'You Didn't Know You Were Being Taken Advantage Of'
'Inhumane' conditions, alleged sexual assault: Reality TV's underbelly is laid bare as its participants fight to unionize a low-cost business
Nick Thompson is a few months away from losing his house. He has been laid off from his job as a marketing executive, split from his wife, and had the divorce filing leak to TMZ before he was even able to tell friends and family. And now he can’t even get a new job, he says, because potential employers tell him they don’t want to hire someone who was on a reality show. His misfortune, in his estimation, stems from his participation on Netflix’s mega-popular dating show Love Is Blind.
“As I continued going through my post-show experience, I had a really rough year last year,” he says, adding, “I was in a really bad place mentally.”
The 38-year-old Chicagoan thought he knew what he was signing up for when, in 2021, he joined the social experiment, which aims to see if people can fall in love before they’ve actually met in person. But filming for up to 20 hours a day, being sequestered in hotel rooms without a key, and handing over to producers his passport, credit cards, cash and “everything that gives you any kind of identity or any kind of autonomy” weighed on his mental health, says Thompson. He thinks reality TV should do better.
At any other point in time, this might’ve been viewed as a case of you knew what you were getting yourself into, but Hollywood is cresting on a wave of labor agita and pulling every un-unionized sector of the industry along in its wake.