‘The Ultimatum: Queer Love’ Has the Messy, Jewish Lesbian Representation I Crave

Watching Lexi Goldberg's journey on the queer Netflix reality dating show is all I've ever wanted from TV.

As Hey Alma’s associate editor, I’ve watched a lot of reality dating shows in search of Jewish contestants. I’ve become a (somewhat reluctant) member of Bachelor Nation, tuning in to root for Jewish contestants Jason Alabaster and Ariel Frenkel. I’ve binged “Jewish Matchmaking,” scratching my itch to see more Jews in a reality dating show landscape which all too often caters toward evangelical Christian sensibilities. And I have even watched a fever-dream of a show called “Love In the Jungle” for Modern Orthodox contestant Jordan Rosengarten.

But none of those shows excite me like “The Ultimatum: Queer Love.”

As the title suggests, this dating experiment, excitingly, revolves around five couples of queer women and nonbinary people. In each couple, one partner has issued “the ultimatum”: leave the show engaged or break up. But, there’s a twist! Before everyone spends three weeks living with their original partner in a trial marriage, they must date each other and complete a three-week trial marriage with another cast member. At the end, everyone must actually choose whether to get engaged to their original partner, start dating another cast member or leave single.

I grant you that “The Ultimatum” is absolutely not a healthy way to maintain a longterm partnership or find love. (Though I argue that no reality dating show is, nor is that their main goal.) Still, when I began watching, I couldn’t help but revel in the fact that I, a stone-cold queer, had never heard of an LGTBQ+ dating show before, let alone seen one on Netflix. And then I had another moment when I realized that “The Ultimatum” was gifting me a queer and Jewish contestant in 24 year-old Lexi Goldberg.

In episode two, Lexi (who issued the ultimatum to her partner Rae) is on a date with Mal (who received the ultimatum from her partner Yoly). In conversation, Mal, who is Black, asks Lexi if she has ever dated a Black person before. “No, I haven’t,” Lexi responds, before thoughtfully continuing, “Dating Rae, who’s Chinese, that was really the first experience I’d had outside of dating a white person. I will not lie. That was a learning curve. And I don’t want to say that I know enough or anything. I’m not afraid of the learning in that. I don’t want to avoid that.”

Then, Lexi playfully asks, “Have you dated Jewish before?” When Mal says that they haven’t, Lexi laughs, “Ah! So I do bring something different. I can show you how to make matzah ball soup.”

Lexi’s Jewishness has not come up again throughout the season, and I don’t anticipate that it will in the final two episodes. (Though we do meet her parents on multiple occasions.) But the excitement of identifying Lexi as someone like me, a Jewish girl who likes girls, and the realization that non-Jewish audiences will see her and know that proud queer Jews exist, is enough in my book. Truthfully, when I watch “The Ultimatum,” I’m not looking for extensive, perfect Jewish representation. I’m not even looking for perfect queer representation — whatever that even means. In fact, that’s kind of the point.

A tried and true rule about the lesbian and queer community is that we can be messy. Though they are stereotypes, lesbians are known for U-hauling (meaning that we move in together after a short period of time), dating our entire friend group, remaining friends with our exes and for being quick to profess love to one another. (Yes, I did tell my partner of over five years that I loved her on our first day of dating, what of it?) Generally speaking, that specific brand of chaos is the je ne sais quoi of lesbian and queer dating. So it’s absolutely the kind of authenticity that I want to see in the first mainstream queer dating show. That “The Ultimatum: Queer Love” not only provides queer chaos in all its glory, but also a queer Jew to be part of the chaos, is everything I’ve ever wanted from television.

Now, to be fair to Lexi, she is certainly not the most chaotic cast member on the show — far from it. Amidst castmembers like Xander and Yoly, who fall in love in three weeks, Aussie, who has severe trouble dealing with conflict and Vanessa, who is simply herself, Lexi comes across fairly well. It’s undeniable that she is smart, well-spoken and driven by her values. However, like I said, she’s not perfect.

On “The Ultimatum,” a huge source of drama comes from Lexi’s deep-seated dislike for fellow castmember Vanessa Papa. For context, Vanessa is easily the least likable and most chaotic person on “The Ultimatum.” Having received the ultimatum from her partner Xander, Vanessa arrives on the show seemingly ready to ditch Xander — all the while giving the impression that she has been stringing her girlfriend of four years along. While Vanessa and Lexi initially have fun together, that all blows up on their second date when Vanessa says she thinks that Xander couldn’t find someone to date on the show. “What exactly did you think you were gonna get out of this process if there was no chance for Xander to be with other people, and you’re sitting over here in, ‘I don’t want to get married?’ What the fuck did you come here for?” Lexi angrily questions Vanessa, offended by the idea that Vanessa isn’t there to find love, but rather to fuck around. Lexi quickly ends their date, exclaiming to a producer, “I don’t wanna see her again.”

Luckily for viewers, they do see each other again and therein lies the messiness. Despite Lexi warning her that Vanessa is not there for “the right reasons,” Rae chooses Vanessa to be her trial wife. Then, during their trial marriage, Lexi and Rae have sex, which upsets Lexi when Rae tells her. At a cocktail hour for the castmates, Lexi confronts Vanessa, pulling absolutely no punches. Unabashedly, and in front of multiple other people, Lexi inappropriately describes and questions Vanessa about her sex with Rae. While I would certainly be upset in that situation, too, no productive conversation was had and the whole encounter only served the embarrass Vanessa.

And yet, my eyes were glued to my screen — and my messy Jewish queen Lexi — the entire damn time.

In an age full of antisemitism and anti-queer hatred,”The Ultimatum: Queer Love” is an amazing, authentically queer reprieve, and I’m so thrilled that I get to watch Lexi’s journey throughout it all. The queer Jews are tired, let us sow and enjoy the reaping of chaos!

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