The Ultimatum has been Netflix’s #1 show this weekend, but I’m not in the mood right now to watch straight people pretend that the best way to determine the future of their relationship is to make demands of one another while becoming celebrity tabloid fodder.
What I am in the mood for is total silliness. That’s why I’ve been watching another Netflix show, and why I got excited when, on Friday, I received arrived an announcement and trailer for a new Discovery+ show.
On Love in the Jungle, the participants—a cast that looks like hot twenty-somethings—aren’t allowed to talk to each other. Instead, they can only communicate nonverbally.
That’s actually kind of interesting, though the show doesn’t take that to the extreme, as there are still confessional interviews in which they do talk to the camera. (Would a reality show with no talking work? Hmm.)
Even better—and by that, I mean much dumber—is the fact that they will, and I quote, “each identify as an animal they feel best resembles their personality” and “participate in mating rituals pulled straight from the animal kingdom.”
Oh, and all of this is narrated by a British fellow as if it was a nature documentary.
Is this as wonderful as it sounds? Just watch this trailer, and then let’s discuss:
This looks like it’s not taking itself too seriously at all. That might just be clever editing of the trailer, and perhaps the show itself is insufferable or boring. (I thought Naked and Afraid of Love had a clever concept and title but ended up being dreadfully boring.)
But just watching the Love in the Jungle cast embody their chosen animals shows that they’re willing to be self-deprecating and embrace the absurdity of the show they’re on.
“It was very weird—but very sexy and weird. I guess this is a new fetish for me,” one man says. But there’s also clearly going to be some drama: “Yeah, I’m going to take your man. I’m the alpha. I get what I want.”
How will Love in the Jungle work?
I’m unclear how the show or the, uh, mating works. There’s some kind of banishment, and the trailer shows a moment that looks like the cast is walking to Tribal Council. So it could be reminiscent of Bachelor in Paradise or Love Island.
The press release describes the show, which premieres May 8, like this:
As if finding love in modern society isn’t awkward enough, Love in the Jungle will dial up the cringeworthy moments and show contestants struggling to connect, communicate and flirt without speaking. The fourteen singles, who each identify as an animal they feel best resembles their personality, will compete in physical challenges each week that are grounded in real animal mating rituals to discover if they can find a partner through physical connection alone. They’ll fight like aggressive toads, strut like flamingos, and bellow like red deer – all in the hope of finding love.
Shot on a private eco-reserve in Colombia, Love in the Jungle is hilariously narrated in the spirit of classic natural history documentaries, offering expert observational insight into the humans’ animalistic behaviors as if seen for the first time in the wild.
Without the distractions and complications of modern human dating, will these disillusioned daters have a better shot at finding true and lasting love? Or will embracing their wild side while forfeiting verbal communication present more problems than solutions?
Does the “real animal mating rituals” mean that the challenges that will just reinforce human-constructed gender roles and blame it on animals? (For some interesting reading on that: “Do animals have gender roles?”)
Perhaps! But if a dating show must lock women and men into traditional roles, which seems to be a law of some kind, I’d rather watch people do that while also doing a literal flamingo dance with feathers.
It seems even more likely that the challenges are just designed for, um, physical stimulation, like on Love Island.
There’s lots of body-to-body contact in the trailer, and one press photo (below) shows the cast reading instructions for a challenge—er, “dating ritual”—that says:
In this dating ritual, couples embody bonobos, embracing each other in different ways to explore their physical compatibility. Couples will be ranked from best to worst based on their [illegible].
I’m not sure where Love in the Jungle will rank, but I appreciate what I’ve seen of it so far.