Is It Just Me: Love Island? More like Loathe Island

Love Island is back on our screens tonight with a new batch of hopefuls “looking for love”. Here’s why one TSL contributor will not be tuning in to the most talked about reality TV show.

I’m quite happy to say that I have never caved to the social pressure to watch Love Island. While colleagues and friends would dash home of an evening to catch the latest instalment, I would get on with my day, not being a slave to the reality TV show that pretty much demands viewers set aside their own lives and tune in for daily updates from the villa. While I do love an easy watch reality TV series as much as the next person, for me Love Island represents so many things that I oppose and I genuinely worry about its influence on future generations of men and women due to its sheer lack of representation.

To me, Love Island is like an Instagram nightmare brought to life. While the show is called ‘Love Island’, no matter what the contestants say, I don’t believe they’re there seeking a life partner – more like a right-now squeeze that hopefully comes with side helping of fame and fortune. Of course the show has had some couples that have stayed the distance and I’m thrilled that this series has created lasting unions but when Love Island as a construct becomes the main source of ‘what a relationship should look like’, to impressionable young adults, as a society we should be drawing a line. And of course Love Island isn’t there to shoulder the responsibility of mankind, but the more we accept, embrace and champion these very one sided / flat views of a relationship narrative and what attractive looks like, the more we tell young people that these are ok and they are not.

As the latest cast is revealed, despite a year where we all rightly demanded more diversity from brands, both in terms of race, body shape and sexual-orientation, Love Island has somehow once again escaped this societal turning point and stayed true to its formulaic, and to be honest, boring casting. It is essentially the Victoria’s Secret of TV shows (and even the lingerie brand has turned over a new representation leaf).

And before anyone thinks I’m bashing the contestants for the way they look, I’m not. By all means, do you hun, but why does everyone on the show fit one particular genre? Have the Love Island casting team never heard that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder?’ Are they all hot? Sure. Do I like croissants? Yes, but even I can admit that there can be such as thing as too many of them in one helping.

Of course, this series of Love Island does feature the show’s first disabled contestant and while I would never even attempt to understand the challenges that new Love Island recruit, Hugo, has gone through, or minimise them in anyway, it comes as no surprise that the first disabled contestant also has a six pack, barely angling away from the cookie cutter mould of the show.

Perhaps as an elder I’m now just out of touch, but as someone who remembers the fascination of watching the original Big Brother, a ‘real’ social experiment, I can’t help feel that producers and casting directors have missed an opportunity to create a really watchable show that also helps to bolster the mental health of young adults instead of trouncing on it.

We already know that the pressures of social platforms such as Instagram have put a huge strain on younger generations, add into this Love Island’s stereotyped message of attractiveness and acceptance and we continue this dangerous narrative that success and love come in just one vision.

So that’s why I’ll still be skipping the show this year, as I always do and I hope that even if you don’t, you take the time to remind the young people around you that love is love and no tv show dictates what that looks like.

And before you call me a killjoy or jealous of the toned physiques paraded on the dating show, you couldn’t be further from the truth. All I really want is a bit of grit and realness. I want young men and young women to have television shows that teach them self worth and confidence. I want teens and young adults in particular to be able to feel like they can find different body types attractive (or at least get a chance to see them celebrated) without feeling like they might become social pariahs and for them to realise that they can be beautiful as they are, whatever their size, or beauty regime. I want variety, I want to watch people fall in love – that’s why First Dates is my ultimate guilty pleasure. I want young people who are already trying so hard to fit in, to have a show that tells them to be themselves and be admired.

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