The rise of the surprise hit Netflix series Love is Blind has sparked a major conversation about the cookie cutter bodies of the series’ inaugural cast. The show places participants into soundproof pods where they have 15-minute dates with other singles, sight unseen. During these “dates” they learn about each other and build strong emotional connections.
The stakes are high for the contestants as they are only allowed to see the people they’ve fallen for after becoming engaged. But for the stakes are low for the viewers who are able to see that the contestants’ fears are unmerited since 100% of the cast look like they could have appeared on any given season of The Bachelor or Bachelorette.
As far as diversity goes, the show includes a few non-white people including a bisexual Black man, whose coming-out story is played for high drama and viral clips, but there is no body diversity to be seen.
Many have lamented the show’s casting of conventionally attractive people, a decision that ultimately calls into question the premise of the social experiment. It’s not a reach to say that love can be blind if the bodies are cisgender, able and an “acceptable” size.
Teen Vogue’s Matthew Rodriguez wrote in a recent essay that the show should be more inclusive of bigger bodies but I fall on the other side of the fat coin. But I disagree. We need not fight for a seat at a table where we will be disrespected. I would rather our community be excluded from what would be a harmful, very public, very shameful narrative. Love is Blind is designed for high drama and to exploit sensitive situations. And bigger bodies have been exploited and mocked enough for several lifetimes.
Imagine this: Barnett has fallen in love with Amber and asks for her hand in marriage then the doors to the magical meeting room flew open and Amber was a size 20. I still remember his exhalation of relief when he saw her body so by my math, her being plus-sized would have most definitely garnered a different reaction, which would have been incredibly hurtful to her and to the plus-sized viewers watching her heartbreak.
In my experience, love is not blind; it has 20/20 vision.
Jessica and Mark provided a glaring example of this. Mark is a conventionally attractive guy but he was not Jessica’s type (her type was admittedly Barnett) and watching her force herself to try to love him was painful to watch. His strong emotions for her blinded him to her true feelings, and we watched that train moving full forward toward a massive wreck on their wedding day, all in the name of this spectacle called a social experiment.
My body is already a spectacle as I maneuver around the highly judgmental streets of Los Angeles; I’d rather not watch a plus-sized person be toyed with for ratings on this show.
And then there’s the pervasive fetishism that plus-sized women have to deal with in the dating scene. For every, “no fatties” missive in dating profiles, there are ones proclaiming there love for plus-sized women because they are plus-sized. Every fat woman I know that has discussed the difficulties of finding love has been told, “You know, there are guys who only like big women,” a disheartening (and cringeworthy) statement from the fatphobic people in their lives.
And as if dealing with the constant othering in real life isn’t enough, we get no reprieve in the entertainment that is made about women of size. It is rare to see a plus-sized woman who is loved wholly in broad daylight in entertainment. Bigger women are often desexualized and are rarely shown as subjects of affection. For every Shrill, which follows the dating life of a plus-sized woman with gentle, sympathetic hands, there’s a High Fidelity.
The new Hulu show based on the hit movie starring John Cusack, features Da’Vine Joy Randolph, a dynamic Black plus-sized actress, in the gender-swapped Jack Black sidekick role of Cherise who is completely desexualized over the course of the season’s 10 episodes.
We watch Zoe Kravitz’s Rob go through men like underwear and David H Holmes’s Simon gets an entire episode devoted to exploring his romances but we never even find out Cherise’s sexual orientation. Though Randolph says it will be explored if there is a season two, it is a damning and purposeful admission that did not go unnoticed.
Plus-sized people should be showcased as being deserving of love and romantic feelings and physical affection. I think there should be a dating show that focuses on that without exploiting the subjects. Preferably one produced by a plus-sized person who understands the perils of being single in a dating scene that can be emotionally damaging for women of size.
Showcasing the nature of loving differently sized bodies is one that should be handled with nuance and care. While Love is Blind has proven to us that they are not that show, maybe the public pleas for a show that highlights our types of bodies will lead to one from a source that can handle our pursuits of love with care and empathy.