Contemporary matchmaking shows that corral heterosexual strangers to mix and mingle, demanding that they lock someone down after mere weeks of so-called dating—Love is Blind, Sexy Beasts, all the Bachelors and Bachelorettes—are a special kind of farce. That’s not how love works! Reality show people are weird! Desperation isn’t sexy! But at least these people aren’t already in relationships. When they see the object of their affections getting hot and heavy with someone else, their mild territorial jealousy is based on the supremely low stakes of having spent all of 48 hours together.

Not so with the chaotic new Netflix show The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On, an experiment from the creators of Love is Blind so torturous it should probably invoke ethical review by the Office for Human Research Protections. It features six established couples, all made up of pairs in which one has given the other an ultimatum to propose or break up. The partner who isn’t so keen on marriage has their reasons: They aren’t ready; they aren’t sure if this is “the one”; only one of them wants kids; only one of them is human.

That’s hardly the craziest thing about this show. What’s crazier is this: Ultimatum has each couple pretend to break up, then makes every contestant enter a three-week “trial marriage” with another “newly single” contestant. Both strangers have to choose each other mutually to enter this trial marriage. After that, they’ll then enter a second three-week “trial marriage” back with their original partner, and at the end of the show, they’ll decide whether to propose to the old person, propose to the new person, or leave single. (I spotted one of these couples dining on Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica recently, and it took everything in me not to ask them why on earth they’d appear on this show.)

These twentysomethings meet their pretend partners’ actual friends and families, and have extensive, soul-searching discussions about precisely what they’ll be like if they really pair off—as if saying these things out loud makes them true. Partners are ruthlessly evaluated for what boxes they do or don’t check; a particularly agonizing through line is how the contestants all say that they feel “seen” and “heard” for the first time in their lives by a complete stranger.

There’s a somewhat similar show airing right now called Temptation Island—an O.G. reality program that first ran for three seasons from 2001 to 2003, but was revived recently. That series features four couples of various duration who, for whatever reason, want to test their fidelity. Separated by gendered villa, the members of each couple are preyed upon by some 12 singles, who proceed to aggressively woo the contestants. Temptation Island, like The Ultimatum, is also ridiculous—but in its defense, the older show has the benefit of being self-aware. That’s clear from its clubby up-tempo pop, tropical setting, and the way it challenges its cast to do stuff like lick whipped cream and chocolate sauce off each other and take group showers. That “shocking” footage is then played to the original partners in a “bonfire ceremony” designed to make them go absolutely nuts. In other words, it’s sick—but no one is really pretending it isn’t. That makes it fun.

Ultimatum, on the other hand—with its brutal sincerity, maudlin soundtrack, and extensive footage of long, tearful conversations—seems to think it’s midwifing personal growth. It’s hosted with bewildering seriousness by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, who frame this madness as not only emotionally healthy at every turn, but somehow a unique opportunity for serious people.

Participating in this social experiment, Vanessa says in all earnestness halfway through the series, is “about you as a person, and God willing, finding that other person. Whether it’s the person you came with, or the person that you meet here.” Yes: nothing says super-rare opportunity like being saddled for three weeks with your third choice while your “ex” is getting a literal boner with some other lady.

To be fair: Organically meeting someone new can make you realize what you’re missing, and yes, seeing someone find your partner attractive can make you work a little harder to keep a romance fresh. And yes, dating around is a mechanism for genuine self-discovery and clarity, and some of the clarity appearing to happen on Ultimatum may be legit. But driving your beloved apoplectic with jealousy so they’ll magically see your value is, simply put, mean; pretending that a beefcake from a casting call’s great listening skills makes them your soulmate is folly. Of course someone new can listen to your hopes and dreams without judgment—they haven’t had to endure two years of your farts, or your feelings on the merits of duvet covers.


Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.