We Watched MTV’s “Sexually Fluid” Dating Show “Are You The One”? and Unfortunately We… Love It?

There’s a lot to be said about what’s happening on TV for bisexual representation in general, and the unique throughline bisexuality has had in reality TV in particular, from Tila Tequila’s Shot At Love to the Bachelor contestants who found love with each other to the current season of MTV’s dating show Are You The One?, which features exclusively bi+/sexually fluid contestants of varying genders. Or, in lieu of saying those things outright, we could consider the image of Kari, a 23-year-old bisexual, laid out on the ground after biting it trying to overcome a literal hurdle labeled “fear of being vulnerable,” and arrive at similar places.

In the wave of social media buzz surrounding this season’s casting, you could be forgiven for thinking that Are You The One? is an entirely new franchise. In fact, our ragtag band of bisexuals is only the latest season of a show with truly one of the most bananas premises of all time: matches between contestants are actually predetermined ahead of time in an opaque matchmaking process somehow tied to experts and science, and a cash prize of $1 million is available for all the cast to share only if they all end up with their predetermined matches by the end of the season. At the end of each episode, a sort of lightshow semaphore system (for real) is used to indicate how many correct pairs have been made so far, although not which pairs they are. Which makes sense, because if anyone is poised to be good at logic puzzles of interpersonal relations it’s a bunch of 22-year-old bisexuals with relationship baggage and intimacy issues. Cast members can find out if they’re matched correctly by choosing to enter a Resident-Evil-style laser cybertunnel and have a computer announce to them — and everyone else in the house! Who’s gathered outside, in front of a screen, watching! — if they’re a perfect match or not. A heartwarming story to tell your grandchildren gathered around in the MTV Experience Underground Bunker in 2055!

The show’s casting is maybe not quite as groundbreaking as it likes to imagine it is – as Drew observed when we watched it together, outside the two trans cast members — Kai, who identifies as a transmasculine nonbinary person, and Basit, who identifies as genderfluid — the 14 cis cast members could be drawn from virtually any other MTV casting, and the overall level of knowledge around trans issues seems… not high. At the same time, the bisexuality of the cast members is foregrounded and discussed in frank and refreshing ways, not sidelined or exoticized; cast members talk about their coming outs, their past experiences of attraction, and their internalized biphobia when discussing their relationships and attraction to each other. The wide range of visible tattoos and their varying degrees of advisability also spoke to the bisexual experience in moving and authentic ways.

There’s a take somewhere about the underpinning entertainment logic of having 16 very young bi+ people largely occupying the “model/actress/DJ” cultural space, not a group broadly associated by the general public with successful lasting relationships, featured in a show about trying to find The One as determined by relational science and an omnipresent couples therapist with an asymmetrical haircut. The cast doesn’t seem particularly interested in that take, though, and we should empower ourselves to go ahead and follow their lead and enjoy the show on its own terms, which are both very dumb and genuinely sweet and earnest. Certainly there’s Remy, the chaotic sexually voracious Gemini that our own Drew describes as having “Shakespeare villain energy;” an extremely doomed connection between heart-eyed Jenna and little lost boi Kai, and an alarmingly intense trajectory between Amber and Nour, who are already ready to start training a falcon if the show doesn’t match them together. But as eye-rolling as the predictable queer plot conflicts might be, none of them are outside the run of the mill for reality television — any given episode of the Bachelor is more offensive in its depiction of heterosexuality than the queer representation here.

Top L to R: Brandon, Aasha, Kari, Danny, Amber, Max, Paige, Basit, Jasmine, Jonathan, Kai
Bottom L to R: Remy, Kylie, Nour, Jenna, Justin
Credit: MTV

Maybe the most surprising thing about Are You The One?‘s eighth season is that it’s… really enjoyable to watch? Maybe too many seasons of Bachelor in Paradise and VPR have given me the false impression that watching reality television always leaves the viewer staring into the middle distance trying to recoup their sense of spiritual wellbeing for hours afterward, but I’m looking forward to watching the next episode! Stay tuned to find out whether Amber and Nour adopt a pet together, and the exciting potential future of Justin the tattooed vet and Max, who Stef lovingly describes as a “sex idiot.”


