Romance reality TV shows fail to deviate from heteronormativity


Everyone has watched a dating reality TV show and wished that two of the contestants fell in love with each other. Sadly, this rarely happens, and it won’t improve if reality TV doesn’t change it’s exhaustingly boring heteronormative formula. This shouldn’t be the norm. We need more queer representation in reality TV. 

Admittedly, shows like “Too Hot to Handle” and “Love Island” occasionally slide in a couple snippets of LGBTQIA+ love. But it seems performative, considering that they rarely build a relationship or go on a date with the same sex. In season three of “Too Hot to Handle”, two women, Georgia and Izzy, shared a kiss just to be rebellious. When the male contestants found out, they called it “hot.” During the season, Georgia and Izzy exclusively dated men and never gave each other another glance. “Too Hot to Handle” could have easily represented a queer relationship, but instead displayed lesbian fetishization and invalidated the whole community.  

Additionally, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” is constantly following the heteronormative narrative. The whole theme of the show is for people to find love with the opposite sex, and that just seems old fashioned. “The Bachelor” has aired for over 20 years, and despite complaints, not once have they considered revising the show’s design.

One of the sole queer love stories in this genre was on “Bachelor in Paradise”, in which a lesbian couple, Demi and Kristian, got engaged. Their story was very wholesome, and even though it didn’t work out in the end, the majority of the viewers loved it. So why isn’t this normalized?

When Chris Harrison, the former Bachelor host, was asked why there aren’t homosexual Bachelors/Bachelorettes in an interview with the New York Times, he said, “The question is: Is it a good business decision?” and after, “Is [it] our job to break barriers, or is it a business?” In the end, all any reality TV show cares about is making money. They’re afraid to take the leap and potentially damage their success. 

The one other time an out LGBTQIA+ individual starred in “Bachelor Nation” was on “The Bachelorette Australia.” Brooke Blurton, the first bisexual bachelorette, took the spotlight in 2021. It was a groundbreaking event in which Blurton dated both men and women. In the end, she got engaged to a man. It was a rollercoaster of a season and a major step forward, but we still have yet to see a “Bachelor/Bachelorette” season in which two members of the same sex end up together. 

If you take a look at the viewings of Blurton’s season compared to the previous season in The Bachelorette Australia, you can see there is a clear disparity. Blurton’s season was the least watched in Bachelorette history, with less than 500,000 people viewing her finale, while previous seasons brought in over 1 million viewers. This inconsistency may have been due to the overall dramatics of the season. Or, more likely, the shock of having a bisexual bachelorette caused people to take a step back. Because of this, Bachelor Nation made less money, and hasn’t invited openly LGBTQ+ individuals onto their show since. 

The entertainment industry needs to stop prioritizing its own wealth, and instead start thinking about its influential responsibility in American society. Our society is quickly progressing. If reality TV can’t keep up with that, we should probably start calling it surreality TV.