By Gabriela Gazaniga
Dating reality TV shows have long been our society’s collective guilty pleasure. There is
nothing we thrive off more than watching romantic drama unfold with no personal
consequences, extremely detached from our own lives. How else has our beloved Love
Island managed to make it to make literal continental spinoffs? In the last few years, Netflix
has joined mainstream television in producing endless variations of dating shows with
never-ending season renewals. The most recent of the Netflix bunch is The Ultimatum:
Queer Love; a sapphic dating show which premiered May 24th, 2023, just in time for Pride
Queer Love is in and of itself a Netflix adaptation of a Netflix original series. If you are not
familiar with the premise of The Ultimatum, let me enlighten you. A handful of couples
willingly choose to partake in a show which could bring about the end of their relationship. In
essence, one person from each couple wants to get married and thus gives the other, less
enthusiastic participant the ultimatum: marry me or we part ways forever. The beautiful thing
about this is how Netflix managed to make it an even messier situation. All the couples are
forced to break up, pick someone else from the group for a trial marriage and live with them
for three weeks, and then live with their original partner for three weeks. At the end of what
can only be described as an experiment, the ones originally given the ultimatum are made to
choose whether to leave with their trial marriage partner or officially marry the person they
spent years building a relationship with.
Although reality TV is far from educational or in any way beneficial, Queer Love is significant
due to its sapphic representation in mainstream media. In a broader sense, LGBTQ+
representation is lacklustre at best. Nowadays, we see rainbows plastered on clothes and
commercials/advertisements and supposedly that is all we need. Do not mistake me,
rainbow capitalism is far better than nothing at all, and the more exposure there is, the more
inclusion there will be. But when analysing onscreen representation, it would not be a far-off
claim to state the majority of queer inclusion are cis gay men. If you are watching a movie or
TV series and by some miracle there is any lesbian representation, it arguably falls into a
potentially harmful and cliche trope. Even worse, lesbians are often utilised in popular media
as a way to make the story ‘hot’. This is fetishization, period.
Queer Love, albeit with its various faults, marks a direct departure from traditional sapphic
depictions in mainstream TV and film. The series serves as representation for its queer
audience and an insight into real queer/lesbian dynamics for its straight audience. In a world
where homophobia and a lack of awareness of LGBTQ+ issues run rampant, Queer Love
demonstrates to its perhaps less enthusiastic viewers the normalcy of queer relationships.
Regardless of the dynamic, relationships have their difficulties, and Queer Love puts a name
to them. Of course, LGBTQ+ relationships will have divergent issues arise due to their
particular dynamics, but the premise remains the same for all: two individual people joining
their lives together.
As an inherently queer show with a diverse cast, I was a bit disappointed to see that
pronouns were not included in the cast introduction even though gender identity was a topic
of discussion amongst one of the couples. I mention this for the sole fact that upon doing
research on the cast, I discovered that a few of the participants are non-binary or gender
non-conforming; meaning that misgendering was a common occurrence during the series.
For an explicitly queer show, this was a bit of a miss in my opinion. However, it should not
take away from the strides it has made in a positive direction for the LGBTQ+ community.
Finally, I believe it would be unfair of me to critique what transpired in the series as, after all,
it affects the lives of all those involved. Although it may be easy to forget, it is their real lives
being affected for our enjoyment, even if they did willingly sign up for it. However, if you
enjoy drama, this is the show for you. At every turn, there is a twist and it leaves you on the
edge of your seat actively yelling at the screen in disbelief at what you just witnessed. As I
write this, it has been two days since the reunion episode was released and I am still
recovering from it. If I were to sum up the entire series in one word for you, it would simply
have to be: messy.