As a bonus, please enjoy knowing the zodiac signs of each cast member, thanks to painstaking research by Drew and Stef.

Amber: Sagittarius
Aasha: Leo
Jenna: Aries
Danny: Sagittarius
Justin: Sagittarius
Basit: Taurus
Jonathan: Pisces
Kai: Virgo
Kylie: Gemini
Kari: Sagittarius
Max: Leo
Nour: Aries
Paige: Leo
Remy: Taurus
Jasmine: Scorpio
Brandon: Pisces

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1097 articles for us.

36 Comments

    • This will be the first reality show I watch in…I don’t even know how long. And I am HYPE – shot at love left a really big impression on 13 year old me, so this could potentially result in nostalgically reliving my babygay days. Thank you for this VERY important information Rachel

    • As a person without cable who has been obsessed with the Challenges for longer than I care to admit I can tell you that as of about a month ago you could sign up for a 24 hour viewing pass using an entirely fictional email address and just use a new fake email each time as long as you open the window in incognito mode to avoid cookies. Or you can clear your history after you watch. Either way, no email verification, hopefully they don’t wise up.

      Happy viewing!

  1. “any given episode of the Bachelor is more offensive in its depiction of heterosexuality than the queer representation here”

    Hah. That’s a very helpful evaluation.

  2. as a person who does not know or understand astrology what does it mean that everybody in this house is one of seven signs???
    and that 4 are Sagittarius, 3 are Geminis and 3 are Leo??
    are those the signs most likely to be DJs/models/actresses, most likely to want to be on a reality TV show, most likely to be bisexual/sexually fluid OR ALL OF THE ABOVE?

    thank you for your time and attention to this matter,
    riese

    • I only understand astrology on a super elementary level, but I believe the vast majority of these people are fire signs? And fire signs are supposed to be firey and attention hungry? Most AS readers could probably answer this better than me.

    • i think a great way of describing sagittariuses in general is ‘likely to want to be on a reality show’ honestly. fire signs (and geminis) love attention in general and also making impulsive decisions!

  3. My wife and I have been watching Are You the One for years. It’s always been an entertaining, frustrating mess. We’ve theorized what a gay version would look like, imagining it being ripped off and queered by a different channel. This is a real careful what you wish for: we got this beautiful bi version… but it’s still MTV?

  4. 8th season?? I stopped watching after the first season which was pretty decent and I know it kept going on (mainly to infuse new blood into the Challenge franchise along with the Real World) but it’s still a little unbelievable how fast they’re churning the seasons out.

    I mainly remember the couples who clung together even though they were officially matched with others and the couple that matched and stayed together throughout the season even though the guy was secretly cheating on the girl with another contestant for part of that time, and threw the girl he was cheating on under the bus.

  5. the fact that they all seem to be talking about their needs/feelings and processing their emotions without physically fighting or throwing chairs??? the straights could NEVER. i never expected to feel so joyful and wholesome watching trashy reality tv!

  6. OK but can we also talk about how truly unfair it is that they have WAY LESS CHANCE of finding the “correct” matches, since there are exponentially more possible combinations if it’s not restricted by gender? Injustice against the queers, that’s what I say. (But watching this is so delightful, thank you!)

  7. “The wide range of visible tattoos and their varying degrees of advisability also spoke to the bisexual experience in moving and authentic ways.”

    “an alarmingly intense trajectory between Amber and Nour, who are already ready to start training a falcon if the show doesn’t match them together.”

    Rachel, thank you for writing the only two sentences that have made me laugh out loud in actual days if not weeks (big summer depresh mood). love, another Rachel

  8. Ha! I watched two seasons of this show with some friends a few years back and it was so bad, funny and confusing – but I always said I’d enjoy it more if it was a group of bi/pan/queer people. I never thought they’d actually do it though!

  9. I just spent 6 hours binging the entire season so far and I have ZERO regrets and am thoroughly delighted.

    Also who has the rest of Kai’s chart to confirm my suspicion of strong Scorpio placements?

  10. Bless y’all for bringing my attention to this show back in the July Insider. My partner and I are obsessed and I’m honestly losing my mind that they didn’t do an episode this week.

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