The previous seven seasons of Are You The One, while entertaining and admittedly my guilty pleasure (don’t tell the straights), used the same monotonous heterosexual formula that nearly all reality TV series do… male + female + sex + drama. So, imagine my surprise and genuine delight when I find out scrolling through Twitter that this season cast 16 incredibly attractive, sexually fluid singletons. The inclusivity! The elegance!
For anybody who doesn’t know how the show works, typically there are 10 people who suck at relationships – 5 straight men and 5 straight women. They’re paired together through a matchmaking system but are unaware of who their perfect match is and have to find them while living together in a house for ten weeks. In the past they’ve taken contestants to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, amazing dream vacation spots, and they compete to win dates with someone of their choosing to try and figure out who their perfect match is. At the end of each week they have a matchup ceremony which tells them how many perfect matches they’ve chosen, but not who are the correct ones and who are the wrong ones. There’s also a million dollars, so love and money are on the line.
Not only is this season making history, it’s coming during a time where it’s extremely poignant and necessary. It seems as if every other day there’s another devastating new article about the LGBTQ+ community. Be it homophobic attacks like the one lesbian couple Melania and Chris endured on a bus in Camden, or the continuous murdering of trans women of colour in the U.S., small things like a TV show dedicating an entire season to LGBTQ+ people gives me hope.
In this video, the cast express their thoughts and feelings on representation in the media. One cast member said, “Part of the biggest motivation of why I’ve put myself out there is because growing up, I didn’t see anyone like myself. I believe that popular media is what influences culture the most and so, it’s like, instead of fighting the system, why don’t you work the system to your advantage.” Another added, “Some of us are not what you would want to maybe represent you, and that’s fine, but we’re real people. And we exist. And we deserve to be seen and we deserve to express how we feel.” The video ends with one cast member saying, “If you have a reality TV show that includes the entire spectrum of like, racial, sexual and gender identities, you’re gonna have a really interesting show.”
Put plainly, it might seem like just another silly, trashy MTV show that’s superfluous and artificial, but I picture myself when I was younger watching this exact show and looking around at all of the gorgeous couples, in love, fighting for love, wanting to be seen and wanting to be desired, and feeling the same way. Feeling like there wasn’t anybody in the world – let alone that house – that I would find that would be my perfect match. Now I imagine younger LGBTQ+ kids watching, seeing people who they can relate to, who they can look up to, be unashamedly in love. And know, most importantly, that it’s not wrong to be who you are, to love who you are and it’s not impossible to find. This opens up so many doors for so many issues in the LGBTQ+ community to be addressed; bi- and transphobia within the community, racism dressed up as “preference” in dating, the alarmingly high number of eating disorders, slut- and body-shaming, there’s so much this show and this cast can do to highlight and bring awareness to stuff that’s barely recognised because we barely have any representation to do so.
So much good can come from this show. I can already see the backlash MTV is probably getting from it but I truly applaud the producers and executives who greenlit this idea. I know it must not have been easy to convince a boardroom full of people to go through with it but it’s going to make it one step easier for more people to do the same and for more representation to be seen. This is a small step in the right direction.