'Too Hot to Handle': A Deep Dive into Hookup Culture

As an avid fan of "The Bachelor" and many other relationship-based reality TV shows, I knew I had to give Netflix's new "Too Hot to Handle" a try. I have no shame—we are in the midst of a pandemic, and I will do whatever is necessary to distract myself. The previews were definitely cringey, but I forged onward with the help of some friends’ recommendations. The show is based on the idea that young adults these days are too entrenched in hookup culture, and that by gathering up some of the world’s most eligible and attractive singles, the show can change them to value emotional connections over purely sexual ones. In addition, there is a $100,000 prize on the line.

The producers recruit a group of young men and women and send them to an undisclosed tropical location. The participants are not told any of the rules or expectations until about twelve hours into the show—of course, they had assumed that it would be something of a vacation, where they could meet all these new people and ~explore~. Needless to say, they were all pretty disappointed when they found out that there’s pretty much no touching allowed (unless you want to lose the group’s money).

During the first episode, I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” I was close to turning it off, but I ultimately decided against that and kept watching. The plastic cone named Lana, who watches all the participants and takes note of any illegal behavior happening, reminded me of "The Circle," a similar Netflix show. The combination of Lana’s voice with the narrator’s voice was a bit much; I don’t think the narrator was needed. I wish that they had just let the participants speak for themselves a little more often. However, I enjoyed seeing the participants’ growth, which is the whole point of the show.

While the show seemed pretty superficial in the beginning, I did see legitimate changes throughout. People who were the ultimate one-night standers were in committed relationships by the end. Rhonda, a participant from Georgia, was able to completely change her partner, Sharron. They were so close and emotionally connected by the end that Rhonda even introduced Sharron to her young son via FaceTime. Although I know that some of it was probably fake, it helped me take my mind off of the pandemic…which was all I wanted in the first place. I love to watch relationships blossom, and "Too Hot to Handle" gave me that plus all the drama I could want. I appreciated the new spin on the same old tired “Bachelor” model, and I liked that the idea was to tackle hookup culture. A lot of participants were from the U.K. and Australia, which I hadn’t expected going into it. That just goes to show that it is not just Americans who struggle with forming an emotional connection and maintaining committed relationships.

The series wasn’t without its fair share of catfights, possessive men and focus on a monetary prize. It was far from being relatable or realistic. However, I think the premise is solid and that many participants learned valuable lessons about relationships, respect and empowerment. I will be eagerly awaiting season two!