Netflix’s gloriously trashy dating show Love Is Blind concludes Thursday and while its creators have portrayed it as an experiment in choosing personality over looks (suspiciously, everyone is reasonably attractive), in many ways it’s just a spin on arranged marriages.
Brown people like me are well-versed in arranged marriages. According to Brides magazine, an estimated 90 percent of Indian marriages and about half of marriages the world over are arranged.
There’s no one way to have an arranged marriage. Sometimes the couple involved has less of a say, and it’s their parents’ call. Other times, especially in the more modern versions of arranged marriages, couples will meet in person first or, if they’re not in the same location, court each other for months by phone and email before ultimately getting hitched.
The courtship scenario pretty much describes Love Is Blind. The couples on the show talk to each other in separate pods, get engaged before ever seeing each other, and then hope for the best. Once they’re literally at the altar, following a Mexican vacation and a brief stint cohabitating, they decide whether or not to go through with the marriage.
But there’s one notable distinction between Love Is Blind and other arranged marriages—most of the people who’ve made it through to the end of the show are white.
In my experience, white people don’t have the easiest time wrapping their heads around arranged marriages.
My parents had an arranged marriage, but you should see the gapes I’ve gotten when I’ve mentioned that to white people.
As we saw in Netflix's other blind dating show, Dating Around, brown people are often scorned or shamed for arranged marriages. When one of the show’s characters Gurki Basra, who is Sikh, explained to her date Justin Tuinstra that her parents met on their wedding day, he reacted with incredulity and ignorance. Later, when she said she felt pressured to marry her ex-husband despite having doubts, he berated her, asking, “So this is like an Indian thing?”
His attitude isn’t uncommon. When brown people discuss arranged marriages with white people, we basically have to defend the tradition or rebuke it, for fear of being accused of being borderline barbaric. This is in spite of the fact that the love marriages so revered by white people don’t actually have a higher success rate.
Enter Love Is Blind.
For better or worse, the show has brought the concept of an arranged marriage to the masses. And while I’m not an advocate for arranged marriage (or any marriage tbh), it’s given us something to think about. Obviously, the quick “I love yous” (no shade, Cameron and Lauren) are unrealistic and ridiculous. But who knows, maybe a relationship is better off if the two people focus on shared values without the distraction of sexual chemistry right off the bat.
Having said that, I’m not sure Love Is Blind doing a lot to make arranged marriages seem more palatable, mainly because most of the main characters are a hot mess. (Waddup, Jessica and Mark.) And if deep down you really don’t want to bone someone, no amount of banter is going to change that.
Generally when white folks discover something, they latch onto it, especially if it gets good ratings. So I’m sure we can look forward to further “twists” (read: bastardizations) of the concept of arranged marriage down the line.
But if there's one positive to all this, maybe some brown kid in Ohio can more easily explain how his parents got together to his friends by pointing to this dumb show.