By now, you may have seen Love Is Blind’s Abhishek Chatterjee, aka Shake, ask women in the pods if he could pick them up easily, or if they worked out, in a not-so-covert attempt to figure out their size. You may have also seen him tell anyone within earshot that he wasn’t attracted to his (now former) fiancée Deepti. And, if you’ve watched the reunion, then you’ve heard him try to defend his physical preferences and say that “love is blurry”. Let me try to explain what the biggest villain in reality dating TV since Justin from Dating Around was trying to say. Disclaimer: I do not agree with most of the things Shake said. I do think he has a point but doesn’t have the vocabulary, sensitivity or knowledge to explain what he was going through on the show. I had a positive edit on my show and still found a lot of mind fuckery I needed to work through three years after my edit was aired, so I can’t even imagine what he must be going through as a villain.
Like many other brown kids, I have parents that met on their wedding day, and just celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. I, on the other hand, am 40 years old, single, and completely burnt out from the search for “The One”. I understand how the premise of Netflix’s Love is Blind hopes to provide us with a solution to overcome the superficial hurdles to finding long-lasting love. In my own dating history, I often focused on physical attraction, and that caused me to ignore all the red flags. How my parents met is beginning to feel like a far superior solution to my own trials and errors (which I never thought I’d say). Take the physical out of the equation and get to know one another so that you fall in love without attraction blundering your decision making process? It makes sense on the surface.
But unfortunately, on Love is Blind, it’s not all that it seems, which is why most couples on the show don’t end up married. Focusing on substance should lead you to connect on an authentic level—or as our beautiful Indian castmate Deepti’s mother said, “connect at the heart”—but Love is Blind doesn’t actually take an authentic approach to making the cast members fall in love. It actually produces the feeling.
Physical attraction is just one of the many reasons humans fall in love. Although Love is Blind says they take the superficial aspect out of the dating equation, which can sometimes lead us astray, it replaces it with another feeling that can be just as misleading. The hurdles of not being able to see someone at your will actually causes attraction. It even has a name: frustration attraction.
Adversity in being able to see someone heightens feelings of romance in the brain and releases dopamine and chemicals that feel like love. Ever feel totally OK about a break up but as soon as you reach out to an ex for something but don’t hear back, you feel distraught and start obsessing? That frustration attraction is why so many of us second-guess when we break up with someone. If you ever got back with an ex, later regretted it, and didn’t understand why you did it in the first place, frustration attraction may have been the culprit. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the delayed gratification of frustration attraction replaces the initial physical attraction in Love is Blind, leaving the cast members in the same dilemma the show says it’s trying to prevent in the first place.
Love is Blind isn’t taking attraction out of the mix, it’s actually creating an environment for a different kind of attraction to make people fall in love quickly so that the struggles of modern love can be created for our viewing pleasure. The show mimics our reality, which is why it’s so engaging to watch in the first place. It’s still genius, but it’s not as innocent as it seems.
What Shake was trying to explain, but was too defensive to be able to articulate intelligently, is that as many of us know, everything is not what it seems on reality TV. The show isn’t actually simplifying the search for love at all, it actually reinforces the fact that finding long-lasting love is extremely difficult and complicated. Shake’s attraction faded, which can happen to any of us in that environment (or even in the real world), and whether we like to admit it or not, attraction matters.
The pressure on our partners has never been higher. We now want them to do it all: give us butterflies, solely focus on us, meet our needs while also being able to communicate their own feelings and desires on top of all the other traits we’re looking for. Extroversion vs. introversion, spending habits, drinking habits, fitness levels, family values, communication style, emotional depth, social media etiquette, career potential, vacation style—the list goes on and on. It’s not as simple as an emotional connection.
Love isn’t blind at all. Love is quite observant, complicated and multi-faceted. The show reminds us that love is far more nuanced than the simple act of falling in love, but that love isn’t just a choice; it’s also an unexplainable feeling that when lacking, creates the tension and doubt we see play out on screen. You can’t force love, even if you can force initial attraction.
Image: ADAM ROSE/NETFLIX
Dating shows are romantic comedies created by the crafty editing of producers. The work of reality dating producers is so notorious that there was even a scripted drama about them, Unreal. Talk about meta. And despite their behind-the-scenes manipulations, we are grateful for their hard work. We love a romantic story arc, and this season of Love is Blind seemed to deliver on many fronts.
