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STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:
The reality dating show "Love Is Blind" is built around a simple premise. Couples date without meeting face to face, fall in love with each other's personalities and don't meet in person until after they've gotten engaged.
AISHA HARRIS, HOST:
The Netflix show just wrapped its third season. And we're going to unpack what happened. I'm Aisha Harris.
THOMPSON: And I'm Stephen Thompson. Today, we are talking about "Love Is Blind" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.
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THOMPSON: Joining us is the co-host of the podcast "Fanti," journalist Jarrett Hill. Welcome, Jarrett.
JARRETT HILL: Hey. Thanks for having me.
THOMPSON: It is a delight to have you - very excited about this conversation.
HILL: I am, too, lowkey. So I'm with you.
THOMPSON: (Laughter) So "Love Is Blind" is a dating show that is big on calling itself an experiment. They stick 15 single men and 15 single women in separate housing, then have them meet and date each other in separate pods, with walls keeping them apart. They can hear each other on their dates, but couples can't meet face to face until they're engaged. That all happens in the first two episodes, as 30 people get unceremoniously whittled down to five engaged couples. We follow those couples as they start their lives together, working their way through at least some of the many issues you need to sort out between the time you meet someone and the time you get married.
Season 3's contestants are all based in or around Dallas. Some seem better suited to this process than others. And viewers are bound to have strong opinions on some of them as we get to know them and they get to know each other. "Love Is Blind" is streaming on Netflix. In this discussion, we're going to talk about what happened in Season 3, including the weddings, but not the reunion. So stop listening now if you want to remain completely unspoiled. So Jarrett, I'm going to start with you. What do you think of "Love Is Blind" in general? And what did you think of Season 3?
HILL: Oh, my gosh. Could you please ask me a broad question?
HILL: "Love Is Blind" is one of those shows that, Season 1, I watched the show, and I was immediately locked in. And, like, I remember watching it all in such a short period of time, right? The second season, I was like, OK, OK, OK, OK.
HILL: And, like, it just kind of dragged on. This season, I can't tell you how many times I looked at the clock and was like, we still got 45 minutes left?
HILL: Like, it was - it's just - I feel like this season has moved really, really slowly and especially, like, in the pods at the top of the season, when we're, like, looking at them kind of moving around and trying to figure out where to go. You mentioned that they're big on calling themselves an experiment. I think all dating is an experiment, right? Like, all of the times that we try to come together with someone else is an experiment. I'm intrigued by this concept. I don't know that it's interesting on television every season. I love love. And I'm, like, cheering and crying and all that. But I don't know. I have very mixed feelings about the show now.
THOMPSON: All right. How about you, Aisha?
HARRIS: Well, Stephen, I know we've only been talking for all of, maybe, 5 minutes. But, like, I feel like we're best friends now. Like, you're my best friend.
THOMPSON: We're basically soulmates.
HARRIS: We're basically soulmates (laughter). Jarrett, I'm right there with you, where Season 1, I was all-in. I thought it was just the most bizarre kind of dating show. And after years of dating shows, it felt like the genre had sort of reached its apex with this. It was like, OK, it's working with all of these very familiar dating genre pieces. So it's not like it's exactly groundbreaking.
But the way this show tries to treat this, quote, unquote, "experiment" and then, especially in Season 3, has sort of abandoned the initial premise, which was this idea that, OK, you take away everything except someone's voice - which, at the end of the day, even that, you know, race can be a factor in that way because you're talking to people, and you're asking them, you know, where are you from? They might say, oh, I'm from Dallas. But then they might say, oh, my family is from Israel. Like, so you get a sense of who these are - people are anyway. So even there, the experiment kind of fails.
THOMPSON: Yeah. Well, it's like, oh, I work as a VIP cocktail waitress. I wonder if this person is good-looking.
HARRIS: Right. Exactly. Oh, and that's my other biggest issue with the show is that no one is actually, quote, unquote, "ugly" or "unattractive"...
THOMPSON: No. Never.
HARRIS: ...Like conventionally ugly or unattractive. Everyone is at least average-looking. And a lot of them are very conventionally hot. And that especially played out this season. When the people involved are actually honest about these things, even though villains arise - and it's like, how are you saying these things to this person you're supposed to be in love with and how you're attracted to this other person? I still think that's when it's at its most honest and most interesting to me. Reality shows are supposed to be everything as text, not everything as subtext. And I think this show really fails in grappling with race and also with people's sizes and how that plays into how people find each other attractive. I still am obsessed with this and am fascinated by it. But I think it also just fails fundamentally at what it's trying to do.
