Why Too Hot to Handle is a Dystopia

By Kieran Burt
Published: December 12, 2022
View all

Why Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle is a Dystopia. This article discusses why the hit Netflix reality show, Too Hot to Handle, is actually a dystopian show in the wrappings of a traditional reality TV show. It will have spoilers. 

Too Hot to Handle is a Netflix dating show in which contestants attempt to go a month without being intimate with one another in an attempt to win money. Season 4 brings two new contestants to the island, Ethan Smith and Flavia Laos, but it’s the robot overseer Lana that needs talking about.

People in the past have criticized this type of show for only catering to a specific body type which often requires a strict diet, a lack of representation from the LGBTQ+ community, and causing people to feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.  That’s not to mention some of the abuse contestants get, both on social media and on the show itself.

But if there’s one thing that Love Island or any of the other reality dating shows don’t have, it’s robots, which at least means they aren’t complete dystopias. This is where Too Hot to Handle shines above the competition, as it has all the usual critiques of a reality dating show and adds a robot dystopia to the mix.

What is the format of Too Hot to Handle? 

At first glance, Too Hot to Handle might seem like just another reality dating show. But what separates it from the others is a sexless twist. The contests aren’t allowed to be intimate with each other, save for a few exceptions.

The ten contestants learn this twist far too late to back out. In season four, the producers even got Mario Lopez to host a fake show called Wild Love, and trick contestants into coming on it. Once everyone arrives, Lana comes to tell them what show they’re really on, causing the contestants to react with varied emotions, from anger to disappointment.

There are some loopholes to this. Sharing a bed is allowed, but nothing can happen in that bed. The contestants are given a special watch, which measures when a couple has achieved a genuine connection with each other, and when it happens, it will flash a different color, allowing couples to break the rules briefly.

The contestants must serve a month on this island, and the prize is $200,000. But anyone who breaks these rules will cause financial fines levied for the forbidden activities, which reduces the prize money.

Too Hot to Handle’s premise is based on the Seinfeld episode called “The Contest,” in which Jerry and his friends abstain from sex and masturbation for as long as possible.

Who is Lana in Too Hot to Handle?

To make sure none of the participants aren’t breaking the rules, Lana maintains a constant watch over them. But Lana isn’t a person. She’s actually a virtual assistant, similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.

Whenever the contenders break these rules, their sins are revealed to everyone by Lana, as well as the penalty incurred.

Lana’s job, therefore to make sure everyone is complying with the rules and make sure that no one is doing anything they shouldn’t when they think no one else is looking.

Why Too Hot to Handle is a dystopia

Lana’s presence is what makes this show look like a dystopia. She can see everything that happens, even if it’s in the private suite on the island. She makes sure that everyone knows exactly what was done, outing what normally is a private moment between two people. Even if what was done isn’t specifically mentioned, it’s easy to work out from the penalty.

Another aspect is the watch everyone is given. A virtual assistant deciding when humans can be intimate is very controlling, not to mention the unknown way it decides when people can be intimate. Saying that they’ve achieved a genuine connection is vague, especially as it’s up to Lana to decide what that looks like.

The show’s concept sounds like it belongs in a dystopian science fiction, where in the future, robots forbid humans from being intimate with each other, monitor every action to make sure this is being followed, and punish them every time the rule is broken. Except this isn’t science fiction. It’s an accurate description of Too Hot to Handle, a show meant for light entertainment, something that happens in the present.

Many science fiction films warn against giving robots sentience, showing all the ways that good intentions and humorous uses of technology can have dire consequences for everyone else. Perhaps the contestants and producers of the show ought to give Terminator a watch.

Features, Netflix, RSC Originals, Streaming Service
View all