- “The Ultimatum: Queer Love” is a Netflix reality show that all of my friends are talking about.
- I suspect some of the problems on the show could be solved if people were open to polyamory.
- Of course, that would probably mean the show would have a lot less drama.
When season one of Netflix’s hit reality show “The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On” came out last year, one of my friends quipped, “It’s basically a show so that straight people can experiment with being poly for a month.”
They had a point. The premise of the series, in which one partner gives the other an ultimatum to get married or breakup, involves dating multiple people at once. After a week playing the field, the experiment then culminates with a three-week trial marriage with a new partner, followed by a three-week trial marriage with your original partner. At the end, the participants need to decide if they want to get married to one of the partners, or leave the show single.
During the first season, this predictably led to a lot of emotions, fights, and tears. Multiple contestants seemed shocked that they might have feelings for two people at the same time.
Which then prompted me to yell at my TV, “Then you might be poly!”
Now, with the queer version of the show, unoriginally named “The Ultimatum: Queer Love,”, the cycle continues — in hyperdrive.
Maybe she’s not the villain — maybe she’s polyamorous
Take this season’s villain — or the person who has definitely been given the “villain edit” — Vanessa Papa. From the very beginning of episode one, we see that Vanessa is not very interested in monogamy, despite the fact that she’s been dating her partner, Xander Boger, monogamously for four years.
“I don’t want permanency, and I don’t want stability. I want freedom,” Vanessa said on the show.
That’s not to say that polyamorous relationships can’t be permanent or stable; they absolutely can be. But Vanessa, who has made it clear that her relationship with Xander is her first long-term queer relationship, seems to want to be able to explore her options too.
In fact in episode one, Vanessa jokes: “I think it would be best if this experience just became like a polyamorous orgy.”
When the fear of losing Xander eventually prompts her into declaring that she’s completely changed her mind and is ready for marriage, the announcement rings hollow and Xander, understandably, seems taken aback.
If Vanessa is interested in giving poly a try, she wouldn’t be alone. Polyamory, the practice of having more than one romantic relationship at the same time with the knowledge and consent of all parties involved, seems to be exploding in popularity.
One in 9 single adults in US and Canada have previously engaged in a polyamorous relationship, and 1 in 6 single adults have a desire to try it out, according to a 2021 review of surveys published in Frontiers in Psychology.
One participant shows that it’s very possible to be in love with two people at once
Perhaps the strongest case for polyamory on the show rests with Yoly, who seems deeply in love with two of the cast members: The dapper, emotionally intelligent Mal and the sweet, financially secure Xander (Yes, the same Xander that who has been dating Vanessa for four years. The show is messy!).
The choice is clearly agonizing for Yoly, who has spent 3 years in a relationship with Mal, but found an instant connection during her trial marriage with Xander. And my question is: ¿Por qué no los dos?
Mal may not be fully opposed — she’s one of the only people who mentions polyamory on the show, albiet in a joking way about Vanessa and Xander in episode one. “Can we do that?” they ask,”Can all three of us be married together? It’s not legal, but it can be consensual.”
Everyone would have to agree, of course, but with Mal’s penchant for being a godparent and her jealousy-nuking lines like, “I think you deserved to be loved by her,” and Xander’s alleged IVF bank account, I can’t think of a throuple that would be more prepared to raise Yoly’s desired kids.
For a queer show, the views on marriage are pretty straight
It’s important to note that polyamory isn’t for everyone, and despite some of the tangles it might unsnarl, it certainly isn’t a cure-all for relationship woes. In fact, it requires a lot of work and introspection — and it can often break even the strongest of relationships. Absolutely no one should be pressured into trying out polyamory if they’re not 100% on board.
But I find it strange that it’s never mentioned as an option on “The Ultimatum,” especially in a version of the show as queer as this one. Polyamory and other alternative-relationship forms are common in the queer community — show me a queer couple in Brooklyn or Los Angeles that hasn’t at least talked about it, and I’ll give you $100.
Of course, one of the reasons that queer people are so open to alternate relationship forms is because we were denied the “traditional” relationship forms for so long. As one contestant briefly mentioned on the show, it was only eight years ago that queer people were legally allowed to get married across the US. Until then, many couples had to create their own versions of formal partnerships. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t really engage with that subject — the mention was such a brief blip, it could have easily been passed over with a remote’s skip button.
It just goes to show that even when the cast members are all queer, a “reality” show can still be pushing a heteronormative view of marriage. Maybe season 3 will get it right.