HILL: I do want to be best friends.
HILL: I do. I do. I do.
HARRIS: Don't we all? We're all looking for our best friends.
THOMPSON: I just want to say to Aisha and to Jarrett, I love you.
HILL: I love you. Oh. And I'm in love - like, they go in on this show. It's pretty absurd sometimes.
HILL: I will say also, though, Stephen, before we move on - I do think it's important to say that I get why people get so immersed in love in these shows, right? It's interesting to me how people don't consider what it's like to live in this fairy tale world that they're in, right? They're not living in the real world. They're living in pods in, you know, cubicles that have been built for them.
THOMPSON: They are plied with insane amounts of alcohol.
HARRIS: Yes. So much alcohol. Yeah.
HILL: Right. They're not allowed to be in contact with family during certain parts. They spend hours and hours and hours with someone, having conversations. So I do want to acknowledge, like, I get how you can fall for someone in this unconventional way. It's just, also, sometimes, you be like - when it gets cut down to the three-minute conversation, you're like, girl, now, what? Come on.
THOMPSON: Yeah, you can really - I mean, throughout the season, for as long as this thing is, there is so much you can tell has been cut out. There is a whole conversation about abortion that runs, strangely enough, throughout the season where you're like, I am still missing so much context for this conversation of why they're having this conversation, why this conversation is as big a deal as it is. Like...
HARRIS: See, I had the opposite reaction to that.
THOMPSON: You thought there was too much conversation about abortion on "Love Is Blind" (laughter).
HARRIS: No, no, actually, no, no. Well, actually, to me - so this is why Season 3, I think, there were some moments where - and this is where I actually felt, like, the show - I was surprised that the show went there. So the couple we're talking about here are Bartise and Nancy. And Bartise is, you know, this very conventionally hot bro dude. He's younger than Nancy. He's about, like, 24 or 25, and she's in her 30s and she's settled. And they're having this conversation. And Nancy is - for her job, she works as a speech pathologist and she encounters some kids who have disabilities. And she throws out this hypothetical scenario where if you knew the child was going to be born with a birth defect, would you decide to keep it or abort it? Like, what would you do?
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BARTISE BOWDEN: Whatever - I just want to love that kid no matter what. Three legs - whatever comes out is, like, going to be our kid.
NANCY RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. I think it's different for me. I've seen so much in my field. It was so emotionally draining and so sad that I would cry almost every day.
HARRIS: As soon as they both answer that question, I was like, oh, this is never going to last. And I think those are the kind of conversations, though, that you have to have. I actually appreciate that the show - that that even happened. Maybe that's just me. I liked that (laughter). Maybe it's just me.
HILL: For those of you looking for archetypes and are OK with the spoilers, I would say that Bartise and Nancy are last season's Shayne and Natalie.
HARRIS: Oh, absolutely.
HILL: Like, we saw this happening. We knew this was not a good idea. We screamed it from the rooftops. Y'all are cute. The love is amazing and beautiful. Don't do this, right? Like, that is what this was for me. Even when you see them meet in person, even when you see them, like having an interaction with the ex, I'm like, this is not the way to go, right? They also give, like, strong Jarrette and Iyanna vibes; also a little bit of Deepti and Abhishek, right? Like...
HARRIS: So, so much.
HILL: Something that frustrates me on this show - and, Aisha, you touched on this already - it frustrates me that we see, like, beautiful people being made to feel like gargoyles by their partners...
HILL: ...Right? And it's like Nancy is gorgeous.
HILL: Right? Like, what? Like...
THOMPSON: First of all - first of all, free Nancy. Like, I kept yelling free Nancy...
THOMPSON: ...At the TV. But also - I don't know. Zanab and Cole are a whole different story because they're, like, both wrong all the time.
HILL: But, like, Zanab is gorgeous, right? And he's like - he's so caught up in Colleen. And it's like...
HILL: ...What? Like, what is happening here? Like, this kind of situation now, it's like - it just makes me really uncomfortable watching it because I feel like, what do people at home that have their own insecurities...
HILL: ...You know what I mean - how's that working?
THOMPSON: Well, and watching - yeah, watching Zanab is like (imitating Cole) I don't know, she's more, like, a nine and three-quarters.
