Name: Em Fox
Advisor: Prof. Kira Hall, TA Rebecca Lee
Class: LING 2400: Language, Gender & Sexuality
When thinking of possible topics to research for Dr. Hall’s Language, Gender, and Sexuality class, I was struck by the degree to which cultural ideologies surrounding gender and sexuality are produced and reinforced by the popularity of reality TV dating shows. Having watched many different iterations of the dating show concept, it seemed to me that the large majority of these shows had used heterosexuality and prescribed gender roles as conceptual guiding forces to construct their formats. Any of these reality dating shows would have been good candidates for this kind of analysis, but Love is Blind was especially interesting because it showed what happens when a dating show’s heteronormative structure gets directly confronted with an identity that does not fit the show’s mold.
On Love is Blind, male and female contestants live in same-sex living quarters and date opposite-sex contestants without being able to see one another until they have agreed to get engaged. This means that the fundamental structure of the show already dismisses the possibility of nonbinary gender identities and nonheterosexual relationships. It may be in part due to this structural dismissal of LGBTQ+ identities that a contestant not identifying as heterosexual came as such a shock to the other contestants and viewers alike.
In season one of Love is Blind, a male contestant, Carlton Morton, came out as bisexual to his then-fiancee, Diamond Jack. The coming-out conversation and the interactions that followed were hostile and eventually resulted in the couple’s engagement ring being thrown into a pool. When these episodes were released, an online discourse erupted, debating different aspects of the coming out interaction. Some argued that Carlton should have disclosed his bisexuality prior to proposing to Diamond, while others argued that Diamond’s reaction to Carlton’s coming out was unsupportive and unkind. Most of these conversations took for granted the idea that Carlton had been dishonest in not coming out sooner. These opinion articles and social media posts inspired me to go back to the show itself and examine what kinds of ideologies about bisexuality Love is Blind had produced.
My video addresses several factors of Love is Blind that produce heteronormative stances. As I’ve done here, I begin by showing how the structure of the show reinforces binary gender structures and heterosexuality as standard. Using a video format allowed me to show the differences between the men’s and women’s living quarters as well as the pods in which contestants have their dates. This also allowed me to include snippets of the conversations between Carlton and Diamond, giving viewers a more clear picture of how these conversations occurred than could be gained from reading transcripts. In my video, I use these conversation snippets to hone in on specific questions and word choices that index underlying beliefs about bisexuality, including the words “honest,” “deceive,” and “hider,” and the question “Do you ever feel like you need to go date another man?” By incorporating these and other examples, I analyze how both Carlton and Diamond’s use of language imply a relationship between bisexuality and dishonesty, disloyalty, and inauthenticity. Combining the ideas of linguistic scholars including Bucholtz, Hall, Butler, Cameron, and Kulick with ideas about authenticity and bisexual identity posited by Jay P. Paul and Michael Lovelock, I argue that the presentation of queer identity on Love is Blind discursively produces negative and dismissive ideologies towards bisexuality.
“First Night Together.” Love is Blind, created by Chris Coelen, season 1, episode 3, Kinetic Content, 13 Feb. 2020. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/watch/81006560?trackId=255824129.
- Bucholtz, Mary and Kira Hall. 2010. “Locating identity in language” in Language of Identities, 18-28. DOI: 10.1515/9780748635788-006
- Butler, Judith. 1990. “Subversive bodily acts” in Gender Trouble. Routledge, https://doi.10.4324/9780203902752.
- Cameron, Deborah and Don Kulick. 2003. Language and Sexuality. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791178.
- Feiner, Lauren. 2020. “Netflix blows away new subscriber expectations.” Published April 21, 2020. CNBC.https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/21/netflix-nflx-earnings-q1-2020.html.
- Lovelock, Michael. 2019. Reality TV and Queer Identities: Sexuality, Authenticity, Celebrity. Palgrave McMillan. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-14215-5/
- Paul, Jay P. 1984. “The Bisexual Identity: An Idea Without Social Recognition.” Journal of Homosexuality, 9:2-3, 45-63, DOI: 10.1300/J082v09n02_03.