Words by: Emily Walker Art by: Mei Kingwell
Too Hot to Handle has the potential to be the perfect Love Island replacement for 2020 — an isolated paradise filled with young hot singles with a lack of self-awareness, incessant pop tunes and a snarky narrator.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons between the ITV reality show and the Netflix knock-off, especially since current circumstances may leave the infamous Spanish villa empty. The big difference is that instead of focusing on finding romance, Too Hot to Handle rewards contestants for not engaging in sexual behaviour as a form of self-improvement. According to the show, remaining celibate leads to greater respect for yourselves and others, with money deducted from the $100,000 prize pool each time a contestant breaches the rules.
But don’t let this fool you, the show still is trashy reality television to a tee. Amongst the bikini clad bodies, an AI rule enforcer and cringeworthy preaching, producers make the mistake of assuming that its audience is just as dumb and shallow as its contestants.
Constantly, the audience is told that a deeper connection between contestants has been made but rarely do they actually see it — and when they do, it’s hard not to laugh. In what way does calling some- one “Bambi” show a deeper connection? A contestant can boast all they want about how empowered or changed they feel, only to engage in the same terrible behaviour as before. On top of this, a majority of the contestants remained single throughout the show, and never really had to be ‘tested’ anyway.
The end results of the show speak for themselves. Like many other reality television love stories, many of the couples who ended the show together are now apart, and that’s not just because of quarantine. Interestingly enough, it was only the couple who broke the most rules that have remained together. Francesca Farago and Harry Jowsey beat the odds, ending up engaged after a brief breakup, as seen in the recent reunion episode.
Francesca and Harry were responsible for most of the monetary losses on the show, and while they were able to rein in their behaviour during later episodes, the rules rarely deterred them. Other contestant couples on the other hand, particularly those who followed the rules, are no longer together. By the show’s logic, surely these relationships should have grown deeper after refraining from sexual activities due to a greater sense of respect for each other?
Workshops and the finale make up for some of the series’ misgivings. As refreshing as it is to see vulnerability encouraged and celebrated amongst the male contestants, some activities were puzzling. Can trust really be built from just one bondage session? Can sisterhood and female empowerment be achieved simply by inspecting one’s own vagina?
Much like a fast food burger, Too Hot to Handle is greasy, haphazardly thrown together and hopes you don’t look too close at its obvious flaws.
The promoted narrow viewpoint that casual sex is degrading and disrespectful feels like it’s coming from another era. It is unrealistic to assume sexual inter- course, masturbation or even a simple kiss threatens a couple’s ability to build a healthy relationship or harms an individual’s self-esteem. But like most reality shows, its fallible logic makes it all the more entertaining. Consume the show quickly while it’s hot and you’ll get some fleeting enjoyment, but don’t expect to gain any insight for actual self improvement.