THOMPSON: You know? Like, what's happening? I mean, Zanab and Cole and Bartise and Nancy are classic examples of couples where it is like the guy is engineered in a lab to make the woman feel as bad about herself as possible. And it is really frustrating and hard to watch. I feel like you can watch shows like this in one of two ways, right? Like, you can think of them as, like, complete trash and you're just, like, watching it the way you would watch any trashy reality show. Or you can kind of get swept up in this, like, sociological train wreck of picking apart exactly what these couples are doing wrong. And I do think, like, that is where a show like this is really fun to watch with a partner. You don't really even need to pause it. You can just talk over it because it doesn't ever...
HARRIS: Yes, this is a very talk over show.
THOMPSON: It is not one of those like, oh, my God, we are going to miss the action.
HILL: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I have rewound so many times to be ready for this conversation, and you people are talking over the show.
HARRIS: Well, look, I've been watching it by myself. I've been talking to you - the screen - while I'm, like, folding laundry and watching the show (laughter).
HILL: I was going to say, I was on Instagram. It's fine. It's not a big deal.
THOMPSON: Do you have - we all have least favorites.
THOMPSON: There is a constant race to the bottom between Bartise and Cole for worst person on this show. But do you have favorite people, like, people you were, like, really rooting for?
HARRIS: OK. So for me, Raven surprised me. So there is a moment - this is the first night that all the couples have actually seen each other together. You know, they're in their little resort, whatever, and they go back home. And Bartise is talking to Nancy. Let's actually just play a short clip of this because he's describing what it was like to finally see Raven for the first time after almost picking her but then picking Nancy instead.
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BOWDEN: I loved seeing Raven for the first time. Raven is, like, the typical girl that I would go after in the real world. Like, Raven's - she came down. She was wearing the tight clothes. I was like, OK, she's a f****** smoke show. She's hot as s***. I was like, OK, we're both, like, the person that people come to. And we both draw attention.
HARRIS: So Bartise is talking to Nancy like she's one of his boys. Like, you don't - why would you - why would you, like...
THOMPSON: He's saying this to Nancy?
HARRIS: To Nancy - he's saying this to Nancy. And so I was surprised because I thought Raven was actually going to also be like this when she first saw Bartise because he's not wrong. Let's be honest. He's not wrong. If I saw them together in person, I would be like, this makes sense. Of course. And of course, if they were in a bar, I'm sure they would have gravitated toward each other. That would absolutely happen. But Raven - like, he doesn't choose her. And so once she finally sees him and once Bartise, like, later on tries to saddle up to her and try to flirt with her, she's like, no, he clearly only is into me because of my looks, and I don't like that. And I'm going to try and make it work with SK.
And SK is like - he's Nigerian. He's like, even though my dad had multiple wives, I am not into that. And also, I want a woman who's very smart and independent, blah, blah, blah. And SK is like, he's cute, but he's not who would you necessarily expect, in a conventional way, to see with Raven. And the fact that she tries with him and is totally turned off by Bartise, that made me like her even more because it was clear that she was actually taking this very seriously. I also was rooting for her to, like, not wind up with SK because the way that his family was talking about, well, you have to be submissive to the husband and blah, blah, blah. And she's just standing there, and I'm like, girl, get out.
HARRIS: Like, the mother - his mother is telling you that you're expected to basically be submissive.
THOMPSON: Like, have a stew on at all times (laughter).
HARRIS: I know. And her face the whole time, I was like, oh, girl. She was like - other than Nancy, she was the one who I was rooting for the most to figure her stuff out and figure it out for, like, the better.
HILL: I have to say, like, I'm really, really rooting for her. I want to see where she goes next. Raven is also my fave. Like, by the end of the season, she is just, like, such a light, right? Like, I just love when she walks into the building on wedding day, she's asking about how SK is doing. She's like, is he - he said he's nervous. Oh, how is he doing? She's taking care of the mom. Like, she has a such a great heart.
HILL: And so she's also my favorite, and I'm definitely rooting for her. I also really love what Zanab did.
HARRIS: Yes. Let's talk about Zanab did (laughter).
THOMPSON: Ah, yeah. Let's provide a little background. Cole spends much of the season weirdly cutting down Zanab in a very unpleasant way, kind of, like, pinpointing her insecurities and just digging into them in ways that are kind of shocking. Once they actually are standing at the altar, Jarett, why don't you tell us what happens.
