The TV dating show exists in a cultural landscape that encourages love-seeking participants to get married to each other without ever having met, to see if that works out, to get married having spoken to each other only through frosted glass, to see if that works out, to spend a long hot summer in a house full of attractive young people while being literally paid to resist having sex, to see if that works out, and to go on a date having seen the person only in the buff, from the genitals up, before ever having heard a word they have to say. You know, to see if that works out.
Now, joining these innovations, is Sexy Beasts. The very funny Rob Delaney has signed on to narrate not one but two seasons of this new Netflix dating show that has cocked an eye at love and thought, hmm, what love needs is to take a few lessons from The Masked Singer. “Take it off! Take it off!” would have a different meaning here.
The trailer came out last week and showed its mad, dystopian cards. People go on dates with three potential matches, while all are dressed as, or transformed into, animals, aliens, a scarecrow, a shark. They make their choice and only then do they see their match’s real face: “Could you fall in love with someone based on personality alone?”
The very fact of a person being on a show such as Sexy Beasts might tell you a lot about their personality even without the need for a date, but it is amazing, and only a bit alarming, that we continue to go to such lengths to hack love.
All these shows remove one of the key elements of attraction – what a person looks like, sounds like, believes in or enjoys, or even the period of getting to know each other – and turns it into an experiment. Is this the element we don’t need any more? Is this what was broken? In an era of apps, maybe we have become too obsessed with what is on the surface; what if you try looking like the devil, instead?
Without a hint of doubt, I will watch Sexy Beasts, just as I watched Eating With My Ex, Dinner Date, Too Hot to Handle, Married at First Sight and Love Is Blind. They haven’t hacked love, but they put it on a pedestal, before chipping away at everything underneath it to see how much it can withstand. Can a panda impress a bull? I don’t know, but in all honesty, I can’t wait to find out.
Carl Nassib’s adorable video turns player into pioneer
The internet can be a gruesome place, which is why cute online videos have endured ever since videos stopped requiring a couple of hours of hogging the landline to load.
Sometimes, only a LADbible compilation of dogs driving vehicles or happy babies covered in food will do. I don’t wish to patronise a grown man, but when I watched NFL player Carl Nassib’s coming-out video, my first thought was that it was adorable, another entry into the canon of heartwarming videos.
“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” said Nassib, in a clip posted to Instagram, which made him the first active NFL star in history to come out. “I’m so proud of your courage,” tweeted President Joe Biden, who also congratulated footballer Kumi Yokoyama for coming out as transgender, a brief reminder that, Toto, we’re not in 2020 any more.
In that lovely, sweet video, Nassib became a sporting pioneer. He said he hoped coming-out videos like this would one day be unnecessary, but for now, it remains necessary and it makes him brave. Outside sport, Disney star Joshua Bassett told GQ magazine that he was “happy to be part of the LGBTQ+ community”, while carefully explaining that at 20, he was still working it out.
Both Nassib and Bassett offer hopeful stories, presenting what they want to be known about their lives with maturity and consideration. People will say it’s nobody’s business who they are attracted to, but their honesty is courageous and makes it just a bit easier for those who will follow them.
Joni Mitchell: everyone gets Blue in the end
Last week marked 50 years since Joni Mitchell’s album Blue was released. Publications gathered quotes from her friends, collaborators, former lovers, famous fans and musical experts, who tried to explain her magic.
One common thread seemed to be that often, people didn’t like Mitchell until they got her, and then they were in deep. The musician Brandi Carlile talked to the New York Times about her aversion to the “I wanna shampoo you” lyric in All I Want, until another encounter transformed the album, and Mitchell, for her.
It reminded me of Zadie Smith’s 2012 essay for the New Yorker, Some Notes on Attunement, one of the best pieces of writing about music I have come across, which told Smith’s story of how she went from seeing Mitchell as “just noise” to having her own epiphany. How rare, and perhaps rarer still now, that an artist demands considerable time, sometimes years, before what they have created makes sense on a wider scale. “I’m so pleased with all of the positive attention that Blue is receiving these days,” said Mitchell, in a “message to you, from Joni” posted to Instagram. With a chuckle, she added: “Fifty years later, people finally get it.”
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist