I’ve never cared for dating shows. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I once hated them.
Well, I thought I did.
Turns out, actually, I just hated straight ones.
But now that I’ve found Netflix’s The Ultimatum: Queer Love – a queer series that actually represents me – I am fully aboard the romance reality TV train.
And not only is a lesbian-only dating show exciting in terms of seeing genuine relationships unfold on screen, it’s refreshing at a time when heartfelt, positive lesbian representation is so scarce.
I haven’t been able to get truly excited about a lesbian show for a long time because every time I do, I end up disappointed when it’s axed by the network, or my favourite character dies a grizzly death.
But there’s something about this one that feels different.
The Ultimatum: Queer Love sees five couples, made up of women and non-binary people, at a crossroads in their relationships. While one partner is ready to settle down and get married, the other isn’t, leading to, you guessed it, an ultimatum to really test their bond and whether they’re meant to go the distance.
When I first saw the trailer for the show (which lands on May 24), I was physically taken aback.
I’d never seen anything like it.
Sure, it shouldn’t be revolutionary to be represented on TV in 2023, but getting a teaser that fully depicted my life and my sexuality, allowing me a taste of all the dating show hype I couldn’t relate to growing up… felt really special.
Don’t be deceived, though. This dating show isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, by any means.
There’s drama, there’s confrontation, there’s chaos, there’s lust, there’s romance… It has everything heterosexual dating shows like Love Is Blind, Married At First Sight, or Love Island have in bucketloads.
And that’s exactly what I want.
I don’t want queer dating shows to solely portray the joy of being queer, because the reality is that our romances endure ups and downs like any other – and we deserve for that to be reflected on television.
Especially after growing up feeling so isolated in my queerness and as though I was destined to be the ‘outcast’ forever, it’s reassuring to know that lesbian couples can actually just be as messy and chaotic as straight ones.
Honestly, it’s just nice to feel seen.
My excitement has made me realise that my long-standing hatred for dating shows came from a real place of anger and jealousy. Honestly, I think the only one I gave the time of day growing up was Take Me Out, which I later realised was only because I got to admire 30 single women, and only had to tolerate one man…
I’ve never been invested in a couple from a dating series because we’ve simply had nothing in common. But now, it’s like a light has been turned on in the form of this lesbian Love Island – and I see everything so clearly.
It’s no secret that WLW (women loving women) representation in TV and film is struggling.
Ultimately, this representation is so impactful because it sends a message that queer is here and isn’t going anywhere
Streaming services and broadcasters have acquired reputations for needlessly cancelling lesbian TV shows, such as First Kill, Gentleman Jack, Warrior Nun, I Am Not Okay With This… need I go on?
Other depictions of lesbians and lesbian romances have a tendency to be problematic, whether it’s movies like Below Her Mouth (sure, it’s hot, but it’s basically porn) or cult classics such as Imagine Me & You and Carol, which centre around infidelity.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I’m so excited for ‘The Ultimatum: Queer Love’, because I won’t get my heart shattered if it doesn’t return for a second instalment.
A dating show, I can live with one season of because there are no characters for me to get attached to, only for them to be shot, stabbed or fatally injured without rhyme or reason in another tired ‘Bury Your Gays’ storyline. Killing Eve, I’m looking at you.
But ultimately, this representation is so impactful because it sends a message that queer is here. That queer isn’t going anywhere. And no matter how many fictional lesbians you bury, or how many series you scrap, real lesbian couples, off-screen, living with genuine love and lust, will not cease to exist.
That’s why seeing real queer women and non-binary people onscreen matters, because it sends a message to other LGBTQ+ people, youngsters especially, that they’re not only allowed to exist – but to thrive.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re getting there.
With shows such as A League of Their Own, Sex Education, and Heartstopper, there’s no denying that they’re leaps and bounds ahead of anything produced even just 10 years ago.
In terms of dating shows, though, I strongly believe that telling real stories is important.
Yes, emotions are heightened and decisions can often be swayed by producers, but these are real people, at the end of the day.
And it’s so comforting to know that once the camera stops rolling, they don’t stop being what we see on telly.
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