Love Is Blind, the well-liked Netflix series that concluded its fourth season on Sunday has a tumultuous foundation to start with 15 males and 15 females participating in a dating "experiment" (as per the show's requirement) where they converse through isolated pods and develop a romantic connection without ever seeing each other, ultimately leading to an engagement.
The program endeavors to provide a satisfactory answer to a justifiable question: "Can love truly be blind?" Taking the plunge and getting engaged within just 10 days of dating, without even having met the person you're committing to for life - is that a recipe for disaster?
After four seasons, six prosperous relationships, and two separations, several past participants have shared their on-set encounters in a report released by Insider on Tuesday. They have outlined how distressing the pods and the show's aftermath were for them.
Be forewarned: The situation deteriorates significantly beyond a white woman being harassed online for giving her dog wine.
Nick Thompson, a Season 2 contestant who was married and later divorced fellow contestant Danielle Ruhl, expressed that they were forced into a difficult situation without any assistance, and the consequences were magnified. He stated that it had the power to destroy lives.
Insider was informed by a group of ex-cast members, including some who preferred to remain unidentified, that the process of filming the show was a distressing experience.
The contestants have reported that they were required to shoot for 20 hours a day for almost two weeks, and their eating and sleeping schedules were closely monitored by the producers.
The availability of food and water in the communal areas was limited, while alcohol was readily available. According to some production assistants, they were frequently encouraged to refill the contestants' drinks as frequently as possible.
The area, which comprised the pods and the lounge where participants spent time in between dates, had no windows. Moreover, some of the male and female contestants only caught a glimpse of sunlight while using the restroom in a trailer located outside. In addition to this, the production team confiscated the cast members' phones and controlled their sleeping and eating schedules.
According to Ruhl, she had a fainting spell during the pod dating phase while drinking champagne, possibly due to inadequate food, sleep, and water. Instead of receiving medical assistance, a crew member administered a COVID test and instructed her to record a confession after regaining consciousness.
Production assistants accompanied cast members at all times, even to the restroom. A PA who was part of Seasons 2 and 3 revealed that they were instructed not to interact with the contestants.
"We were advised to ignore a girl who boarded the bus and was feeling insecure or unhappy with her body. Just avoid her. This creates a strange cult-like atmosphere of 'no communication allowed.' The goal is to keep them isolated."
In June 2022, Jeremy Hartwell, a cast member of Season 2, filed a lawsuit against Netflix and Kinetic Content, the production company, claiming that they had breached labor laws and subjected contestants to hazardous and cruel working conditions in the filming environment.
According to Hartwell, he received a weekly allowance of $1,000 during the filming period, with a cap of $8,000 overall. This equated to an hourly rate of approximately $7.14.
Insiders reported that Hartwell's claims were dismissed as baseless by Kinetic. The litigation is still in progress, with Kinetic stating in legal papers that Hartwell's participation in the show was only for six days. Netflix's lawyers, as per the New York Times, asserted that the "exaggerated accusations" were likely due to Hartwell's disappointment at not being selected by another contestant.
Since I've been a loyal viewer of the perplexing reality show since its inception, I've always wondered how the producers managed to convince seemingly level-headed individuals to commit to a partner they barely knew, let alone do so on national television. However, it has recently come to light that the producers resorted to emotionally harmful tactics to keep the contestants on the show, even as they became aware of the toxic environment they had unwittingly entered.
Contestants who wished to leave the show prematurely without the approval of producers were contractually obligated to pay Kinetic $50,000 in damages. Additionally, engaged couples were required to attend their wedding ceremonies, even if they had previously decided not to marry their partner. Those who did follow through with the marriage were prohibited from filing for divorce until after the season finale. A former contestant claimed that producers pressured her to remain on the show despite her having suicidal thoughts.
During the casting process for Season 3, Brennon Lemieux was admitted despite being accused of assaulting a 22-year-old woman several months prior. The woman alleged that Lemieux physically attacked her, causing her to lose consciousness. Although a grand jury did not indict Lemieux due to insufficient evidence, he later met and married Alexa Alfia on the show.
Love is Blind cast cover image (Netflix via facebook)
Former cast members have revealed that there was a lack of mental health services available to them during filming, despite the obvious mental strain they were under. Many reported feeling depressed after the show ended, with one contestant even quitting her job as a mental health counselor due to her struggles. During the casting process, Ruhl disclosed her history of mental illness and suicidal ideation but was still cast on the show. Following the show's conclusion, Ruhl and Thompson sought marital counseling services as they struggled to keep their marriage intact.
Ruhl expressed, "I feel like I haven't been my true self since before filming. The experience has messed with me and now I'm trying to rediscover who I am."
Thompson shared her frustration, stating, "I pleaded for assistance, but none was given. We were thrown into this marriage for financial gain, and it was all for nothing. I want to mend my relationship, but it feels like it was all for show."
Insider's requests for comment from Netflix went unanswered. Kinetic Content stated that the safety and well-being of their participants are of utmost importance and they have implemented strict protocols to ensure their care before, during, and after filming.
It is not surprising that Love Is Blind has caused emotional distress as reality television shows have a history of traumatizing contestants, such as The Bachelor and Survivor. However, newer dating shows should learn from past mistakes and implement updated duty-of-care processes to support participants during and after filming.
For example, ITV has created detailed welfare plans for Love Island cast members. The Bachelor has also provided therapists with their leads during filming. There are basic measures that can be taken to ensure the safety of contestants, and other shows have successfully implemented them.
Despite this, Love Is Blind continues to exploit contestants' vulnerabilities for the sake of sensational entertainment.