*Trigger warning: this article discusses the topic of suicide*
Love Island is a reality television series that gained immense popularity in the United Kingdom after its 2015 debut and has since branched out into Australian and American spin-offs. The show brings single men and women into a luxurious villa in Majorca, Spain where they look to make connections and couple up with the hopes of finding lasting love (oh, and about $65,000). It’s beyond awkward and corny- so of course I watch it! It’s a more fun version of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette franchise in my opinion. It is by no means an award-winning show, and it is definitely not for everyone, but it’s a fun guilty pleasure!
Beneath the cringe-worthy make outs, ridiculous challenge games, and dramatic sob-fests, however, there is a seriousness to the Love Island series that isn’t usually seen on camera. Whether or not the people who apply to be on the show are doing it for the fame, the money, or the love, the contestants are launched into the spotlight. Every aspect of their personal lives are made public and receive plenty of criticism. This harsh criticism extends beyond the contestants as it was seen in the case of Caroline Flack, the beloved former host of the popular show.
Caroline Flack, “The Flack,” strutted into the villa for surprise dumpings, tense re-couplings, and to provide words of encouragement for the contestants. Her infectious smile and warm heart were obvious, even through the television screen. These sentiments are clearly shared among many fans as social media saw an outpouring of support after the news broke that Flack took her own life on February 15th.
Flack had recently been charged with assault after allegedly hitting her sleeping boyfriend over the head with a lamp. Although her boyfriend refused to press charges against the woman that he loved, the court case proceeded and Flack was expected to be in front of a judge in late February. Her life was seemingly falling apart and the negative comments that flooded her social media certainly did not help. I am not at all saying that online trolls are the cause of her untimely death, but there is something that can be said about the nature of social media.
I’m calling bullshit on the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me.” Especially as a writer, I know the power of words. Words can cut deep and stay with someone forever. You know what I’m talking about- you’ll never forget those words that really stung during an argument. Well believe it or not, I’m sure celebrities remember certain painful comments as well, especially when they’re at a low point in their lives.
Unfortunately Flack is not the only member of the Love Island cast who has stumbled down that dark path and resorted to suicide. Contestant Sophie Gradon, a former Miss Great Britain, took her own life in June of 2018 (her boyfriend tragically followed suit 20 days later) and the tall, dark, and handsome Mike Thalassitis was found on March 18, 2019 after hanging himself.
After each of these tragedies, there have been questions as to whether or not the show has something to do with the deaths as it is a major common denominator among the three. Especially after Flack’s death, people have called on the ITV station to cancel the program as it brings waves of negative attention to its stars. I don’t think the show is the issue, however.
The young adults that go on the show know what they are getting into. If they are chasing the fame aspect of the show, then they’d try to find that fame elsewhere if the show were no longer around. One way or another, there will always be trolls among the fans. It seems inevitable for any celebrity, big or small. The show undoubtedly catapults people into the spotlight, but what matters most is how those people react to it. We are all chemically different and there’s no predicting how someone will deal with the overwhelming stimuli.
So I do not necessarily think that the show should be canceled as it brings humor and enjoyment to audiences across the world. I might sound naive but I think that there are genuine friendships that are made on the show, as well as relationships that have resulted in marriage and children. That is a beautiful thing to watch unfold.
But one thing can change for sure, and that is how we treat one another. We never know what is going on in someone else’s life and how they are feeling. Because of that, we need to be kind to one another. Check up on the people whom you care about. Words are powerful so watch what you say. Life is a delicate, wonderful, complicated thing.
If you know me at all, you know that I don’t cry that much. But watching the Caroline Flack tribute on the finale of this Winter Love Island season left me with tears welling up in my eyes. May she rest in peace.
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