90 Day Fiance’s First Lesbian Couple Isn’t What You’d Expect

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé finally has its first lesbian couple, Stephanie and Erika, but the representation is not what fans were looking forward to.

On the new season of 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, the show features Americans who have found love overseas, and are destined to travel to meet their internet partners. One of those Americans is Stephanie Matto, a YouTube entertainer. Stephanie flies to Australia to meet her girlfriend, Erika Owens who she met over social media and had been dating for around four months. This sounds like an amazingly cute lesbian love story, right? Wrong.

Upon arrival in Australia, it is revealed that neither Stephanie nor Erika, both of whom are bisexual, have come out to their families, so they primarily are staying in hotel rooms. The tension between the two is evident, as Stephanie refuses to give Erika a welcoming kiss. The show portrays this as very uncomfortable, and build up to a kiss between the two through several episodes. This paints Erika as a bully almost, as she does state that she wants to kiss Stephanie and does not understand why they haven’t yet. Then, finally, the two share a kiss in their hotel bathroom… that is presented almost entirely as something pornographic.

Compared to other couples on the show, this kiss was zoomed in on, with cheesy music playing in the background. Yuck. The kiss was presented almost entirely through the male gaze, after all the “will they won’t they” buildup. No other couples on the show had their first kisses presented in such a light. Many fans of the show felt that TLC presented this kiss in a pornographic way to attract a male audience to these episodes, thus increasing their ratings as a mostly female-watched show. Audience members have also pointed out that Stephanie and Erika are extremely over-sexualized throughout the entire show and perhaps could be playing up their sexualities in order to be on television. Who’s to say?

Speaking of, Stephanie has also been caught red-handed lying about her sexuality on the show. Stephanie claimed during filming that she was not out to her family yet, similar to Erika, and wanted to make sure their relationship was, in fact, authentic before telling her loved ones. However, the internet never lies… right? Stephanie made a video on Youtube called “I was in love with a girl” back in 2017 where she opened up about being bisexual. This was a few years before Stephanie began filming the show with Erika, where one of the major plot points was that both girls had not come out yet.

While Stephanie was fairly open about her sexuality online, once she was in person with Erika many fans questioned the legitimacy of their relationship. The two women often acted more like best friends than lovers, aside from their semi-pornographic kiss in the hotel bathroom. The drama was chaotic, as Erika and Stephanie had many fights with one another throughout the entire show. Many fans were disappointed by this as well, claiming that their entire storyline was rather boring.

Erika was portrayed as the villain for the majority of the show. How can anyone with that much pastel in her life be a villain? Well, she was open with Stephanie about being friends with her ex’s, and the fact that she had been hooking up with… an ex-boyfriend. Stephanie, naturally, was jealous and irritated with Erika for pretty much her entire visit. Stephanie took Erika on a date and made Erika delete her Bumble Bizz app because she was worried Erika was meeting potential suiters. Similarly, at a party with Erika’s friends, Stephanie confronted Erika’s ex-boyfriend in front of everyone, making a huge scene. The rest of the season pretty much goes the same way, which is why fans of the show were not fans of this lesbian couple.

Many fans feel like TLC missed the mark on their first lesbian representation with Stephanie and Erika. The women individually were over-sexualized, as attention was brought through the male gaze. Hence, their bathroom kiss and the attentive camera angles that focused on both women’s full chests. It seems as if TLC is pandering all around — pandering to the rainbow community with a token lesbian couple, pandering to men with gratuitous, pornified shots, and also pandering to straight women in that they portray Stephanie and Erika as simply best friends (when they’re not shown as if they are pornstars).

Likewise, it seems as if both women are not keen to really embracing their sexual identities. While Stephanie blatantly lied about not having come out yet, Erika also seems to take a back seat when it comes to being openly gay. Fans of the show are highly disappointed in the casting of Erika and Stephanie and think that TLC could have done a much better portrayal of the two women. Hopefully, 90 Days will learn from their mistakes this season and include more authentic lesbian relationships in the future.