The popular reality dating show, Love Island, has been running for 7 seasons and I have successfully managed to watch 6 of those consecutively. Considering recent events and controversies surrounding Love Island, it is clear that the show does not have much time left. But should it really still be airing in 2021?
The answer to this question is not straightforward and therefore requires a deeper understanding of the issues posed in Love Island. First and foremost, since 2018 there has unfortunately been three suicides committed by people linked to Love Island: Sophie Gradon, Mike Thalassitis and Caroline Flack. After each of them passing, the public and Love Island producers have shunned social media trolls and appeared to show more support for mental health. However, this is evidently not enough. The show cannot be blamed for what the public say to contestants, but the producers and editors undoubtedly frame each contestant in a particular way to create drama. Furthermore, many of the challenges that the contestants play, are there to encourage drama, which inevitably affects their mental health.
Another area of Love Island that faces controversy is its lack of improvement in diversity over the past seven years. Every year the producers have failed to select contestants with a variety of ethnicities, body types, sexualities, and disabilities. The race issue is undoubtedly the most prominent because in the original line-up of the past 3 seasons, there has been a tokenistic darker toned black woman who always seems to be picked last in the first recoupling. This doesn’t send out positive messages to young black girls who are watching this show. It simply reinforces the existing societal ideologies that white, blonde women are more desired.
In the season that is currently airing, this ideology is constantly being reinforced. A contestant named Jake has mentioned that his type is blonde hair and blue-eyed girls, and this hasn’t been said lightly. He will only look twice at women with these qualities and has stated this frequently. Whilst everyone has a type, most people are willing to stray from their type if someone different takes their interest. Most of the guys currently in the villa also have a similar type to Jake, which implies the producers have not put in enough effort to recruit contestants with a range of types and personalities. This is ultimately what always leads to the tokenistic black girl getting her heart broken and consequently feeling humiliated on national television.
Love Island is also known for reinforcing unrealistic beauty standards as almost every female contestant has a tiny waist but is still relatively curvy. A show as influential as Love Island should really be more careful when considering what messages are being portrayed. Many of the female contestants have also had plastic surgery to achieve these beauty standards, this includes lip fillers, which are increasingly becoming more normalised. You can look at this with a positive view in the sense that people with plastic surgery are no longer being shamed as much, but the negative side is that people are not learning to accept their insecurities and are opting for a quick fix instead.
One particular problem that was highlighted in the season currently airing, was a male contestant (Aaron) saying hairy arms on a girl are a turn off for him. None of the contestants made a big deal about this, yet they made a big deal about a different male contestant suggesting he is not into girls with plastic surgery. Younger audiences will have watched this and adopted the message that natural girls are less attractive because none of the contestants stated that there was anything wrong with Aaron’s comment. This is yet another example of unrealistic beauty standards being forced through the media.
A contestant from this year has caused even further controversy when he implied, he wasn’t attracted to ‘fierce’ girls. It was not the word ‘fierce’ that was the problem but instead how he chose to define what a fierce girl was: the girl he was coupled up with at the time mentioned she was in a high-paid, demanding job, didn’t want children unless the parenting role was equally split, and she had had a dispute with another contestant. From an audience members’ perspective, it appeared as though he liked women who were happy to be a housewife and happy to appear docile and unopinionated. In the 21st century and in a world where gender inequality is a big issue, shows like this should not be allowing contestants with this type of ideology and behaviour to have a platform. Although it is unlikely that he meant it in a harmful way, once the footage was manipulated through editing, this was the message transmitted through to young audiences.
So, should Love Island really still be airing in 2021? With all the controversies that have surfaced alongside Love Island, it is clear that the show is likely to be cut in a few years, if not this year. I admit I do enjoy watching the show but as more of these issues come to light, I am slowly becoming less enthralled and instead more resentful of it.
Words by: Chloe Hill
Edited by: Tamikka Reid