People are losing their minds over the trailer for Sexy Beasts, a new reality dating show coming to Netflix, where the contestants are dressed head to toe in elaborate animal costumes and prosthetic makeup. It's a spectacle that demands attention, but this format, and its limitations, are older than people think.
On the surface, Sexy Beasts just seems bonkers. Watching a woman in an elaborate dolphin costume awkwardly meet a bull man for a blind date is pure comedy, heavy on the cringe aspect. The tone of the show becomes clear when a man dressed in beaver prosthetics says that he judges his potential mate on their "ass first, personality second." I will never forget the clip of the woman made up to look like the devil making out with mandrill, and I hope to see more of this content in the actual show.
On Twitter, a lot of the reaction to this show has been eye rolling and disbelief. It feels like a natural follow up to the similar social experiment dating show that ran on Netflix called Love Is Blind, which saw contestants literally get engaged before they saw each other at all. Given the level of detail on the costumes, Sexy Beasts owes some DNA to The Masked Singer as well. But this kind of dating game goes all the way back to at least 1965's The Dating Game, where a bachelorette asked three hidden bachelors questions about their dating preferences, and they all have a secondary agenda: to prove or disprove that people are shallow and only care about looks.
Here's the thing, though: everyone on Love is Blind was hot, at least according to the trailer. All the people singing on The Masked Singer are celebrities, even if they're not well known for their singing. Hell, Sexy Beasts is called sexy beasts, not "probably good looking beasts." Even with the costumes, you can tell that all the contestants on the show are thin and able bodied.
The central mystery of the Sexy Beasts is whether or not these people will still like each other once they've taken off their elaborate disguises. From my vantage point, I can't see what could be under the costumes that would reveal any lingering shallowness in the contestants' hearts, unless it turns out they like the costumes better.