It's fair to say season three of Love Is Blind has thrown up some red flags. From the uneven division of emotional labour to the extreme honesty, which led one man to discuss how "hot" another woman looked while in bed with his partner. Most recently, Cole Barnett opened up the conversation around the attitude towards mental health, after he weaponised bipolar disorder as an insult during an argument with Zanab Jaffrey.
In episode nine, Zanab and Cole, who matched in the pods, are discussing the future of their relationship. "Where are you at? Are you actually going to marry me?" Cole asks his fiancée.
Zanab replies, "I have moments, Cole, where I'm so sure that I totally [want to marry you.] But I honest to God don't think I will know until I'm walking down the aisle to you... This experiment led me to you. I fell in love with someone despite the little things you do... your lifestyle. It doesn't make me not love you. [But] it does aggravate me."
The couple then begin to argue over the things they find frustrating about each other (we're talking towels in the bath and hair in the toilet), and whether they actually want to get married. Cole says, "I know that you love me. I know that I want to say 'I do' to you. Just be sweet. Just be unassuming."
"Be unassuming? Have you met women anywhere?" Zanab replies. "I'm not going to sit here and convince you. I'm a great, great girl. Your family would be crazy not to love me. I am a catch of the century. I am."
Cole snaps back, "Except when you have a bad attitude. Are you bipolar? I asked you a question. Oh, are you bipolar?"
Understandably, the comment did not go down well with viewers. As one put it, "If anyone is watching Love Is Blind pls talk to me about the absolute NERVE of Cole asking Zanab if she was bipolar in the middle of her trying to have an honest conversation about her feelings?"
Someone else put, "Cole trying to insult Zanab by calling her bipolar is beyond ignorant. Imagine shaming anyone for their mental illness, let alone weaponising it against them in an argument."
For many, Cole's comment comes with a whole lot of issues attached to it. First off, there's the insensitivity around the way in which he delivered the question. As far we we know, Zanab hasn't discussed her mental health with him. What if she does have bipolar, and this is the way he chooses to address it? Imagine if you hadn't yet felt able to open up about your wellbeing with your potential husband-to-be, and this is the way he approaches the situation?
Another problem with Cole's comment - and some of the responses on social media - is the implication that being bipolar is something to be ashamed of, or to keep hidden. As if having a mental health condition would make you less of a person; the weaponising of "are you bipolar?" during a heated argument as an insult. What he's essentially done is use the suggestion of mental health as a slur, which is not only ignorant, but ableist.
Cole really just asked Zanab if she was bipolar because she doesn’t act the way he thinks she should. That’s a fucking dealbreaker if you ask me. Denigrating someone by using mental health as a slur is ableist as fuck. #LoveIsBlind
— Jon ✊🏽🏳️🌈♿️ (@LiberatedByGaga) November 2, 2022
"Are you bipolar?" 🤮🤮🤮 Cole's behaviour there was sickening. Zanab should have spun the block. Mental health disorders are not a cheeky Diss to throw shade #LoveisBlind
— Sylvie🇸🇨🇳🇬 (@sylvie__c) November 2, 2022
Really Cole? bipolar? That’s a real diagnosis and not something to joke about, the immaturity. Zanab deserves better #LoveIsBlind
— BIG BARBIE🎀 (@warmmahogany) November 2, 2022
Cole has since made a statement about the scene to Women's Health. "I mean, the way it looks, I regret that massively," he said. "I don't think you should question anyone's mental health or ever ask that question. It sounds really bad. When I heard it, it broke my heart to see that play out and to see her face afterwards. But I didn't just out of the blue [say] like, 'Hey, I'm gonna go and ask a very difficult question or just like a question that shouldn't be asked.'"
Love Is Blind is now streaming on Netflix.
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