Sun, sea and sexism: TV hit splits the nation

My type on paper: Love Island has been criticised for a lack of diversity among the contestants.

Is Love Island harmful to teenagers? In just over a week we will say goodbye to the villa for another summer. The end cannot come soon enough for those who think the show sets a bad example.

A cast of beautiful singles with chiseled physiques are dropped into a luxury villa in Majorca, where they spend eight weeks trying to find their soulmate. If a couple can stay true to each other and survive the trials laid in their way by the show’s producers — all while convincing the public that their love is sincere — they stand to win £50,000.

By the finale, more than two million of us will have committed 48 hours to this epic saga of love, loss and mugging off. But it is not universally popular. The show has generated a massive amount of debate in the media and in our living rooms, with many focusing on its influence on its overwhelmingly young audience.

Love Island has repeatedly come under fire for promoting unrealistic beauty standards. The men are muscular, and the women slim and toned. Cosmetic surgery adverts which aired during the show’s breaks seemed to prey on viewers’ insecurities.

But the show’s producer, Richard Cowles, struck back, arguing that it is a “hyperreal” entertainment show based on an “aspirational” version of its audience.

The show’s lack of diversity goes beyond body type, as highlighted by the experience of Samira Mighty, only the second black female to have appeared in the villa. After weeks of rejection, she paired up with Frankie only for their blossoming relationship not to be shown. Her exit triggered a storm of comments on how society undervalues and ignores black women.

Love Island may also teach dangerous behaviour patterns. Earlier this seson, the charity Women’s Aid accused Adam Collard of gaslighting his partner Rosie, but some observers argued the row helped to promote a public discussion of unhealthy behaviour in relationships.

And, when 75% of teenagers speak to their friends online more frequently than in person, perhaps showcasing the subtleties of social interaction — whether it is how to deal with rejection or treating the opposite sex with respect — is beneficial.

Is Love Island harmful for teenagers?

Where’s your head at?

It’s toxic, say some. Bombarding young people with images of perfect, often surgically-enhanced bodies will impact their self-esteem and teach them to overestimate the value of physical appearance. Insidious challenges like Twitter Bingo trivialise cyber bullying, while borderline abusive behaviour in relationships is used for entertainment.

Don’t be silly, say others. Love Island is a flight of escapism and part of the fun is being entertained by unrealistically beautiful people. And they battle with insecurities too, which teaches us that there is more to confidence than looks. The show teaches teenagers to interact positively and be responsible for their behaviour.

You Decide

  1. Would you go on Love Island?
  2. Is Love Island harmful to teenagers?

Activities

  1. Is the public’s enjoyment of Love Island a bad sign for society? Write a short paragraph giving your opinion, and discuss your answers in a group.
  2. Invent your own reality TV show. Where would it be set? What would the contestants be like? What challenges or trials would they face, and for what prize? Prepare a presentation on your idea as if you were pitching to a TV studio.

Some People Say...

“Reality TV to me is the museum of social decay.”

Gary Oldman

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
This season of Love Island has attracted ITV2’s highest ever viewing figures, with 3.4 million people tuning in to watch the season 4 premiere. More than 85,000 people applied for the 2018 show, but many of the contestants were actually scouted from Instagram. There was also controversy last year, when the Islanders’ frequent smoking provoked a number of complaints and led to an on-screen smoking ban.
What do we not know?
Who will win Love Island. Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer, named after her famous father Danny, have been favourites throughout the series after coupling up in the first episode, but Josh Denzel and Kazimir Crossley are gaining on them. The winners will be revealed during the final episode on Monday, July 30.

Word Watch

Hyperreal
An exaggerated version of reality.
Aspirational
Appealing to the person you would want to be, rather than who you are in reality now.
Storm of comments
White female Islanders have also been criticised for saying their “type” is “mixed race”, which might suggest that all people with different ethnic backgrounds are indistinguishable.
Gaslighting
A form of psychological abuse where a person sows doubt in order to make the victim question their sanity or reality. The term came from the title of a 1944 film, Gaslight.
75% of teenagers
Taken from a study by the BBC, which also found that teenagers are drinking less alcohol, taking drugs less and having sex less frequently than previous generations.
Twitter Bingo
For the challenge, contestants were required to fill in blank words from tweets sent by the public about the Islanders. Some were disparaging and caused upset.

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