The Problem With the Experiment of #LoveIsBlind

The premise and setup of the reality tv love show are the very components that enabled the dissolution of Carlton and Diamond's relationship.

Carlton and Diamond meeting in person after becoming engaged on "Love is Blind".

Since releasing my most recent article regarding a breakup on the Netflix show "Love is Blind", I've gotten responses on Twitter stating that I should watch the show to get the full context of the clip released on Twitter by Netflix' Strong Black Lead account. So, as someone who is always concerned with nuances as to not always look at situations with a desaturated lens, I watched the first two episodes over the weekend. And lordt, I was not ready for the mess that awaited me!


Created by 98 Degrees member Nick Lachay and his spouse Vanessa, Love Is Blind takes a group of cis men and women looking for love and marriage & puts them into this big ole house to speed date each other until they find the person they want to be with, after which they'd propose, get engaged and in a month's time, get married. Sounds cliché, yea? Not exactly, cuz here's where the social experiment kicks in: these folks have do the dating and choosing and subsequent getting engaged part without meeting in person. Within the house are sets of rooms called pods where each person is blocked from seeing each other, and it's inside these pods where folks have to do the aforementioned speed dating and wooing and proposing. Oh, and they have to do all of this within at most, one week. Maaaaaaaybe ten days at most, because afterwards, they've gotta get married within about a month!


So the Lachays expect these folks to do what usually takes a year to years and more days within SEVEN DAYS---WITHOUT HAVING MET IN PERSON---and be sure that within 30-36 days they want to spend the rest of their lives together. The expectation, as explained by the Lachays, is the participants will forge emotional connections without making judgments based on looks and for the emotional connection to make facilitating physical connection easier.



This social experment is a gross underestimation of what it takes to initiate and sustain relationships. While I do think the idea of having folks meet and get to know each other before seeing each other in person is thoughtful, expecting folks to find their future marriage partner after a WEEK is a rose-colored glasses heteronormative interpretation of cultivating and sustaining human bondings. It takes weeks upon weeks upon friggin' WEEKS to get to know the ins-and-outs of someone: their likes, dislikes, personal baggage (EVERYONE HAS IT), quirks and idiosyncrasies, and sexual experiences and needs, and levels of emotional availability; yet the show forces folks to learn years worth of a person and then marry them within the course of...a month? That's LUDICROUS, and, as it turns out, makes for spicy and great reality TV!


Which is....probably the point, but whatever. We know the formula and still consume the media, so we're all guilty. I still watch each iteration of Love and Hip Hop, okay, this is a

no-judgment zone!



But anyway, now having established this, let's revisit the Diamond-Carlton situation!


Carlton commented before meeting Diamond in person that he was scared to tell her about his sexuality while talking in the pods because he's experienced judgment and rejection from others about it. This makes sense because bisexual men face a lot of anti-queer stigma and myths from society about their sexuality, often seen as actually being gay and being the main contributors to the increase of HIV/AIDS infections among cis-hetero women. As a result, bisexual men rarely disclose their sexuality to their cis-hetero women partners, sure their partner will reject them and end the relationship. In Carlton's case, he wanted to be able to share his full self with Diamond from the time they were becoming close in the pods, but due to his experiences, he was hesitant; in a typical relationship, it would take weeks, months, or even years for him to do so due to the process of getting to know a romantic partner, but because of the parameters set by the show, Carlton was forced---hell, EXPECTED--to disclose something that needed more time and care to do in a more hurried manner.


Which works out precisely, NEVER.



I suspect folks will assert that in turn, Diamond was expected and forced to break down internalized anti-queerness in the span of a month and is being judged because she couldn't. There is some truth there, as human beings cannot be expected to decolonize from internalized biases and bigotries at the drop of a dime. At the same time, I have to re-iterate that hetero people aren't expected to disclose their sexuality to their partners, and this should be and needs to be the same for bi people. Bigotry is most often based on lies and assumptions that have been parroted as biotruths, and we have to be willing to challenge the epistemologies of everything we've been told to accept as "common knowledge", as "common knowledge" is often based on bullshit.


But I digress!


The parameters of the social experiment being carried out on Love Is Blind facilitate many of the interpersonal issues seen on the show because the participants are given an extremely small window to make significant life choices. That's essentially the issue with most reality TV love and dating shows: they perpetuate the idea of being able to find love within a short time and that LOVE is enough to get folks through rough patches, which is a house of cards just waiting to fall down. Relationships based on love solely are a recent trend in human history, and most successfully married people will tell folks that love itself is not enough to sustain a relationship. Another aspect of the show that I find bothersome while thoughtful is the idea of not seeing the person before meeting. On one hand, it reads as trying to see if looks don't truly matter when falling in love (hence the name of the show); on the other hand, it reads somewhat as a modern spin on heteronormative, puritanical pair bonding where marriage is treated as THEE destination and not something two parties agree to do if that's what both parties want.


From the previews of how Love Is Blind progresses, all these interpersonal issues and the nature of the Lacheys' experiment clash in spectacularly messy ways, even up to the season finale. Will I continue watching? Maybe. It's just too bad to see a potentially good relationship crumble in such staggering fashion, and as it turns out, the parameters of the show's social experiment kinda set Diamond and Carlton's relationship up to fail, with the anti-queerness matter being the icing slathered onto this cacophony cake.

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