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"A hot new bombshell enters the villa": is Love Island problematic?

By Rubie Mckeever-Smith

The reality TV show hit, ‘Love Island’, captivates the viewers’ attention every year with its sexy singles and ground-breaking drama, but is that really the only thing at play here? Gathering an estimated 2.6 million viewers per episode, it could be argued as quite influential on the younger generation. The show thrives off traditional model-worthy women and generically attractive men to grab the audience’s attention and leave us drooling at our TV screens. What they don’t realise is the self-destructing body image that the show portrays, also known as “The Love Island Effect”.

The show pursues a particular body type of gloriously skinny, perky boobs and a round bum that has the potential to ruin the self-esteem of at-home-viewers. This is also reiterated in the image of a tall, dark, and handsome man. Following this, the severe lack of body diversity shames the viewers into believing that you have to look a certain way to be beautiful. People are made to feel like their bodies are not good enough causing potential mental health struggles all because their shape is not the one shown on TV.

The producers have become more and more ethnically diverse since the first season aired in 2015 where every single contestant was from England and only one man of colour. This is compared to a range of backgrounds in the current series alone, where we see Turkish, Italian, Irish, Brazilian, Welsh, amongst others. However, that is their limit to diversity in the villa.

You’d think by now, the producers would have introduced different sexualities but apparently not. In 2016, during Season 2 of ‘Love Island’, the show broadcasted its first ever bisexual couple when Sophie Gradon and Katie Salmon coupled up. The same-sex couple are said to have received a lot of backlashes from the LGBTQ+ community as Katie told Victoria Derbyshire “Why can’t I be who I want to be?”. Likewise, the Love Island star said how since coming out, men sexualise her for being attracted to both men and women and only ask her “you like threesomes?”. It’s disappointing, but ultimately unsurprising, that they are the only same-sex couple to have been shown on Love Island.

Despite how easy it would be to sit here and bash solely the producers of the show, the influence of the public is also to blame as for why the show isn’t all it represents itself to be. After spreading the words “Be Kind” in 2020 when Love Island host Caroline Flack committed suicide, the public still have plenty of harmful things to say. Even since the third Love Island star death, people are yet to take accountability for what they post and realise that their words hurt.

Obviously, in the public eye not everyone will like you and someone will always have something negative to say. But I think it goes without saying that death threats and blatant abuse are definitely a step too far. Admins on contestants’ accounts have had to post a statement because of the weight of insults and hate messages thrown at “[their] friends, sons, daughters and family members”. This irrational behaviour can leave contestants and their loved ones struggling with lasting mental health effects. The fact that Love Island themselves haven’t directly addressed this problem is poor. Being their show, they should be doing more to take a little bit of responsibility. Although what people say is out of their control, they should at least recognise the problem and attempt to address it.

We can't let the producers get away with everything though... I do think it’s fair to blame them for how certain contestants are portrayed. The public are shown only an hour out of their twenty-four-hour day in the villa. This hour is full of snippets that the producer has the power to choose. Snippets that are supposed to be gripping for the audience therefore mainly consists of drama. Personally, I don’t think they really think about the impact of what they put on TV or else Love Island would’ve changed years ago. Their goal is to get views no matter who or what is at stake. It’s understandable that that the drama is probably the most exciting part but that does not disregard the fact that it causes the most damage. Producers also appear to be guilty of “steering” conversations to get contestants to talk about certain things, and this has been confirmed by many ex-contestants. Even certain challenges are put in place to cause arguments within the villa because it makes the show worth watching and that is all they care about, not the people, their families, the consequences, anything like that. Instead, their interests lie purely in their show.

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