The same year that Bravo broke ground with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the network also cranked out this nasty piece of work. Disguised as The Bachelor for the male-seeking-male set, this short-lived summer dating show found protagonist James courting 15 suitors in hopes of finding his ideal “mate.” The twist—which was only revealed to James four episodes into a six-episode season—was that half of the contestants were straight guys hoping to win a cash prize by duping him into falling for them. Although he ultimately chose a gay winner, by virtue of its premise alone, Boy Meets Boy flirted with gay-for-pay disaster. An ambivalent Advocate cover story, published in advance of the premiere, made nervous reference to the murder of a Jenny Jones guest who’d brought his straight colleague on the show to confess a secret crush.
In the years that followed, reality TV kept stumbling in its depictions of queer romance. MTV’s A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila was a male-gaze-friendly battle of the sexes for a bisexual woman who’d later be ejected from Celebrity Big Brother for endorsing Nazism. The tragedy of Miriam Rivera, the transgender model at the center of There’s Something About Miriam, a British reality series that treated her gender identity as a shocking twist, ended with her 2019 suicide. While such horrific errors are rarer these days, the fact that so many mainstream dating shows continue to exclude queer narratives confirms that heterosexism still has a hold on the genre. —Judy Berman
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