Love is in the air — but not in Netflix reality dating shows

February 6, 2023 — by Beverly Xu
Six out of the 12 members of Single’s Inferno season 2 all compete to leave the island with a partner.
No matter how much of a guilty pleasure watching “Single’s Inferno” was, it and other reality dating shows on Netflix fail at their surface-level goal: bringing couples together for long-term relationships outside of their shows.

Excited singles, a not so deserted island, a reward for coupling up and — the best part — drama, drama, DRAMA. This compelling plot was the gist of “Single’s Inferno,” my favorite reality dating show produced by Netflix. But despite all the participants who went in with hopes of finding a long-lasting relationship, the show left almost all of them sorely disappointed.

In the first season, all the participants feel ridiculously fake: no conversation is truly honest, such as when Jin-taek tells So-yeon, “you’re the only woman for me,” but then turns around to flirt aggressively with Ji-yeon, another female contestant. It feels like everyone is leading each other on and pursuing people who don’t return their feelings — and part of that blame should be placed on the structure of the show itself. Both seasons of “Single’s Inferno” have activities where participants can talk with other participants of their choice, but that choice is continuously based on first impressions — looks-wise. With each first conversation, all participants inevitably become interested in one person, and get to know that one person better. No matter what, those first impressions always seemed to stick. 

Even if two participants manage to couple up and go to “Paradise” — a luxury resort off of the island — the show has a ridiculous amount of unbearable misunderstandings, a result of a new rule limiting couple visits to Paradise together to only once. 

The magnitude of first impressions and lack of communication come together to prevent the show from producing any couples that, outside of the show, continue to have a long-term relationship. Because of the short, 10-day timeframe during which the show takes place, even the couples that were together from start to end, like Seo-eun and Yoong-jae from Season 2, do not have a lasting public relationship, if at all. 

“Single’s Inferno” is by far not the only dating show on Netflix that values competition and drama over a long-lasting relationship. Netflix also produces “Love Island,” “Too Hot to Handle,” “F Boy Island,” “The Ultimatum,” “Dating Around,” “Sexy Beasts,” “Dated and Related,” “Why Knot” and “Love Never Lies” — all of which, in some form, fail to create a permanent link. There are some exceptions, like “Dating on the Spectrum,”Indian Matchmaking” and “Love is Blind,” but the latter show pushes contestants into a marriage and still catalyzes drama.

Overlooking all the problems in “Single’s Inferno,” I still enjoyed the drama, sparse genuine moments and comedic awkwardness of the participants trying to find their partner. When my favorite couple, Seo-eun and Yoong-jae, stayed up all night to have an honest conversation on their last day on the show, I could feel some semblance of a strong relationship growing. But for the majority of the show, that was not the case, and same goes for other Netflix reality dating shows — you can really only enjoy them if you can find something other than solid relationships to root for. 

As the saying goes: Come for the hopeful singles, stay for the juicy inferno.