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Now, nearly 12 years after the premiere of takes a wildly different approach to depicting queer, and particularly bi/pansexual, attraction.
This season has gotten more complicated than the show’s prior iterations, but it’s intriguing for reasons beyond the new statistical challenge.
For heterosexual audiences, it’s didacticism wrapped in an alcohol-soaked reality-TV bow, while for LGBTQ viewers, it’s an opportunity to be seen—for better or worse—more intimately than many dating shows have previously allowed.
The new season of premiered right at the tail end of June—Pride Month.
As Remy, one of the participants, notes, “Some of us are not what you would want to maybe represent you, and that’s fine, but we’re real people, and we exist and deserve to be seen, and we deserve to express how we feel.” isn’t the most respectability-driven model of representation, but for a series about 16 young people hanging out and hooking up in one giant house, it manages to be impressively earnest.
In one early scene, for example, the show’s lone trans cast member, Kai, asks Jenna, the woman he’s been connecting with since the first day, if she’d be willing to join him while he takes his routine testosterone shots.
A relationship expert will counsel cast members as they seek to find romance and navigate the emotionally fraught nature of a dating show, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Indeed, the show was later mired in controversy following reports that Tila isn’t actually bisexual (and she has since gone on to court attention from neo-Nazis), but it ran for two seasons and inspired a spin-off.In each of the show’s first seven seasons, 20 singles (and sometimes an additional wild card or two) were put through a “rigorous matchmaking process” and chosen to live together in a massive house.They were diverse in geographic and racial background but uniformly young, brash, attractive, and heterosexual.Like the hyper-branded festivities it coincided with, the show is a fascinating tonal mashup: The episodes that have aired thus far weave lessons about sexuality and gender (and the politics of dating while queer) into every element of the show.Cast members introduce themselves with backstories that account for upbringings spent in the closet or involve being the only publicly queer kid in middle school.
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In a highlight clip that finds the cast explaining why their season—and representation of queer people on television—is so important, one member offered a straightforward assessment: “If you have a reality TV show that includes the entire spectrum of, like, racial, sexual, and gender identities, you’re gonna have a really interesting show!