“I like it when you’re here”
“Thank you. I love it when YOU are here”
“That’s so amazing”
“You make me smile”
“You make me happy. Thank you so much”
And with that exchange, two participants hug it out on the 2023 Netflix dating show “Down For Love”. The five part series set in New Zealand helps talented young individuals with Down Syndrome find their perfect date and has been created in consultation with New Zealand Down Syndrome Association.
The series revolves around five individuals on a quest to discover love, each embarking on blind dates with peers of similar age. This format stands apart from the usual dating reality shows, where multiple contestants fight for each other’s attention. While all participants are above 18 years old, they reside with their parents, who have embraced the show’s concept, hoping their children would find a loving companion.
Episode one introduces 21-year-old Josh, an aspiring wrestler, who expresses that he’s spent the last four years in search of a girlfriend. His Tinder profile cheekily states, “Happy man, ladies’ man.” Another participant introduced in this episode is 19-year-old Libby, an actor and model, who starred in a film titled “Poppy”. When asked about her dating preferences, she candidly hopes for a partner with Down syndrome, envisioning a deeper connection with someone with the same condition as her. Both Josh and Libby embark on their inaugural dates, though with different companions. The episode delves into the outcomes of these encounters. Subsequent episodes follow a similar pattern: introducing various participants and their families, depicting their dating experiences. While some find love, some don’t.
“Down for Love” features fun dates – boat rides, pottery classes, mini golf sessions, cha cha cha dance lessons – and the participants seem to have the time of their lives in these new experiences. Given that romance is uncharted territory for the majority of contestants, several of them receive guidance and advice from a professional relationship educator. Additionally, the show highlights a couple with Down syndrome who have sustained a relationship for more than a decade. This inclusion aims to provide insights into the unique challenges inherent in a lasting partnership like theirs. Effective communication appears to be the primary challenge for most. For instance, the couple that has been dating for years have conflicting views regarding their desire to have children, yet they appear to be oblivious to this disparity.
Almost everybody on “Down for Love” is incredibly sweet and exudes infectious positivity. There’s no drama, no snide remarks, just a handful of people with dreamy eyes looking for their “happily ever after”, complete with the full support of their families. The series subtly challenges stereotypes surrounding those with neurodevelopmental conditions and makes viewers look at those with Down syndrome in a different light. For example, in episode 2, we are introduced to Carlos, a 30-year-old photographer who has earned awards for his outstanding work. He is also an international swimmer, poet and can speak five languages. “Down Syndrome is not a disease. Some people have it, some people don’t,” Carlos says to the camera while expressing his desire to share his life with a companion.
One of the participants comes out as bisexual on the show after having gone on a few unsuccessful dates with two different men. She then goes on a blind date with Libby in episode 5, who is also bisexual and has a rare genetic condition called Williams Syndrome. Do things work out between the two? You will have to watch the show to find out. With participants spanning ages 18 to 37, a substantial diversity emerges in their personalities and life perspectives. While one individual might want to dance all Friday night at the pub, another would opt to read a classic at home.
Comprising five episodes and featuring multiple couples, the show maintains a well-balanced pacing. However, it’s worth noting that certain participants receive disproportionate screentime without an apparent reason. Shot across various vibrant and sunny locations in New Zealand, “Down for Love” culminates with an endearing date set within an aquarium. In its entirety, the show wonderfully depicts the integral role that supportive families play in the holistic growth of individuals with Down syndrome, notwithstanding their learning challenges.
You can stream the series on Netflix.
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