The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
If you’re on the Korean drama or reality television side of Netflix, you’ve likely heard of Single’s Inferno, an addictive but incredibly problematic dating show everyone is currently obsessed with. I admit, I tend not to watch reality shows, but I was hooked after seeing the legions of attractive people in this one (like seriously, how did they find them?). Of course, this superficial appeal is honestly the only hook Single’s Inferno had to offer, besides the inevitable drama that’s bound to unfold when you put 12 gorgeous humans on an island together. Interested? I’ll give you the run-down and you can decide from there.
For a little more context, the show is set on a beautiful tropical island, rightfully named “Inferno” in a nod to the “rough” (but still pretty darn nice) campgrounds that house the men and women for eight nights. The singles vie to be matched with someone who takes their fancy by participating in a series of rankings, competitions and a voting system where participants must cast a ballot for the person they most like. If two people vote for each other (or when the winner of a game picks who they want a date with), they become a couple and can spend a night in “Paradise,” a luxury hotel off the island. It sounds like these hotel nights would lead to some typical spicy action, right? Nope, not at all.
At this point, I began to understand how Western dating shows immensely differ from Asian shows (for the most part). There’s not even a single kiss on the show. The most physical interaction that results is hand-holding at the very end of the very last episode – that’s it, handholding. So, please don’t expect too much excitement in that department. However, there’s something to be said about their modesty, which is at the very least respectable and demonstrates Korean cultural dynamics. It’s certainly a nice break from Western shows like Too Hot to Handle, in which participants sleep together in the first half hour or something absurd like that. Despite having no overt physical contact, Single’s Inferno is still filled with so much tension that you have no choice but to click on to the next episode.
From my perspective (and that of the general population, from what I’ve read online), there are a couple of cool people on the show, so kudos to them. Everybody else appears to be awkward, shallow, creepy or maybe even a combination of all three lovely qualities. Here is when the second-hand embarrassment kicks in; it’s genuinely difficult to watch so many attractive humans fumble around, attempting to date. Somehow, though, this awkwardness lends itself semi-well to absolutely addictive drama. There’s so much that’s left unsaid! You’re left stuck to the screen, begging to find out who’s going to “Paradise” with whom and which participants are left alone, having been devastatingly ignored by their choice of romantic interest. As I said, addictive, and certainly emotional for everyone.
That’s the extent of the positive review I can offer, I’m saddened to say. And that embarrassment I mentioned before? It wasn’t the worst of my emotions I felt while watching Single’s Inferno. The show is more than uncomfortable at times; it’s downright problematic. Colourist, heterocentric, pushing gender stereotypes… I can’t help mentioning these issues that underlie each episode. Several times throughout the season, male participants emphasize how their “ideal types” included women with pale skin. These statements incited a huge backlash over the discriminatory comments, but other netizens said that this Korean beauty standard simply relates more to skin health than skin tone.
As well, the entire structure of the show clings to heterosexual and gender binary norms – there’s no room for participants who may identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (though I was admittedly rooting for a couple of the women to get together, but that’s beside the point). An entire game revolves around the male contestants wrestling each other in a muddy pit to win a stay in “Paradise” with their dream girl, while the women watch, gasping dramatically. A little change from typical gender norms would be lovely to see in shows like these, but alas, what can you expect? Besides, the reality television industry isn’t necessarily known for its groundbreakingly radical and accepting content.
So, while Single’s Inferno is certainly addicting, it’s also painful to watch at times. Go ahead if you still want to binge, I will say it’s helpful in understanding exactly what not to do in a dating situation or any other time in your life. It’s true that these brave, brave participants endured inferno in many ways on that island… and we’re willingly going right along with them.