DHAHRAN: Right on the heels of “Indian Matchmaking,” Netflix acquired streaming rights to Australian dating show “Love on the Spectrum” for a global audience. While these releases offer minority groups visibility and representation in mainstream media (the Indian diaspora and adults on the autism spectrum, respectively) the latter takes a nuanced and thoughtful approach to matchmaking.
“Love on the Spectrum” is also a refreshing departure from the Netflix brand of glamorous, hypersexual reality TV as endorsed by “Too Hot to Handle” and “Love is Blind,” both of which were released earlier this year.
First released on the Australian Broadcast Corp. last fall, the unscripted show follows seven singles on the autism spectrum as they look for love and companionship, and two autistic couples as they make momentous relationship decisions.
Unobtrusive and done respectfully, the show offers insight into their lives and vulnerabilities — what autism on the spectrum looks like for each individual, the challenges they face in social situations, and why they seek companionship. Alongside heart-warming interviews with participants and their families, the episodes feature first dates, mixer events and sessions with autism or relationship experts.
The highlight of the show remains raw human emotions and the participants’ endearing personalities that shine through. One cannot help but laugh out loud at 25-year-old Michael’s one-liners that double as sage advice.
But while these “quirks” seem loveable and endearing to a neuro-typical audience, autistic audiences have voiced that in their quest to make a show interesting, these snippets romanticize high-functioning autism and disregard Level 3 autism (the most severe). They have also voiced a desire to see an autistic and non-autistic pairing.
At the outset, a show that follows autistic young adults in the dating world may not seem like something one can relate to. But as the five-part docuseries unravels, one can agree that the universal experience of navigating the dating world and finding love is difficult — autistic or not. With awkward first dates and heartbreak, “Love on the Spectrum” is heartfelt, authentic and real, and therein lies the appeal of the show.