Sara Stemmler is a CHS senior completing her fourth year on the Globe staff. Apart from writing for the Globe, Sara competes in tennis and track. She also tutors elementary students...
Love Is Blind: Is is Becoming Too Real?
October 26, 2020
I’ll admit it. I am a sucker for reality TV. Not “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” or HGTV per say, but relationship shows such as “The Bachelor,” and, more recently, the Netflix series “Love is Blind.” I can’t explain why, and I certainly wish this wasn’t the case, but something about this trashy and uncomfortable kind of entertainment really draws me in.
I first heard about “Love is Blind” on NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour (my mom was listening and I happened to be there), and the hosts all seemed to share my begrudging love of the Bachelor and similar shows, so I decided to check it out.
For those of you who are not familiar with the show, it follows 30 men and women who speed date each other for 10 days in adjacent pods that allow them to hear, but not see, each other. Sometime within the 10-day period, the men who feel infatuated with a particular woman they met in the pod will propose to her. If the woman accepts, the two will meet each other in person for the first time before heading to a couples retreat in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Here, they get to meet the other couples before all of the participants move to the same apartment complex in Atlanta to live with each other up until the day of their wedding. The whole process takes about 38 days, with the wedding on the final day. Participants are expected to either accept or decline at the altar, answering the question: “Is love blind?”
In all honesty, I found the first episode to be severely mediocre. Although the soundtrack and the physical production were enticing, the individual characters were introduced rapidly, and I didn’t feel particularly connected to any of them. This is, of course, similar to the first episode of the Bachelor, during which the audience meets the namesake’s potential suitors, which also happens to consistently be my least favorite episode of the series. In contrast to the Bachelor, in which all contestants are attractive and unintelligent, the “Love is Blind” contestants are mostly average looking and unintelligent. This particular aspect of the latter was admittedly refreshing.
In any case, I didn’t immediately jump to the second episode as I usually do. Rather, I waited until I had copious amounts of time in which I wasn’t required to do anything productive to binge all of Season 1 (I am going to assume you all know what I am referring to). Once I dove in, there was no turning back. I was shocked by two things: first, the ease with which the soon-to-be couples shared very intimate details about their life with one another, and second, how quickly the men took it upon themselves to propose. Maybe they thought all the good ones would be taken if they didn’t act fast? Ten days is already a short enough window, yet I felt that most of the contestants proposed within the first five days!
Even if the time interval itself wasn’t realistic, I was also shocked by a third thing: the emotional connections these people were able to make through a translucent wall seemed incredibly authentic. Even the most frat boy-esque participants dissolved into tears while recounting traumatic past experiences and their gratitude at having found a person to potentially care for them. Many would later experience endless bickering and ill-approving families, but some did in fact go on to marry and are still married today.
I watched this show under a very unique context. I was surprised to find that I experienced this particular brand of reality TV in a different manner than those before it, because in certain ways, it hits close to home. While we may not be confined behind physical walls, and while we may still be able to physically see one another, our society as a whole is currently experiencing a certain degree of removal. I am luckier, or perhaps more stupid, than many of my peers in that I have been able to see and converse with several friends at a distance over these past few weeks. I am not allowed into anyone’s car or into anyone’s house, but I am permitted to walk six feet away from a pre-approved friend on occasion. The fact that I am able to do so makes me feel guilty for complaining, but there are certain things I have noticed about my interactions with these people that deviate from normal, close interaction, that I found mirrored in the show.
One of the more uncomfortable moments of the show, for example, is when the engaged couples meet each other for the first time. Most of them are inclined to laugh or smile, but there are awkward moments when you can see in the expression of one or both individuals signifying disappointment with how the other person looks. While I certainly haven’t been observing any of my friends with disgust, seeing some of them was like seeing them for the first time. I looked them directly in the eye, I examined their faces more carefully. Even over FaceTime, I find myself to be more attentive to body language and facial cues than I otherwise would have, had I been regularly seeing the person. This observation serves as both wordless connection and as a way to assess how the person you care about may be doing without asking them outright.
Another similarity I found is that jump to intimacy without much of the routine small talk. It seems that the handicap of rare social interaction functions the same way the pods do in the show. That craving of connection — that oxytocin rush us social animals require — seems to speed up the communication process in ways that will leave us satisfied in a short amount of time. We skip to the rant, we use less of a filter, we check up on each other. We leave the conversation, whether digital or in person, feeling refreshed and less cynical about the state of the world.
Although there were times in the show when a person had to break it off because of a lack of physical attraction, there were times when a person who initially thought themselves unable to overlook a certain aspect about the person — their race, their family situation, their finances etc — eventually learned to love the person. This is another aspect of the show I find mirrored in my quarantine interactions. We are all feeling the burdens of social removal, yet our appreciation of one another has remained unchanged, possibly even the opposite. I am going to despise myself for saying this, but we are at the altar of life, and we have found that love is, in fact, blind. Even to viruses.