Netflix gives us a reality show that does not deliver on its title.
Ten single people who are known for their promiscuity are put on an island only to be told that they are in a competition for $100,000 that is dependent on them not doing anything sexual for the next four weeks. Every act they undertake will subtract from the total, including $3000 for a kiss. Meanwhile, the people are encouraged to look for deeper connections with their fellow competitors through a computer monitoring system, named Lana. The show is hosted by former Mayor of Night Vale Desiree Burch.
I was kind of hoping this would be the level of enjoyable trash that Netflix gave us with Love is Blind, but unfortunately this is back to the normal level of reality television. Most of the characters are not particularly likable, probably due to the fact that most of them are attractive enough that they’ve never had to develop actual personalities. There are some contestants that are more relatable and some that are more hateable, but they all rely on being dateable.
The main conflicts are usually between the group as a whole and some of the more reckless contestants, rather than just between individuals or teams, which creates an interesting dynamic. At the beginning, it is not announced who cause the losses of money, so we do see some interesting situations in which people try to blame each other or deny their guilt or frame others; however, that ultimately ends up falling to the wayside as it becomes more apparent that, despite the relative attractiveness and supposedly enhanced libidos of the people on the island, most of them don’t really have any difficulty in not having sex with strangers and, honestly, there’s not as much drama as you’d expect from a show like this. While the show tries to cover for this by having Desiree Burch provide color commentary, I think most of her “jokes” don’t really land. Given that I find her to be much funnier in interviews and other performances, I’m guessing it’s due to a combination of bad writers and boring subject matter.
One of the more interesting things that they do in this show, though, is that they periodically have soul-enriching classes that some or all of the contestants participate in. Several of these are interesting, including classes about vulnerability or female empowerment, and I do appreciate a show with such a sex-charged premise encouraging self-care and therapy like this.
Overall, I just didn’t think this show kept my interest as much as I wanted. Since it’s only 9 episodes, it’s not much of an investment, though. I also find it funny that one of the contestants was the guy who made the movie Counterfeiters that was famous for being shot on essentially no budget. I might review that in the future. For now, here’s an op-ed from another viewer:
THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN THAT LIVES ON MY COUCH
I’ve recently heard myself say “getting attached to people is stupid.” This is the mindset that the contestants on the show supposedly had coming in, and supposedly the show is supposed to correct them of their impulse to screw around. This was what I struggled with while watching the show – on the one hand, I strongly believe that sex outside of a relationship or any emotional attachment isn’t wrong or unhealthy on its face, and in many ways it’s the opposite. In particular, the relative ease of dating around in modern society helps keep people from getting stuck in bad relationships. At the same time, sex *is* intimate and kind of a big deal in some ways! You’re letting someone into your personal space, sometimes feelings get kicked up, and it involves a degree of personal risk (especially during these pandemic times.) Like all good things, it’s possible to use it in ways that aren’t healthy.
The show claims a self-improvement premise. Lana states that by preventing the contestants from having sex, she is forcing them to form deeper emotional connections. Couples are rewarded for developing such connections. In one of the various self-improvement workshops, the women discuss the value of their “yoni.” It can all reek a bit of purity culture. Are the couples spending more time communicating and having quality time together because they can’t do other stuff? I don’t really know, these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Some of the relationships on the show didn’t work out, even with this extra time spent building an emotional connection first.
The thing is, it’s kind of a compelling experiment if you’ve spent some time in your life where you had access to many other single people. (College and young adulthood, for a lot of people. And retirement communities.) It’s easy to burn out on the way people conduct themselves in that space. How would things be different if you were forced to go a bit more slowly? I think Chloe benefits from this the most, even though she breaks the rules and kisses both the men she’s interested in. She learned from the first kiss that she wasn’t really into Bryce after all. Shortly after the second, Kori chooses to go out with another girl, and while Chloe is hurt, it could have been arguably more painful if their relationship had gone further physically – which was discouraged by the rules of the show.
What really matters are 1. your own needs and expectations, and whether your patterns are helping you to fulfill them and 2. whether you’re communicating with others about their expectations and proceeding in good faith. Chloe described the show to the Sun as “sexual rehabilitation,” and there’s nothing wrong with trying something different to break out of a pattern. I think it’s food for thought in that respect, even if I completely reject the idea that jumping into bed with a person precludes a meaningful emotional connection. But you probably could have figured that out without watching a reality show.
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