MTV’s dating reality show “Are You The One?” is addressing changing attitudes regarding sexuality and gender identity by featuring sexually fluid contestants on the show’s eighth season, which bows June 27.
The shift from the show’s past focus on heterosexual relationships is part of the larger effort at MTV to be relevant to younger viewers by reflecting contemporary mores and concerns in youth culture.
“In previous seasons [the cast] hadn’t been through as much of a struggle. A lot of the people this season come to us having battled the world in terms of accepting them and accepting the way they look at sexuality and coming out,” executive producer Rob LaPlante told Variety. “Struggle in anyone’s life makes them a more interesting person. It’s a growth mechanism. Life has not been handed to them on a silver platter.”
On previous seasons of “Are You The One?” producers would pair 10 male and 10 female singles in heterosexual couples via a matchmaking algorithm. The name of the game: find out who your “perfect match” is. Now, all contestants will be lumped together and have the ability to pair with anyone in the group. The new format has changed the matching algorithm due to higher variables (which the producers run by a statistics professor), but the essence of the show has remained the same.
“It’s still a fun, drama-filled salacious ridiculous reality show but it’s now got a social message underneath it,” said LaPlante. “It’s always a process to adjust an existing show that’s successful. We didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.”
LaPlante said that MTV was immediately receptive to the idea and has always been at the forefront of inclusion in their programming.
“If you go back to the history of MTV, the very beginning, I worked on ‘The Real World.’ They were putting gay characters on television and doing things that were turning heads back then and creating noise and awareness all at the same time,” LaPlante said. “This is another step in that direction.”
The show’s main demographic is in the 21-26 range, according to LaPlante.
“The world of television is changing rapidly the amount of competition is at an all-time high. You have an audience that is young for this show that also has the massive distraction of their cell phones and the internet it couldn’t be harder to get the attention of younger audience,” he said. “We’re trying to approach them in a very genuine authentic way that represents something that maybe their parents don’t understand.”
So far, LaPlante has seen mostly appreciation for the show’s new direction, albeit not without a share of trolls on the internet. “The world is going to shout louder than the voices that don’t need to be heard,” he predicted.
(Pictured: Season 8 cast members of MTV’s “Are You The One?”)