The Unforgivable Mistake in the "Love is Blind" Reunion
Even reality television should have an ethical duty to protect people.
I will discuss examples and plots from season 3 of Love Is Blind in this post. If you haven't seen it, you may want to watch it first and read this after.
The entire season 3 of Love Is Blind is finally out.
Unsurprisingly, Alexa and Brennon agreed to spend their lives together. Bartise said no at the alter after Nancy said, "I do," an emotional turn of events that left her feeling played the fool. People are abuzz with Zanab's monologue as she said, "I don't."
And the disclosures during the reunion episode are a good reminder that we never have the complete picture of someone's relationship. I stand by my assessment of Cole and Zanab's relationship, knowing that it is only based on what was shown on-screen. It's certainly possible that Cole did more emotional damage than we, the audience, witnessed. But I can't speak to that because we didn't see it.
Such is the world of reality television.
Relationships are edited, and the narrative is curated. Only the contestants will know what the experience was like and the nature of their relationships. We're observers, making our best guesses based on limited information.
However, one thing I do not feel equivocal about is the massive mistake this season made, which leaves me wondering about the ethical responsibility a show like Love Is Blind should have in protecting contestants.
The Matt Mistake
During the reunion, the Lacheys make the contestants face their more embarrassing, regretful, and painful moments.
Except for Matt.
The reunion doesn't make Matt answer for his actions. Cole is put on the stand, and Bartise needs to explain himself, but no one makes Matt reflect or apologize.
And why not?
Matt forgivingly describes his behavior when recalling the fight in Malibu. "I did kinda lose my cool a little bit." No one calls him out on this inaccurate narrative. His behavior was alarming and abusive; why aren't the other women defending Colleen and demanding Matt apologize, just as they supported Zanab?
Not only do people not defend Colleen and reprimand Matt, they do the opposite: They hold Colleen accountable for crossing a line with Cole but do not see any problem with Matt's behavior.
The worst part of this was when the Lacheys made the group rewatch the fateful scene in Malibu.
You can see Colleen's body tense, her breathing change, and her heart race. She is stiff and anxious the entire episode. She barely smiles. She stumbles over words as she tries to explain. She even apologizes for getting emotional and crying. If she were presenting that way in my office, I'd be very worried about her.
If Matt is as abusive as he appeared on-screen, then the Lacheys and the entire production team made an unforgivable mistake.
They put Colleen in the line of fire for more abuse. They reopened the first trigger of Matt's abuse and encouraged contestants to rehash their reactions.
Nick Lachey even turns the focus on Colleen when Brennon reflects on the situation, prompting Brennon to blame Colleen even though he was talking about Cole's part in it.
Not only do they let Matt get away with abusive, inappropriate, and unacceptable behavior, but they also put Colleen at risk for more abuse.
Does the show have an ethical obligation?
Legally speaking, no. The show's producers are not held to any professional, ethical code like therapists are, and they don't have to adhere to HIPAA. Plus, I'm sure the contestants sign comprehensive waivers that free the show from liability.
However, entertainment should never supersede safety.
Forget a professional code of ethics or legal liability. They chose to elevate the drama instead of protecting a contestant, which feels unethical on a human level.
It's hard to see abuse when it's happening to you, and it's hard to get out of an abusive situation even when you see it. It's even harder to get out of an abusive relationship when there's pressure to stay, such as being filmed or being put on the spot on your wedding day.
The show allowed this to occur without apparent repercussions (that we saw, at least) and doubled down during the reunion. Watching Matt's behavior was hard, but watching the Lacheys milk the drama for all it was worth at the expense of Colleen's safety was even worse.
Here are some recommendations for next season to avoid this in the future.
The show should hire a psychologist (or maybe a few) to support the contestants.
The producers need to intervene when there's abuse. They must protect the contestants' welfare.
They should air the number for the Domestic Violence Hotline or other resources.
There should be a message on-screen during an abusive interaction so that viewers know the behavior is unacceptable and know not to normalize it.