dating around

Stars: 4/5

After constantly churning out originals for the past three years, Netflix somehow found another genre to stake their claim in.

"Dating Around" is Netflix’s first dating show. Each episode follows one person on five blind dates. If any go well, they select someone for a second. It’s a simple concept — no roses or private jets — but that’s why it shines.

For the most part, dating shows are a guilty pleasure. The over-acted drama between contestants and elaborate romantic getaways can hardly be described as realistic. "Dating Around" flips that idea on its head.

Instead of collecting a herd of models, the show just focuses on regular people in New York, each with unique experiences and backgrounds. The contestants are diverse in not only looks but also sexuality, personality and age.

It’s a natural picture of the dating scene, and it’s the revamp that reality television needs.

Of the six episodes, only two center around someone expected to be on a dating show (straight, white, young). The others center around a previously married Indian woman, a suave and charismatic gay man, a widower in his 70s and an incredibly fashionable lesbian woman.

The simplicity of the premise and the diversity of the contestants allowed the show to capture real experiences. Some moments were awkward, others were super cute, but all of them were genuine.

Of course, as it’s a true reality show, there were also a few terrible dates.

In the mix of the 30 total dates this season, a solid 28 ended on, at the very least, a respectful note. However, there were two that stood out for different reasons.

The first was in Gurki’s episode. To summarize, Gurki is a child of an arranged marriage. She was feeling pressure to get married from her parents so she married her long-term boyfriend despite feeling like something wasn’t quite right. The marriage ended in a divorce, and now Gurki is back in the dating scene.

One of her dates heard this story and was immediately confused as to why Gurki would marry a man she was so unsure about, and when she attempted to explain the difference in cultural standards, he completely shut her down. Long story short, the date ended early after an argument in the restaurant.

Though it’s sad that it happened, culture clash is a very real phenomenon that isn’t often shown on dating shows. If it’s coupled with an anger issue, what was once a pleasant date can turn explosive.

The second terrible date that caught my eye was in Sarah’s episode. After chatting for a while, one of Sarah’s dates began liberally slipping sexual jokes into the conversation. When she would get visibly uncomfortable, he would try to play it off like she was the one reading too much into his words. Suddenly, Sarah had a headache and an early day at work tomorrow.

Though the situation seemed fairly innocent, the problem is that it’s commonplace. Continuing to do something even though the other party is not okay with it is the exact opposite of consent. A little joke may do no harm, but things can elevate.

By keeping the show real, the creators are showing the good and bad sides of dating in any community — something that is often scrapped for more excitement. The unfiltered experience and diversity of "Dating Around" is refreshing and exactly what the genre needs.

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