There are few things I enjoy more than creating unnecessary movie-watching challenges for myself.
Like the time I decided that I must watch all 214 minutes of the Snyder cut, even though I’d seen exactly two of the preceding DCU films. You’ll be shocked to learn that I spent at least 100 of those minutes confused.
Or when I noticed that the first two movies I saw in February of 2021 had similar red and black poster color schemes, so of course the rest of the films I watched that month had to have the same. For no other reason could anyone dream up an All the President’s Men & After Hours double feature.
Or when I made my parents join me on a full-day Christmas Eve marathon of every single Die Hard installment.
So when I first saw the trailer for Netflix’s revival of the British dating show Sexy Beasts, I immediately knew that the time had come to expand my arbitrary requirements into the world of reality television. The trailer was one of the most utterly unhinged things I had ever seen, and thus I knew that I must binge-watch the entire season in one night, with no breaks. Listen, I don’t make the rules (I literally do make the rules).
For those of you who were not on Twitter when the unveiling of Sexy Beasts created a brief shockwave around the internet, the competition goes as follows: each episode focuses on one lucky man or woman who’s looking for love and has three potential suitors to pick from. The catch, naturally, is that everyone on the show is in full prosthetic makeup as some sort of animal or mythical creature. Round 1 consists of casual drinks, after which one suitor is sent home — and then unmasked for us to see what beautiful human our bachelor/ette is passing up. The remaining two each go on a more robust date — ice carving and gin mixology, to name a few — and then our lead creature must make their final choice of beast to keep dating in the real world. Once this irrevocable decision is made, the masks come off and we get to see if everyone’s exteriors are as attractive as their personalities. Which is a pretty low bar based on the personalities on this show.
And so, with the knowledge that what I would see could not be unseen, I poured myself a glass — nay, goblet — of wine, settled down on my couch, and unleashed the beasts (pressed play). Two and a half hours later, my brain now swirls with visions of waxen dolphins and dragons saying “I really vibe with your personality.” But write I must, and write I will.
Let’s start with a disclaimer: this is not the show for you if you don’t already generally like reality dating shows. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it if you’re a movie makeup artist in need of some design inspo, but take away all the prosthetics and this is truly your run-of-the-mill series where people compete for one person’s affections. So you have my full permission to stop here if you couldn’t sit through an episode of Dating Around.
If, however, you are like me and have ever uttered out loud: “I sort of think I’d thrive on Love Is Blind,” I’m here to break down the pros and cons of Sexy Beasts for you to decide if it’s worth your while. Except instead of “pros” and “cons,” I’ll be staying on theme and sharing a list of “purrs” and “hisses.” I’m genuinely sorry about this, but as someone famously allergic to most animals I’m incapable of thinking up something better.
So let’s get started.
Purr #1: The Prosthetics
I’ll take any chance I get to yell at Netflix for making it hard to read end credits, and in this case I was SCREAMING at them because the prosthetic makeup team needed to be lauded for their work! Then, when I looked up the production staff, I discovered it was not a team but one individual makeup artist doing all those looks. Astounding. We all need to give Sam Shuck the applause he deserves for creating elaborate masks that allowed for chatting, eating, drinking, and kissing.
Hiss #1: The Prosthetics
Did you read that last sentence? There was kissing. In the masks. As artistically amazing as these creature creations were, they were also a horrifying journey into the anthropomorphic uncanny valley and they made me very uncomfortable. Namely during the parts where beaver teeth were flipped up for a smooch.
I also found it a bit unfair that some women got cute-adjacent deer or leopard costumes while one had to be an undead zombie with wisps of scraggly white hair and a bone sticking out of her cheek. Justice for Tomiko.
Purr #2: Amber the Pixie
Amber lucked out and got what I would say was the only genuinely hot makeup look on the whole show. I was calling her “Amber the Blue Thingy” but eventually did find out she was supposed to be a pixie. In any case, she deserved the best mask because she was the only contestant I actively rooted for the entire season. Amber was too good for this show and she knew it. When (spoiler alert) she didn’t get picked, our faces were the exact same shade of shocked.
My hope for her is that she sneakily got the number of the British hunk who taught her and James the Beaver how to carve ice on their date.
Hiss #2: Ethan the Tin Man
Ethan the Tin Man should have been great — he’s a marine biologist who, and I quote, “Knows more about dolphins than can blow your mind three times over.” If that’s not a dream man I don’t know who is.
Unfortunately, Ethan was competing for the heart of Kariselle the Panda, who was… a lot. Kariselle’s friends would apparently use the word “lunatic” to describe her, and what she hates more than anything are “exes and hoes.” Girl, let’s do better. That said, when she sent Ethan home the man literally celebrated not having to date her anymore — in front of her! It was honestly one of the rudest things I’ve ever seen on a dating show, and not even Kariselle deserved that.
Purr #3: Zoo Date
Despite her flaws, Kariselle the Panda did manage to go on my favorite outing of the entire series, where she (a New Jersey Italian) took Josh the Bull on a date to the zoo. That’s right, folks: Sexy Beasts gave us the reboot of The Sopranos, Season 3, Episode 9 we never knew we needed.
Hiss #3: Axe Throwing Date
Honestly this is just a hiss because a date at an axe throwing place is my personal nightmare.
Purr #4: The Background People
One of the funniest aspects of the show was the fact that they seemingly did not alert the locals about the nature of what they were filming. As a result, in almost every shot you see people around the couple looking completely baffled to see a praying mantis and a dolphin enjoying a flirtatious bowling game in the next lane, or an owl and a wolf drunk dancing at the bar.
Hiss #4: Everyone Being Tired of Being So Hot
Dare I say… “beautiful people being forced to fall in love based on personality alone” is THE most played out reality dating trope of all time and we must get rid of it. I was over it after Love Is Blind, and I was over it after hearing that exact phrase for probably the sixteenth time on Sexy Beasts.
Almost every contestant on this show bemoaned how no one takes them seriously because of their amazing looks, while simultaneously saying things like, “I like an LL Cool J big ol’ butt.” There’s certainly something to be said about how shallow dating can be, but I don’t think Sexy Beasts made the revelatory point it seemed to be attempting, especially when all the leads were vocal about their relief when their chosen beast was attractive.
Purr #5: “Ass first, personality second.”
Write it in the stars. Tattoo it across your chest. Carve it into stone.
This is the line at the beating heart of Sexy Beasts. It is uttered by James in his full beaver makeup with absolutely no emotion in his eyes as he deliberates between sending home Amber the Pixie, Alexis the Leopard, or Tomiko the Decomposing Elderly Zombie — and then again in every opening credits sequence. It is the universal truth for all contestants, their maxim, their anthem. Tonight I’ll sleep with “ass first, personality second” ringing in my ears.
Hiss #5: “I am the techno prince, warrior poet, monkey man, spiritual cowboy, on the hero’s journey to liberate humankind, yeah.”
This… is a real thing a man dressed as a rhinoceros says before describing his Sex Kung Fu practice.
So if this sounds like your thing, go forth! Watch a mandrill make out with a demon in the rain! I personally will be cleaning out my mind with my next self-imposed challenge: watching every Fast & Furious movie in one weekend.