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The Boyfriend on Netflix: The Most Groundbreaking Dating Show in Years

The Boyfriend on Netflix: The Most Groundbreaking Dating Show in Years

In an era where high-concept dating shows are the norm, Netflix’s latest Japanese offering, The Boyfriend, stands out with a simple yet groundbreaking premise: a group of singles in their twenties and thirties move into a beautiful house for a few weeks in the summer, with the hope of forming a romantic connection. What sets The Boyfriend apart is that all contestants are gay and bisexual men, making it the first same-sex dating show based in Japan.

Japan remains the only G7 nation that has not yet legalized same-sex marriage, despite polls indicating that over 70 percent of the population supports it. In the country, few celebrities feel comfortable coming out, fearing that revealing their sexuality might harm their careers. Media representation of the LGBTQ community often veers into flamboyant stereotypes. In this context, a show like The Boyfriend represents a significant step forward in normalizing queer relationships.

Same-sex couples have been able to marry in Britain since 2014, and civil partnerships were an option for about a decade before that. However, it was not until 2023 that British TV aired its first all-gay dating show, I Kissed a Boy, followed by I Kissed a Girl. Compared to these developments, The Boyfriend is a considerable leap for Japan.

The contestants on The Boyfriend embark on a journey not just of love but also of self-discovery. We are introduced to them in classic dating show fashion, with quick montages of their lives outside the series. However, their opening statements are deeply personal. Taeheon, a designer from Korea, hasn’t come out to his family yet and hopes the show will provide the opportunity to “express myself openly and show my family who I really am.” Another contestant admits he tends to close himself off from potential partners out of fear of getting hurt, recognizing that being vulnerable will help him grow. These candid moments provide a refreshing difference from the usual fare of dating show confessions.

The stakes are high for these men, and the producers wisely avoid artificial drama. There are no dramatic eliminations, and the contestants seem genuinely interested in finding love rather than seeking fame or causing trouble. Instead of engaging in suggestive challenges, they face a more subdued task: running a coffee van together. This setup allows them to see different sides of each other’s personalities as they live and work together. A panel of commentators provides additional insights, much like the “experts” in Married at First Sight.

Life in the house is designed to be as authentic as possible. Contestants might leave temporarily for work commitments or to meet friends, adding to the realism. The show aims to foster connection over conflict. Although it is relatively low-drama, it captivates viewers. In the first episode, contestants write anonymous notes to their love interests, leaving them in personal mailboxes. The next morning, everyone is eager to discover who wrote to whom. The reactions of those who receive no notes are quietly heartbreaking.

While The Boyfriend is a historic milestone, it is primarily entertainment, not activism. The initial episodes briefly touch on the challenges faced by gay people in Japan, but the main focus is on the relationships and personal stories of the men involved, rather than making overt political statements. It remains to be seen whether the show will influence societal attitudes in Japan, but it certainly offers a fresh take on the dating show genre, providing a welcome antidote to Love Island fatigue.

Source: Particle News