Love Island boys accused in new gaslighting row

Storm brewing: Ofcom received 196 complaints after the scenes were broadcast.

Are Michael and Curtis guilty of “gaslighting”? The behaviour of two contestants in the controversial show has sparked a debate about toxic masculinity and emotional abuse in relationships.

Michael Griffiths and Curtis Pritchard were the golden boys of the Love Island villa.

Now, after a shocking change of behaviour, the men stand accused of emotional abuse, specifically of a behaviour called gaslighting.

It began when Michael and Curtis both decided to dump their partners of four weeks to recouple with new women who had entered the villa.

Rather than apologise to Amber, Michael aggressively called the 21-year-old beauty therapist “pathetic” and “childish”, shifting responsibility for his betrayal on to her. Curtis, meanwhile, blamed Amy’s lack of confidence for his decision to stray.

A gaslighter tries to make their victim doubt their sanity, often by challenging their memory of an event, or by accusing them of overreacting.

But Guardian columnist Barbara Ellen fears the term is being overused. She argues that Michael and Curtis are behaving like “regular, boorish players” rather than being guilty of gaslighting, and that applying the word too much is harmful to real survivors of domestic violence.

Toxic TV?

Are Michael and Curtis guilty of gaslighting? There are times when we all lie, or make excuses to deflect responsibility for our actions. Does that mean we are all abusers? Their behaviour might be immature and self-serving, but doesn’t throwing around accusations trivialise the experiences of genuine victims who’ve had their sense of reality stolen?

But even if their behaviour is not the most systematic, calculated example of gaslighting, isn’t it important to call out toxic behaviour when we see it? Many young women will recognise the belittling tactics Michael used on Amber. This public conversation about gaslighting is teaching young people to identify emotional abuse in all its forms.

You Decide

  1. Should Love Island be cancelled?

Activities

  1. In your own words, define “gaslighting”, “toxic masculinity” and ”emotional abuse”.

Some People Say...

“You can never just write off a person as crazy. I think that is the most inhumane thing you can do to someone without physically abusing them.”

Madeline Brewer, American actress

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Love Island 2019 started airing on Monday 3 June, with the final expected to take place on Sunday 4 August. The public vote for the winning couple, who win a £50,000 prize. Every couple from Love Island 2018 has since split up.
What do we not know?
How long Love Island will be on our screens. MPs are currently investigating the alleged exploitation of reality TV contestants after multiple suicides.

Word Watch

Gaslighting
The term comes from a 1938 play, Gas Light, in which a man tries to convince his wife that she is emotionally unstable. He makes small changes to their home (for example, dimming the gas lights), and then tells her that she is just imagining it.
Sanity
Whether their mind is healthy or not.
Boorish
Bad-mannered.
Trivialise
Make something seem less important than it is.

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