Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Love Is Blind Contestants Sued Over Psychological Torture And Exploitation

Of Netflix's robust leg of reality television programming, "Love Is Blind" is among the streamer's most popular, and last spring, the hit dating show was renewed for a fifth season. The premise is certainly compelling: contestants stay in isolated pods, where potential love interests only meet face to face if they choose to get engaged.

Several former cast members have come forward alleging that the "Love Is Blind" producers created an abusive, exploitative environment. In July of 2022, Season 2 contestant Jeremy Hartwell filed a lawsuit against Netflix and production company Kinetic Content accusing the show of "inhumane working conditions" (via Variety).

In a video from More Perfect Union, Hartwell and fellow former cast member Nick Thompson articulated the reasoning behind the lawsuit. "I didn't at all expect what actually went down or what happened, which was quite a bit more psychological torture, manipulation, and just basically exploitation," said Hartwell. "A lawsuit was the last thing that I wanted." He claimed the producers utilized a pattern of "abuse, exploitation, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, [and] gaslighting" to create a final product.

Hartwell and Thompson pointed out a lack of access to readily available water and food, and also asserted that they were plied with alcohol. The emotional fallout, they say, was devastating. Other contestants have corroborated their claims, with Thompson's former partner Danielle Ruhl claiming she tried to leave after suffering from a panic attack. "I kept telling them, 'I don't trust myself. I've tried committing suicide before. I'm having suicidal thoughts. I don't think I can continue in this,'" the contestant told Business Insider.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org

Love Is Blind contestants lacked autonomy

For Jeremy Hartwell and Nick Thompson, "Love Is Blind" was a socially isolating experiment in which the contestants lost all sense of autonomy. "They are in control of every element of your life. You're put in a hotel room and you don't have a key," Thompson recalled in the same More Perfect Union video, with Hartwell adding, "They keep you in this state where you really have no idea how much time has transpired." The producers also took away their phones, wallets, IDs, and passports, and they were only allowed to leave their pods to use the restroom.

The two former contestants assert that the emotionally and physically traumatic experience was ultimately a labor issue. The contestants were filmed for between 18 and 20 hours a day and only made $7.14 an hour. Threatening to leave the series meant potentially being sued for $50,000 in damages.

Indeed, part of Hartwell's lawsuit contends that the studios circumvented labor laws by classifying contestants as contract workers even though they signed employee tax forms. "Right now, the bottom line is it is far more profitable to produce these [shows] unethically in an exploitative way than to treat cast members like people," Hartwell said. Thompson continued, "This is unregulated capitalism in the entertainment industry. Nobody has rights, nobody's protected."

In April of 2023, Jeremy Hartwell founded UCAN, the Unscripted Cast Advocacy Network, a nonprofit that supports reality TV cast members by providing them with legal counsel and mental health resources. It's an effort to illuminate the labor issue at the heart of the "Love Is Blind" lawsuit, as well as the poor treatment of workers across reality programming.