The first season of Netflix’s reality show Too Hot To Handle aired soon after the lockdown started in the spring of 2020. It was a very specific period of time when everyone was so focused on consuming media online that Tiger King became a cultural moment at some point (remember that?). Too Hot To Handle, a show about a group of young single mostly straight people trying not to have any sexual contact in order to win 100 thousand dollars, came out at the right time when everyone was still struggling with the idea of social distancing and not hooking up with strangers anymore.
The second season of the show comes out more than a year into the pandemic. We all are tired and we all are at least a little bit fed up with cultural moments and media content. Nonetheless, I still decided to watch the second season of the show that made my brain melt last year, and I am here to tell you that the second part may not be of better quality per se, but it certainly is more entertaining!
Too Hot To Handle is a show with contestants with zero insecurities. Sure, they all write mean things about themselves on paper when asked to share their vulnerabilities during self-growth workshops to indicate that they are, in fact, real people with emotional depth. But it always takes extreme self-confidence (at least on the surface) to go on a reality show. These are the people who deemed their personalities and social and dating skills so inherently interesting that they agreed to participate in a show about partying and living it up called Parties in Paradise (which is a fake show that the showrunners made up to lure the contestants in). So, it is funny and almost surreal to see how their egos play out over four weeks at a remote resort where they treat simple rules as a personal challenge of a lifetime.
The surreal part comes from the fact that the show is based on the idea that preferring casual sex to heteronormative monogamous dating is a sign of a major personal flaw that needs to be worked on. This why Lana (a virtual assistant in a shape of a cone that is surprisingly bigger than I remember) continues to chastise them and guide them to become people capable of “genuine connections” by abstaining from any kissing, heavy petting, sexual intercourse, or self-gratification (each of these items has a fixed price that is deducted from the prize fund after each rule break). And even if it does sound ridiculous but easy enough to do, boy, do these horny people struggle. Or at least they pretend that they do.
Here is the thing with reality shows these days, social media has completely changed the game. Before, some of the most memorable contestants of a popular reality show would have to put a lot of effort to manage to capitalize on their short-term fame. And mostly, it would be people who sought a pass into the celebrity and film industries. They would have to be determined, and even then, their chances would still be pretty low.
Today, with the ubiquity of social media and its quick algorithm, it is much easier to build a platform even if you spent two episodes on a not-so-popular show. So, going on a reality show and becoming a memorable character is almost always worth it now. They may not get the prize, be it money, love, or something else, but they can attract enough followers on Instagram to profit from it. There does not even need to be a goal of becoming a star. Many ex-contestants of reality shows do not strive to become movie stars, but they do enjoy the influencer’s platforms they can build and whatever perks may come with it.
This is what I was thinking when watching the second season of Too Hot To Handle. Even though they were brought on to the show under false premises, most of these people appear to know about the show to some extent. They all are flustered and cursing when they find out that they are on Too Hot To Handle, but they all stay and start making trouble right away. The prize fund plummets drastically, as all contestants break at least one rule every 24 hours.
Honestly, it does not look like many of them are bothered that much with the money. Is it because they all understand the opportunity they have been given by appearing not on a pilot season of some show but on the second season of something they have likely watched themselves? Does the end goal of making an impression on an audience that can potentially be transferred to their personal social capital eclipse the ultimate reward of the show? Or are they just too horny after a year of the pandemic? (Honestly, none of them struck me as people who abide by the social distancing rules).
Anyway, that is what makes this season of the show more entertaining to watch. It is just messier and louder with more exaggerated personalities involved. Kudos to the producers for good casting as well. And for setting up new conditions for getting the final prize. The showrunners decided to award all the money to one person this season and make the whole group decide among themselves between the three pre-chosen finalists—very Lord of the Flies. At the very end, the show turned into an individual competition of self-growth, and what is a better motivator for self-development than money?
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