Words || Katelyn Free
If there’s something my upper middle-class parents are slightly ashamed of me for, it’s not my Coastie boyfriend with a sleeve tattoo, or my dependence on white wine, or the questionable tattoo I got at 18. It’s the fact I watch Love Island. And I love it.
I was the first to fall victim to pretentious television and music habits when I hit 16. Swapping out Top 40 hits for unknown bearded fold musicians and The Bachelor for true crime documentaries. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself wadding back into the realms of Lana Del Rey and bad reality television. Has my taste degraded in my old age? Maybe. But do my new viewing habits make me feel enormously better about any questionable life choices I make? Definitely.
For those unaccustomed to the premise of Love Island, they essentially chuck a bunch of extra good-looking fuckboys and fuckgirls (the ‘Islanders’) on a tropical island (in this case, Fiji) for six weeks and see if any of them can form an exclusive relationship that holds even a remote chance of trudging on outside ‘the Villa’. If true love isn’t enough incentive, Australia votes on their favourite couple at the end of the season, who win $50,000. Each Islander also gains around 500,000 Instagram followers afterwards…so you know…only the purest of intentions live on in these brave reality television contestants.
Now what happens inside the Villa is actually pretty similar to dating in the real world. No one actually commits to each other, they all swap around partners every two days and due to the heightened state of emotions and isolation- there is drama. Lots of drama.
The tears shed in the Beach Hut should honestly be bottled and sold on the black market for the sheer amount of producer effort and manipulation that has gone into them. Previous contestants have stated that Islanders are kept from knowing the time, date or news during the entirety of their stay, have no contact with the outside world and are kept up to weird hours of the night to stop them gaining touch with reality.
Look I won’t lie. It does sound a little…prison-y.
Also, the biggest point of difference between the dating that goes on in Love Island and the real world is- the lack of alcohol. Islanders are only allowed two drinks per night and aren’t allowed to get drunk. While this may seem like sensible television policy, but just consider for a moment having to go and flirt with a bunch of strangers, form a romantic connection and have your first make out…completely sober. I can’t remember the last time I cracked a half decent joke in front of a male without a little help from a glass or five of Pinot Noir.
What ensues is a lot of awkward banter, flirting which is honestly a crime to watch and too much inner reflection. If they were allowed a few mojitos during the day, the couples may make it past two episodes each! There’s nothing to soothe the sting of glaring incompatibility like the smooth burn of white rum. Less critical thinking and more drunk make outs is what I say!
Questionable soberity aside, that’s not the last of Love Island’s problematic. Something has emerged this season which has honestly been a tad troubling to view- some people seem to have forgotten they’ve essentially signed up for a two-month long swinger’s week. Which is essentially the whole premise of the show.
Cue Eoghen and Gerard getting pissed at Jessie for wanting to explore her options. Cue Matt saying Isabel was just using him because another dude came into the Villa who she found more attractive. God forbid! How dare they stay non-committal on a dating show where new people are introduced every week in an effort to break up partners and test compatibility. It’s almost like she’s doing exactly what the show asks her to do!
Love Island creates this alternate reality that is actually the polar opposite of dating in real life. Where the slightest deviation from a person you’ve only known for a matter of weeks, labels you an untrustworthy hoe. When in reality, most of the people on this show would have a few partners on the go at once in the real world. No judgment, we’ve all been there, but let’s not pretend that monogamy and exclusivity are rife among attractive 20-somethings.
In reality, it’s smart to keep your options open, normal to be seeing a few people at once, but the pressure cooker of Love Island seems to take this common sense and deep fry it into an adultery nugget. And it should be noted that on this season at least, the Islanders who have copped the most flack for keeping their options open are the women. Not men.
Love Island does provide some quality television. The drama. The abs. The tears. The occasional true love story. But it’s not without its problems. At the end of the day maybe it is vapid, slightly misogynistic and trivialising of human emotion. But it also makes me feel better about my own questionable dating and career choices. I may not be able to get an assignment in before the seven-day late penalty period is up- but I’m not on Love Island, so my parents can’t think I’m a total failure.