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At its worst, reality TV is a cringe-worthy reminder of the darkness of human nature. Think Joe Millionaire , The Swan , Celebrity Rehab , the President of the United States, or any number of terrible things that have aired in primetime since the runaway success of Survivor nearly 17 years ago. Though reality TV has become a permanent part of the television landscape and the zeitgeist, bombarding us with its never-ending army of temporary celebrities desperately trying to extend their 15 minutes of fame, attempts to apply the format to queer subjects have resulted in a mixed bag.

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When it first launched in , it was a tongue-firmly-in-cheek riff on popular reality shows from Top Model to Project Runway with a little American Idol thrown in for good measure. Still, Drag Race has stayed true to what made it popular in the first place: In any one episode, you can have a screaming match, a teary confession, a dramatic reveal, an instantly classic catchphrase, and a truly edifying, even inspiring, moment. If it wanted to be a gay Bachelor , guess what? Whether we wanted it to be or not. And we, as a rule, are very sensitive about how we are portrayed in the media—for good reason, namely, decades of being murderers, best friends, and living scenery on film and on TV.

While shows like The Bachelor and Bachelorette can show contestants in a terrible light, the light always has to be slightly more flattering in a gay version. Which drains all the fun out of a reality show. Any reality show that feels to scripted or too contrived has already failed. A great reality show should never treat its subjects like sacred cows, nor should it be mean-spirited or overly exploitative. So what else makes a great reality show? Besides great editing, you need a great cast—a cast that gets it, full of people who have a sense of self-awareness but a lack of self-consciousness.

Gay men can find it difficult being unself-conscious because our lives are often spent being very conscious and guarded about something that sets us apart, fueling a need to conceal it. Drag Race finds a neat way around this, as the drag alter egos of its contestants—as well as their ceremonial, and deeply symbolic, shedding of the makeup after each challenge—provide a sort of mirror to the truth.


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Painting and subsequently peeling away at the layers of their makeup finds the queens at their most vulnerable and their most philosophic. Just think of Dorian Corey, sitting eternal at her vanity in Paris Is Burning , espousing truth after truth after truth.

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But the queens also get what the show is, they know the formulas, and they know their roles. Coco and Alyssa were already enemies by the time they saw each other for the first time in the work room and the shade descended like manna from heaven. As are the best Real Housewives. They both come prepared with beef and catchphrases—and with their faces beat for the gods. The men on Finding Prince Charming , on the other hand, were earnest to the point of coma-inducing—amateurs! Hell, a few years ago, ITV2 aired a dating show literally called Girlfriends that was somehow entirely heterosexual.

Even when we are included, queer contestants are often covered up in episode descriptions and the dates themselves can be unbearably cringeworthy. And back then you only had to keep up with a couple of shows! Consider this the sin bin. The only love allowed here is the pure, honest love between a man, a woman and a television production crew. Ex on the Beach is just as relentlessly straight as the shows above; this extra point is solely because its premise — being forced into constant contact with your ex — is as gay as it comes.

The UK’s Reality Dating Shows, Ranked by Queerness

Simultaneously the granddaddy of dating shows and the new kid on the block. Blind Date started in and ran for almost twenty years until, in an incredibly baller move, host Cilla Black quit the show live on air.


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Between them, they featured a grand total of one queer contestant — Alice, whose defining personality trait was being a big fan of Celine Dion. Not fantastic. Just like thirty years ago, contestants on the show are sent on a date with their pick from three potential, unseen partners. Queer Content: Technically 0. The rest of the show is a trip. Each episode involves one clothed singleton and six naked contestants vying for their affection. Their bodies are revealed in stages from the feet up, with one rejected at each stage.

When only two contestants are left, the person deciding takes off their own clothes and chooses which one to go on a date with.

The UK's Reality Dating Shows, Ranked by Queerness | Autostraddle

If your Tinder date is going to be staring at your boobs anyway, why not just whap it all out? Unfortunately, once you look past all the genitals, things start to take a turn for the worst.

Why is it that the dating show with the most commitment to queer representation is the one designed to garner outraged Daily Mail headlines? Why do the strange educational cut-aways have such a terrible understanding of sex and gender? If we were ranking on convenience, First Dates would win by a country mile. The premise is simple: The mating rituals of the straights are very strange. Most of the dates go poorly in some way, and watching a few episodes in a row will leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about basic human interaction.

Which gets us to a big problem with pretty much every show on this list: First Dates in particular features a wide variety of straight singles looking for love, but most of the time we only get to see a depressingly narrow vision of queer existence. First Dates , then.

6. Take Me Out / Love Island / Dating in the Dark

Honestly, I love Dinner Date. The show introduces a lonely heart to three blind dates, each of which has to cook them a three course meal. The contestant chooses their favourite to take out to a romantic restaurant, while the others get delivered a microwave meal for one. Queer participants might appear less frequently than in other shows on this list, but with over episodes broadcast and six participants in each though only four actually get to go on the dates , Dinner Date certainly has numbers on its side.

Unfortunately, Dinner Dates is absolutely the worst offender when it comes to hackneyed musical choices; you will get sick of hearing t.

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