Chicago Web Series 'The Right Swipe' Provides "Serious Work With Intention To Delight"
What’s the best thing you ever got out of swiping through a dating app?
A significant other? A hookup? A friend? An intersectional, feminist rom-com web series?
For Chicago creatives Kyra Jones and Juli Del Prete, it was the latter.
“It was a cold night in January and Kyra and I were gonna go to the club but it was like, minus 20 windchill so, instead, we sat on the couch and started swiping through Bumble. We just kind of noticed that all of the men on these dating apps were either underselling themselves or were actively offensive.”
“What kinda stuff did you see?”
“Oh, you know, unflattering selfies or, like, bios like ‘Craft beer, HBU?’ And a lot worse.”
Lightning struck. Or, “swiped,” to be precise.
“Kyra was like, ‘Dude! We could make a killing if you took photos of guys for their profiles and I wrote their bios.”
Realizing that, to do so, they’d have to actually interact with men, they did what any self-respecting creatives with a golden idea would do instead: they wrote a web series. What makes “The Right Swipe” special?? Jones and Del Pretebroke from the usual white, cis-gendered, hetero narratives that typical dominate romcoms to highlight the challenges of intersectional dating. The first season alone features a diverse group of clients including, “a trans man, a queer poet, a hotep, and more.
The show centers around best friends India and Margo, fictional characters inspired by Kyra and Juli respectively. The pair, one a writer, the other a photographer turned law student, start their business, the titular “Right Swipe” and hilarity ensues. They have just three rules to guide them through the chaos: 1) They must use their powers for good, 2)They charge on a sliding scale (fuckboys pay more), 3) They can’t sleep with, flirt with, or date their clients.
India, however, can’t make it out of episode one without breaking rule number three. Everything begins to fall apart after the pair meet their first client, Elijah, a “hella-woke, hella-hot, hella-single” filmmaker. Margo, who’s supposed to be studying for the LSAT with her definitely-not-boyfriend Danny, goes through a mini crisis of her own after “a ghost from her past” reaches out through “The Right Swipe”. You’ll have to watch the show for more.
The very same night that they conceived of the show, Kyra and Juli outlined the entire first season. Three months of writing, a meeting with Minnie Productions, and a successful $20,000 crowdfunding campaign later, the Right Swipe was open for business. Shortly after the first table read, Kyra and Julie met Justin Casselle, a director and producer from VAM Studio. Justin took to the series immediately.
“It was a script about a world that I presently live in, one that I knew very well and could relate to. There were so many layers. I was like - what’s that saying? - a kid in a candy shop? I don’t eat a lot of candy so, maybe, a kid in a tea shop?” Justin’s deep love of rom-coms and long-held dream of directing one certainly helped pull him in. Good thing too. Casselle’s direction carefully pulls out the visual layers baked into Jones and Del Prete’s script. There’s an energy and life to “The Right Swipe” that evokes the very best the rom-com genre has to offer.
For “The Right Swipe’s” creators, the show’s themes strike close to home. In addition to being a writer, Kyra Jones is a sexual violence educator and activist who works with students at Northwestern University. India, her fictional counterpart, is a screenwriter struggling to find her perfect match in an dating world filled with fuckboys, racists, and the dreaded “hoteps.”
There is nothing fictional, however, about India’s dilemma. For Kyra Jones, and other Black women, this story is all too familiar. Statistically, Black women are the least likely to receive a match on dating apps like the ones depicted on “The Right Swipe”. Of course, getting someone to swipe right is only half the battle. Many of the men who do are often overtly racist and misogynistic.
“[Men] say stuff like, ‘You’ll be the first Black girl I’ve ever gone out with.’ Or, ‘I’ve always had jungle fever.’ That one, he was white.” This problem, racial fetishicism, isn’t unique to the hetero side of dating apps either. In the dating world, colored people of all genders and orientations are often treated like disposable objects, itches to be scratched.
For Del Prete, Margo’s on-screen life represents a nightmarish version of her own, one in which, following the results of the 2016 presidential election, she decided to forgo art in favor of a career in law. It was a choice she very nearly made. “I just felt like I needed to do more with my privilege than make art. It didn’t feel like enough.” She ultimately realized that, if she chose law, she’d be doing it for the wrong reasons. She also understood that the right art can inspire tremendous change, a truth Jones understands as well. With it’s intersectional approach to romantic comedy, much of “The Right Swipe” is designed to do just that.
“The Right Swipe’s” creators describe it as “an intersectional feminist web series center[ing] womxn, POC, and queer and trans folx” both in front of and behind the camera. It brings new life and new faces to a genre desperately in need of them. As Del Prete says, the show, while tremendously fun and lighthearted at times, “subverts the notion that romcoms have to be fluff pieces.” In the words of Nora Ephron, one of Del Prete’s idols, “The Right Swipe” is “serious work with the intention to delight.”And delight it does.
Watch the pilot right now on OTV.