Despite countless reality dating shows focusing on the love, drama, and sex lives of straight people, no show has effectively explored the LGBTQ+ dating experience. Until now.
Thanks to the eighth season of MTV’s Are You the One, sexually fluid viewers can finally see themselves represented on screen in a non-sensationalized way.
Are You the One is an MTV reality dating show hinging on the premise of contestants working together to find their perfect match in a house full of good looking, single 20-somethings. In other words, players have to figure out who they’re most compatible with on the show. At the end of each week, cast members pair up with whomever they believe is their match in a match-up ceremony, and are then told how many correct matches they have altogether, but not which matches are correct.
If, by the end of the show, all contestants can correctly find their perfect matches, they split a $1-million prize. With this goal in sight, the cast of Are You the One spend their weeks together partying, hooking up, and engaging in plenty of drama in their search for true love.
While the show has spent seven seasons pairing men and women together, its newest contestants are no longer limited by the gender identities of their peers.
The eighth season of Are You the One premiered on June 26 and features 16 sexually-fluid cast members who have to work together to figure out the eight perfect matches among them. Each week, they’re given challenges, dates, and other opportunities to help explore their potential partners and figure out where they can improve in relationships. This season, MTV even brought in relationship expert Dr. Frankie to help the cast navigate their feelings.
Although the cast numbers have been reduced from previous 20- and 22-contestant seasons, the fact that someone’s perfect match is no longer restricted by gender means there are more possible combinations of couples than ever before. As contestant Danny puts it in episode one, “from a naive statistical standpoint, this is going to be 345 times harder than any previous season.”
What makes this season of Are You the One all the more exciting is its great treatment of a sexually-fluid cast on a mainstream television network. Instead of playing up the contestants’ gender and sexual expressions for the audience’s entertainment, the show has portrayed LGBTQ+ issues as realistically as it can for TV.
There’s Kai, a transmasculine non-binary person who has chosen to have top surgery—the medical removal of breast tissue—and take male hormone therapy, whose weekly testosterone injections are shown on screen and explained to the audience.
Then there’s Paige, who used the show as an opportunity to come out as bisexual to her friends and family back home, and who expresses her fears about being seen as too new to the LGBTQ+ scene to truly know her identity.
There’s also Basit, a non-binary person whose use of the pronouns “they” and “them” is never shown in a negative light. They experiment with gender expression using their wardrobe throughout the show, even debuting their drag persona, Dionne Slay, during a themed party.
Although the show adapted to accommodate a sexually-fluid cast, the drama that viewers know and love hasn’t changed in the slightest. The tears, make-outs, and shouting matches that make Are You the One so addicting are still there. It goes to show that no matter what your sexuality is, you can still be an absolute mess on TV.
If you’re looking for a show to fill your time and your every waking thought, especially with the Bachelorette finale quickly approaching, then I suggest you catch up on Are You the One—it might be your perfect match.
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