After finishing the third season of Netflix’s “Love is Blind” I have come to the conclusion that love is not in fact blind. The experimental dating show, which currently sits at no. 4 on Netflix’s most watched globally, strives to prove that physical attraction isn’t everything. It follows five couples who, after ten days of talking to each other through a wall without ever seeing each other, form an emotional connection and get engaged. They then have a reveal where they see their fiancé for the first time before being abruptly thrown into the “real world” to plan their wedding over the course of four weeks.
This season potentially brought on what is its most shallow cast thus far. Though it seemed that many of the contestants were looking for an alternate way of meeting people outside of the superficiality and biases that exist on dating apps, they were only met with the same treatment on “Love is Blind.”
The only couple that seemed to make any sense this season was Alexa Alfia and Brennon Lemieux. Lemieux truly seemed to love Alfia for who she was: outspoken, opinionated, and kind-hearted. He even expressed that he was willing to convert to Judaism to appease her Israeli-Jewish family. Being the show’s first plus size contestant in its three season run, I also found Alfia, who was genuine and confident, to be extremely refreshing.
For a show that is dependent on the idea of falling in love with a person, despite how they may look and align with society’s beauty standards, “Love is Blind” could have a lot more variety in body types and ethnicity. Fatphobia was an unfortunate trend throughout this season, with several of the contestants being aggressively vocal about their preference for thin women and body shaming their fiancées if they did not meet their standards.
According to a survey conducted by plus-size dating app WooPlus, out of its 1,000 female users, 71% reported having experienced fatphobia on “regular” apps such as Tinder. It’s rather disheartening that on a dating show solely focused on loving someone for who they are, this is still such a prevalent problem.
While in the pods, the small rooms separated by walls that contestants talk through, Cole Barnett and his now ex-fiancée Zanab Jaffrey bonded over a shared Christian faith. But once the two met face to face, their relationship was incredibly hard to watch. Over the course of the season, Barnett slowly chipped away at Jaffrey’s confidence, comparing her to another contestant, Colleen Reed, who he deemed a “10/10” while giving his fiancée, Jaffrey, a “9/10.”
Reed, a trained ballerina, had a smaller build to Jaffrey, something that was a major point of tension between Barnett and his ex-fiancée. In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, Jaffrey and Barnett were eating together and she teasingly asked, “You’re okay with fattening me up?” to which he replied, “You’re fattening yourself up.” His continuous comments clearly took a toll on Jaffrey, who, in a heartbreaking rant, said, “I will never look like Colleen, I’ll never be the size of Colleen.”
At one point, Barnett even made a controversial statement that had some viewers questioning whether Jaffrey’s Pakistani heritage was the reason their physical connection suffered. “I proposed to a girl named Zanab. You think I thought Zanab looked more like the girls I dated in the past that were named like, Lily? No!” This comment, coupled with Barnett’s family’s refusal to meet Jaffrey as she wasn’t “the kind of girl they envisioned him with” left a bad taste in many viewers’ mouths.
Bartise Bowden and his now ex-fiancée Nancy Rodriguez were another volatile pair. The two seemed to start off strong but things went on a rapid downward spiral as it became apparent that Bowden had his eye on contestant Raven Ross, a tall, toned pilates instructor that was more of Bowden’s physical “type” than Rodriguez who is short, curvy, and mid-size. After the other contestants were revealed, Rodriguez told Bowden how lucky she felt to have ended up with him. Bowden quickly switched up the tone of this once sweet scene by replying that he “felt the opposite.” Referring to Ross, he told his fiancée, “Raven’s the typical girl that I would go after in the real world. I was like ‘Ok, she’s a smoke show. She’s hot as sh—t.’”
Shows like “Love is Blind” certainly require some extension of disbelief, but I am simply incapable of extending mine far enough to believe that contestants like Barnett and Bowden were genuinely looking for love. While the clear mismatching and sheer drama of the show’s toxic pairings certainly makes for quality binge watching, a significant part of me feels devastated for the women of this show.
While the women of “Love is Blind” seem dedicated to authentically going through this experiment and exploring a genuine connection, contestants like Bowden and Barnett treat it like a joke. They neglect to leave their expectations at the door and instead reinforce the toxic societal standards these women were hoping to escape in the first place; making comments about their body and appearance that anyone would be humiliated to hear, especially on international television.
Since the show ended, Jaffrey has gone on to say that her traumatic relationship with Barnett caused her to seek therapy. Casting people who are more concerned with getting their 15 minutes of fame rather than taking the experiment seriously can be entertaining, but when it’s at the expense of these womens’ mental health, is it really worth it?