Sun, sea and scandal over Love Island return

My type on paper: Love Island is now in its fifth season.

Should we feel guilty about watching Love Island? The show has been under fire for lack of diversity and exploiting some participants. But millions find it offers harmless fun and escapism.

Summer is here — which can only mean one thing.

Love Island is back. Over the next eight weeks, four million of us will tune in for 50 hours of mugging off and cracking on, under the Mallorcan sun.

Last night, the islanders coupled up for the first time on their quest to find love in the villa. The new stars include a firefighter, a scientist and boxer Tommy Fury (the brother of former heavyweight champion, Tyson).

Last year, the show’s presenter Caroline Flack described Love Island as “complete escapism, guilt-free fun and enjoyment”.

But a lot has changed since then.

Earlier this year, Mike Thalassitis, who was branded “Muggy Mike” during the 2018 show, took his own life. His death came less than a year after Sophie Gradon (who appeared on the 2016 series) also died by suicide.

Since then, multiple contestants have revealed that their mental health suffered in the rollercoaster months after they left the Love Island villa. Alongside the fame and lucrative Instagram deals, islanders can face a barrage of hatred on Twitter and, as the months roll by, pressure to remain relevant.

“They think because you’re old news, they can go haywire with comments on social media,” said Jack Fowler, who appeared on the show last summer.

Last month, MPs launched an investigation into the exploitation of vulnerable people on reality TV after a man killed himself, days after appearing on The Jeremy Kyle Show. That show was quickly axed.

Ahead of the new Love Island series, ITV released a plan for contestant care, which includes training in financial planning, social media and eight post-show counselling sessions for all islanders.

But the show has also been criticised for lacking diversity and promoting unrealistic body image.

A study released yesterday to coincide with the premiere revealed that 24% of young people say that reality TV makes them feel anxiety about their bodies.

This year, Instagram star Anna Vikili says that she is “representing curvy girls” on the show, but for many this does not go far enough.

Fun in the sun?

Should we feel guilty about watching Love Island? Not only can the show endanger its cast, either by encouraging toxic relationships or exposing them to abuse, it can also harm its young audience. Can some added gestures of support really overcome the central problem of a show that exploits people’s emotions for entertainment?

Despite its drawbacks, though, most former contestants say Love Island is a golden career opportunity. If lessons are learned and they are receiving pro-active support, should we feel guilty about watching attractive people fall in love under the sun? Unlike Jeremy Kyle, at least Love Island celebrates affection, fun and friendship. Is distaste for the show just rooted in snobbery?

You Decide

  1. Would you agree to go on Love Island?
  2. Should Love Island be cancelled?

Activities

  1. Write down three things that you think make a TV show entertaining.
  2. Class debate time! “This House believes that Love Island does more good than harm.”

Some People Say...

“Reality TV looks in only one direction: down.”

James Wolcott, American journalist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Love Island started last night on ITV2. There will be six, hour-long episodes per week over eight weeks, totalling around 50 hours. Each couple from last summer’s series has broken up, prompting accusations that relationships were faked for profit. However, there are some exceptions. Contestants from 2017, Jess and Dom are expecting their first baby, while 2016’s Olivia and Alex married recently.
What do we not know?
The real impact of lessons learnt from The Jeremy Kyle Show on reality TV shows such as Love Island. Will improved emotional and practical support be enough to help contestants cope with short-lived fame and scrutiny?

Word Watch

Four million
4.3 million viewers watched last year’s finale.
Mugging off
A slang term often used by the islanders to humiliate someone or show disrespect.
Cracking on
Flirting.
Instagram
Past contestant Zara McDermott said former islanders are typically offered between £400 and £1200 by brands to feature their products (such as make-up and clothing) on an Instagram post.
Diversity
The show was criticised last year for only featuring one black woman, Samira Mighty.
Study
By the Mental Health Foundation.
For many
In response to Vikili’s inclusion, feminist commentator and actor Jameela Jamil tweeted: “The producers of Love Island think this slim woman counts as their new token ‘plus size’ contestant? Are they drunk?” Jamil has been accused of double standards by judging Vikili.
Toxic
Contestant Adam Collard was accused of manipulating and emotionally abusing Rosie Williams.