HILL: Baby, baby...
HILL: ...Baby, let me tell you, I have been fascinated because he's very much a bouche...
HILL: ...Right? Like, he's this person who gets to the altar. And with Zanab, she does not just say, I do not.
HILL: I think the thing that she says that stuck with me the most, she said, you have single-handedly, like, deconstructed my self-confidence.
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ZANAB JAFFREY: You have disrespected me. You have insulted me. You have critiqued me. And for what it is worth, you have single-handedly shattered my self-confidence. And I hate that you have had that kind of effect on me.
HILL: Wow, right? And it frustrated me to watch him make her, like, the villain in that.
HILL: She walks away, and he's like, that was a joke.
HILL: Right? One of the friends says they were on the same page. No...
HARRIS: (Laughter) Never. Never.
HILL: ...They were not. Right?
THOMPSON: Pretty clearly were not.
HILL: Right. And, like, it made me think of something that my pastor says - Bishop Jakes (ph). He says the pain you cause is not the same as the pain you feel, right? Like, yes, they had a hard time. But, like, the pain that he caused her, he can't know what that felt like. And for her to explain that to him, it really, really frustrated me to watch that at the end.
HARRIS: I just wonder how much pressure these contestants or - contestants, or whatever they are...
HARRIS: ...These participants feel to actually do the whole wedding thing because it's Netflix. And like, if you don't do it, then you're not going to be on the end of the show. It's just - there's so many factors that make this so bizarre and so (laughter), so dumb. And am I going to watch season four? I don't know. Probably. Yes, I will.
HILL: And then, probably, we'll be back here.
THOMPSON: I will say I will come back and watch season four only for the celebrity firepower of Nick and Vanessa Lachey.
HARRIS: Oh, my God. The easiest - Stephen, you called it the easiest job in the world, I think, when we were slacking (laughter).
THOMPSON: This is literally the easiest job in show business. They say, like, five sentences, are gone by midseason. Like, they just never appear again.
HARRIS: And they say the exact same sentences every time. It's like, this is an experience about race, gender...
HILL: Yeah. You could literally use the clips of them from season one. You can put them on a green screen and just use it every season. And I don't think anyone is styling them. They just look like they're in their regular clothes. Hey, guys, we're married. We're here.
THOMPSON: The ratio on this show of time spent with Nick and Vanessa Lachey and time spent listening to bad needle drops is, like, 1 to 6,000.
HILL: OK. OK. So one of the things about this show that I don't think we talk enough about - right? - we need to have a national conversation about the music on "Love Is Blind."
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UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) I'm so excited 'cause your all invited to the party.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Wow, I love it.
HILL: Because I'm like, I think they are having this music, like, made. I think they are taking stock music and having someone sing, (singing) I don't know if you're the one, but I love you.
HILL: That's what's happening.
THOMPSON: The deeply literal nature of the...
THOMPSON: ...Like, just how blunt, how on the nose every music drop is.
THOMPSON: And they're all generic until, like, the very, very end. They're, like, artists you've never heard of. And they'll be like, (singing) going to the bathroom and crying. Like...
HILL: (Singing) Everyone is shocked we got married.
HILL: (Singing) Why is everyone cheering? It's like...
HILL: ...Where are you finding this music? Like, they have to be making this music for the show.
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THOMPSON: I mean, when you think about it, like, how much would your music have to pop for anyone to be like, I discovered this band on "Love Is Blind."
HILL: Oh, my God. Can you imagine?
HILL: Can you imagine?
THOMPSON: All right. Well, I feel like we've really only begun to scratch the surface.
HARRIS: I know. But they're going to have to cut so much of this (laughter).
THOMPSON: Well, we want to know what you think about "Love Is Blind." Find us at facebook.com/pchh, and on Twitter @pchh. That brings us to the end of our show. Aisha Harris, Jarrett Hill, thanks so much to both of you for being here.
HARRIS: Thanks, best friends. It's fun (laughter).
HILL: So fun, best friend, call me.
THOMPSON: I love you, and I'm in love with you.
THOMPSON: Thank you so much.
HILL: I love you. I love you.
THOMPSON: And of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. This episode was produced by Hafsa Fathima and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music. I'm Stephen Thompson, and we will see you all tomorrow when we'll be talking about "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
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