“Love Trip: Paris” Dares to Send Three Queers to Gay Paree To French Kiss Their Single Life Goodbye

On the surface, Freeform’s Love Trip: Paris appears to be just another heterosexual dating show with an unnecessarily contrived premise centered in cliche cultural iconography: four “American girls” who’ve been unlucky in love in the U.S. travel to Paris, famously the City of Love, where their chances of meeting their soulmate will be somehow exponentially greater despite only two of them speaking any French. They will French kiss on a bridge with the Eiffel Tower lit up behind them! They will wear berets in many colors! (Someone is always wearing a beret.) They will ride a bicycle through cobblestone streets with a baguette sticking out of their handlebar basket! They will drink champagne from the appropriate region of France!

And it is all of that, to be sure, but as soon as our four contestants assemble themselves at camera-appropriate angles to conduct their introductory conversations with one another, we learn that it is also not that at all, because only one (1) of Love Trip‘s four contestants is heterosexual. That would be Rose, a 25-year-old real estate agent ready to meet her husband. Rose is totally tired of the U.S. dating scene because if you meet a man at a bar they could be a serial killer and on apps there are too many fish in the sea.

The remaining three are as follows: 29-year-old Lacy is a chatty, sexually fluid “mental health podcaster” and Francophile from Nashville who is “addicted to personal growth” and obsessed with crystals, therapy, and herself. Josielyn is an open-hearted 26-year-old Mexican-American bisexual trans woman who lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a model. Josielyn has never been in a relationship or “felt true love.” And then finally we have our lesbian: Caroline, a bubbly 26-year-old genderqueer personal trainer from New York who proudly asserts “my best friend is my cat.” (Although Love Trip avoids this detail, it appears that Josielyn and Caroline are also both actors.)

The contestants of Love Trip: Paris posing smiling

Caroline, Rose, Lacy and Josielyn

The four Americans are shacking up together in a sprawling apartment adorned with multiple sizes of ornamental vases and furnished with sofas that boast rounded corners and minimal back support. Their French suitors are living in the same building, and they socialize initially with the Americans in pre-planned group activities — usually drinking on a vessel or in a venue that offers spectacular views of Paris. Following a group activity, the Americans can arrange one-on-one dates with their faves using an app called “TripKey.” Every episode ends with two suitors getting sent home through a very weird lock/key ceremony, and every episode’s first group activity introduces two replacement suitors.

What’s baffling, however, is why a show tasked with gathering prospective suitors for one straight woman, one lesbian and two bisexuals has tipped the scale so generously in favor of opposite-sex pairings. The series opens with five male suitors and three women, and it’s unclear if that balance has any hope of shifting. It simply doesn’t make sense that Rose should have twice as many options as Caroline when the other two contestants are open to dating people of all genders. This gender disparity ends up giving the impression that the producers aren’t giving Lacy and Josielyn’s bisexuality its proper due.

LOVE TRIP : PARIS - “New Country, Same Mistakes

Suitors line up to meet the “American Girls”: Valentine, Mirko, Leo, Bastien, Sabastien, Gessica, Romane

The French men are an interesting group of fellows who sometimes seem as if they were asked just yesterday to join the show. Brutish Mirko is confident that the most interesting thing about him is that he “used to be fat,” while dreamy Sebastian’s wooing strategy is to tell girls he is a swimmer who was “at the Olympics” and allow the language barrier to let them believe he was a competitor and not a spectator. Leo enthuses to the camera, apropos of nothing, that everything is bigger in America, including “bags of sausages” and “cucumbers.”

Alternately, the French women are very serious about love and the humans they set their sights on, which’s usually a good match for our commitment-focused Americans, although they still have a game to play. Lisa and Gessica seem offended by the show’s premise, which inherently involves witnessing their crushes go on dates with other people. Romane, an artist with a bridge piercing, tells the camera when she’s in love she wants to see her partner “every second of every day,” which she knows “is toxic” but unfortunately she cannot help the way she is!

While the French/American culture clash usually feels forced as a source of drama and tension, the show’s seemingly incidental queerness is ultimately its most genre-defying and resonant element. It also bonds the girls to each other through shared community, a dynamic usually absent from more traditional dating shows.

Josielyn is the show’s most endearing player, approaching dating with the bright-eyed bushy-tailed composure of a woman who has never had her heart broken. As she navigates the dating world for the first time as a very hot person on a very weird show, we see her deeply impacted by literally everything, even breaking reality TV protocol by seeking emotional support and advice from the producers in the middle of the end-of-episode “key ceremony.” It’s heartening to see Josielyn’s transness not be presented as a gimmick or an obstacle, but as one aspect of who she is. How far we’ve come as a community to witness her relationship with Gessica fall apart due to biphopbia rather than transphobia!!!!

Love Trip‘s best conversations are the queer ones: Gessica telling Josielyn about her failed marriage to a man; Josielyn going on a fashion-focused date with Aickel, a bisexual male rapper who performs in drag; Caroline providing queer family support for Josielyn when she feels her bisexuality isn’t being taken seriously by Gessica.

Josielyn and Gessica on a date in a cafe. Josielyn is a tall Mexican-American woman wearing an off-the shoulder frilly white shirt and skinny jeans with chunky heels. Gessica is a Congoleese-French woman wearing Black shorts, black combat boots and a baggy orange t-shirt.

Josielyn and Gessica on a date at a cafe.

It’s unclear what Love Trip‘s point of view is, aside from attempting to answer the incredibly non urgent question of: is it easier for Americans to find love in Paris than in the U.S.?

But, as the episodes proceed beyond what has already aired on Freeform (reviewers were given access to a season of screeners), I felt some stirring of potential in the concept of a dating show that travels to a new location every season. That in and of itself is a familiar premise, but the fact that human beings who live in those locations are active players in the game is not. That said, I hope they reconsider forcing the native suitors to communicate in English with each other when there are no Americans present.

I eventually realized that my initial skepticism of the premise was rooted in my consistent skepticism of how Paris specifically is represented in American film and television. Famously it drives me nuts when “wanting to go to Paris” is a teenage girl’s entire personality (see: Aria Montgomery), meant to illustrate that said girl is quirky and romantic and loves literature and long walks — when in fact it has become such an overused character trait that it no longer means anything at all. But generally speaking, characters in American TV and film always are dreaming of Paris, as if no other city outside this country exists.

Initially, Love Trip: Paris did indeed radiate the exact same feeling exuded in the 2004 episode of “Sex and the City” wherein Carrie Bradshaw emerges from a Black Town Car in front of the Plaza Athenee clutching her pearl-rimmed velvet fedora as if in danger of losing it to the wind, giggling while repeating “merci beaucoup!” and “bonjour!” with gleeful demurement to every politely uniformed hotel employee she encounters on her journey from street to door to front desk. Like that feeling on a loop?

But the show surprised me. I fell in love with it like a lesbian halfway through a first date. Particularly when the French suitors (seemingly) are able to pick their own locations for dates, and when the show digs into the experiences of its queer characters, there is undoubtedly some very notable there there. Hopefully Love Trip: Paris will prove to the world, as Are You The One? Season Eight also did, that the best way to breathe life into an often deflated format of television is to make it significantly gayer.

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3178 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. I was also reminded of S8 of Are You the One while reading this! Very interesting, will have to check it out!

    Also this made me laugh: “How far we’ve come as a community to witness her relationship with Gessica fall apart due to biphopbia rather than transphobia!!!!”

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