free vacations to Mexico, all-expense-paid weddings and the possibility of fame (or it's inverse, infamy), by shortcutting the misery of our current courtship rituals, namely Tinder. All they have to do is help prove the thesis that the show keeps asking with thudding repetition: "Is love blind?"
Though I don't think that's the question at all. To me, the question posed by this show is: How much do you hate the isolation of the modern-day search for relationships? How badly do you want out? And what will you do to get on TV?
Ten episodes in, I'm prepared to believe that plenty of people want out of the current mating game, badly. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.) In fact, apparently there were eight couples who got engaged out of the pods, but the show only chose to follow some of them. Of the six engaged couples followed by cameras, the most interesting one fell apart long before the wedding day. A bisexual man, Carlton, got engaged to a woman, Diamond, but the pairing blew up because he chose to tell her of his sexual orientation only after they got engaged. She didn't appreciate that.
The other five couples all went the distance to the altar, even those who knew they weren't ready to commit. Ugh. Everyone seemed to like the dress-up aspect of having a wedding.
"Love Is Blind" shares the ethical problems of many reality shows in exploiting human vulnerability for the purpose of our entertainment. No matter that those human beings chose the spectacle voluntarily and signed all necessary waivers. It's better than, say, eating grubs on "Survivor."
But these couples also offer lessons for the rest of us.
Lauren and Cameron
They are the golden couple of the series, seemingly in love and experiencing normal anxiety ahead of their rush to commitment. And yet, what the heck is bothering me about this couple? Could it be the fact that Cameron looks at Lauren with the kind of obsessive adoration that seems destined to one day turn into a restraining order? Cameron says all the right things and he seems like a really good guy. It's cool to have an interracial couple on the show. But wake up, people. Cameron is unable to rip his eyes off his gorgeous fiancée, and his beatific facial expression gives new depth to the term slack-jawed. The way his eyes follow her everywhere. The way I expect drool to fall from his lips. That tingly feeling of Lauren's -- that this man is too good to be true -- is her actual Spidey sense saying, "Girl, this borders on creepy!"
You know what Lauren looks like when she feels real love and not blind panic induced by an impending life commitment while cameras are rolling? It's how she looks at her Dad before walking down the aisle. That is actual love.
Jessica and Mark
Fame-mongers, can we please get this couple off the show? Point is, they're transparently fake. How many times does Jessica have to drill into her fiancé, Mark, that she is not in love with him, especially with all her drunken confessions and lascivious looks at the one who got away -- Barnett (mysteriously renamed Matt in the second half of the series)? That she is play-acting through this thing? Hair-flipping Jessica is the living example of a lady who doth protests too much, constantly saying in her high-toned whine how much she's in love with her fiancé. But even her wine-drinking dog can't take that s--- seriously.
To wit: In the final episode at the altar, Jessica stares at the ceiling as if waiting for someone to rescue her. You get a stronger feeling of a public execution rather than a wedding. Jessica, in her dangly earrings, walks herself down aisle and -- unable to look Mark in the eye -- pronounces, "I cannot."
To the show's credit, most of the contestants on the show seemed to be genuine about their feelings. But then there's....
Amber and Barnett/Matt
This couple is fascinating. They are, in fact, the only engaged couple on the show in which the man is the quarry. Amber has no profession other than "ex-tank mechanic," suggesting that she is unemployed. Then we learn she is in debt and after we visit her house on the poorer side of the tracks, it becomes clear that Barnett is the ticket out of her current life.
Tall and sexy, Amber is not letting Barnett (or Matt) out of her sights, which is a good thing because the guy was dating three women in the pods before he proposed to Amber and froze out Jessica (above). At the altar, Amber fixed Barnett with a Vulcan death stare that said: "You will say, 'I do.'" And he did. I humbly suggest that Barnett should stay faithful because Amber is not messing around.
Final note: The weddings all happened about a year ago so Netflix naturally is planning a reunion show on March 5.
On this dating experiment, I salute the casting directors who found these young people. After 10 episodes and God only knows how many hours of filming, we all have learned a thing or two about 21st-century dating.