Shayne, the enthusiastic, All-American guy softens the serious career-focused Natalie à la How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, The Wedding Planner, or literally any film Matthew McConaughey plays the love interest in.
Danielle and Nick were so perfect for each other in the pods, but outside they were constantly at odds. Forgive the rhyme but it’s kind of perfect for the movie poster, no? We know this story. It’s You’ve Got Mail. It’s Hitch. They work it out in the end.
Dare we say Jarrette and Iyanna were a gender swapped Sweet Home Alabama or Bridget Jones Diary? Jarrette couldn’t see the perfect girl was right in front of him the whole time—until the romantic finale, that is.
And we cannot forget about the most important subgenre of the romantic comedy canon: the best friend-turned-lover. It’s When Harry Met Sally, Love and Basketball, and the incredibly on-the-nose titled My Best Friend’s Wedding. And forgive us, but that’s what we hoped we might have with Shake and Deeps.
Shake’s introduction into the show didn’t endear him to our hearts. He is well documented not only asking every woman her size, but also thinking he was outsmarting them in how he asked. “Do you work out?” “Can I lift you on my shoulders easily?” Even through an opaque wall, the women could see right through him.
But image-obsessed Shake had his figurative walls shaken by his feelings for Deepti. Both born in India and raised in the US, both claimed to only date blondes, Deepti and Shake found love in the one place they didn’t expect it: with someone who shared their story. As Deepti said, Shake was the first brown guy she ever kissed. Tell us that is not the ideal rom-com set-up!
Upon meeting Deeps in person, Shake bent down and kissed her feet—an Indian marriage tradition, usually performed by the woman to the man (and one that Deepti told him in the pods she wasn’t down for). But Shake flipped the gender roles of the tradition. He was honoring their heritage in a modern way! He was showing her they were equals. If you didn’t get butterflies at this, you’re dead inside—or you need to watch more rom-coms.
But as the wedding day approached, Shake would not stop talking about his lack of physical attraction to Deeps. He loved her. He respected her. She was his best friend, but he wouldn’t stop comparing her to his aunt (side note, who is Shake’s aunt because she sounds like a catch). Still, we thought that love might prevail and he would overcome his hang-ups.
In fact, we were so invested in writing Shake’s redemption story that we were blinded (yes, Love is Blind and we were too). Deeps deserved better, a lot better. But thankfully, Deeps was not blind and told Shake no at the altar. After Deepti walked back down the aisle, Shake’s mask came off. He told everyone it was time to party, and said it would all be fine since he had reservations at Nobu on Sunday. (FYI, anyone can get reservations at Nobu. You just call 30 days in advance.)
So, the redemption story never came for Shake. He solidified himself as a villain in the finale and that was the end of his story. He should take his new Instagram followers, go back to his vet practice, and maybe have a meet-cute with a girl who comes in with her ailing kitten. One he can easily put on his shoulders—the girl, not the kitten.
But dear lord no, Shake had more in store for us because we hadn’t seen him unfiltered with the whole cast, and untethered by loyalty to Deeps—but we see plenty at the season 2 reunion, which just dropped on Netflix. Vanessa Lachey attempts to ease into the reunion taping, by asking if everyone is nervous. Shake chooses to reply to this rhetorical question by saying he is nervous at how he will be edited. Beside him Shayne quips, “that’s what you’re gonna lead with.”
In the hour that follows, Shayne’s excessive fidgeting is all of us. Seated next to Shake, he is a visual manifestation of everyone at home watching a man crash and burn. At one point, Shayne can’t hold it in anymore and unprompted says, “I am extremely uncomfortable,” as Shake spars with Vanessa Lachey. And then, like 10 seconds later, Shake tells Vanessa she is the only woman there he is attracted to. We were extremely uncomfortable too, Shayne.
Every single cast member comes for Shake. The Lacheys come for Shake. And he does not stand down until Deepti addresses him. When Deepti talks to Shake you can see a change. His eyes appear glassy. His posture changes. He is no longer sitting up in attack mode nor manspreading on a very tight couch. She may pacify him for a moment, but there is no redemption for Shake.
The year is 2022, y’all. The rom-com should not be dead, but not all bad men get a redemption story, no matter how hard the producers try to help them. And so Shake is not Harry, even if Deepti would make an excellent Sally.
Image: Courtesy of Netflix