The trashy, pointless, yet brilliantly addicting TV show took over our screens for seven weeks this summer. Whether you wanted to watch it or not, and consequently whether you did or didn’t watch it, everyone who was anyone was talking about Love Island. I’m a veteran viewer, having watched the two seasons previous to this one (despite swearing off each season every time it came back around), and was thrilled to notice the apparent fandom that resulted from this year’s series, in which over 80,000 people applied to appear as contestants on the show.
After the producers managed to whittle down these 80,000 singletons (and controversially some not) to a more manageable number, the show aired and the rest as they say, is history. Britain was hooked. It seems we couldn’t get enough of the semi-naked, preened to perfection contestants, and thrived off of the gossip they created.
But what did these seemingly unimportant 20-somethings actions, say about our nations attitudes? And more importantly, how far did the islanders’ (as they were now known) behaviour reflect what really happens in the world of sex, love, and relationships?
- The ‘reality TV’ class
We’ve heard of the lower, middle, and upper classes – and the crossovers that straddle between two –which make British society so comically unique. However, Love Island 2017 highlighted the emergence of a new, ‘reality TV’ inspired class, which contain people who are adept, if not solely created, for such viewing purposes. Despite common assumptions, these people aren’t ‘working class’, nor do they have the inherited wealth, poise, or status to be deemed anything higher. They aren’t poor that much we know, but they aren’t afraid of maintaining their fuck-girl/boy images. Contestants like Olivia and Jess fit perfectly into this type of class, as they are both successful and wealthy in their own right, but are self-confessedly promiscuous, fame-hungry, and avid party-goers – not something usually associated with the typical upper class. Dressed in skimpy, flashy outfits and happy to have sex on camera, the girls and boys of Love Island were part of a society which often goes amiss. Nevertheless, this sub-class is hardly a bad thing; despite their flaws, the contestants showed us the variety of backgrounds people can come from, yet still be interested in participating in a show like Love Island. We had a rumoured ex-girlfriend of Prince Harry cosying up with an Essex-born divorced dad of three…how’s that for diversity?
2. It’s ‘easier’ for girls to be disliked online
Whilst the realm of social media is never a pleasant place for either of the sexes, Love Island 2017 highlighted just how brutal of a place it can still be for the modern day woman. Gabby became massively unpopular after she refused to move at the ‘reality TV’ pace of a relationship, opting not to say ‘I love you’ as soon as some of the others, and refusing to have sex on screen. A fair decision, right? Wrong. She received heaps of backlash, with people claiming she was fake, playing the game, and that her sweet-heart partner Marcel could do much better. Well, he wasn’t that much of a sweetheart; he kissed another girl twice whilst supposedly being ‘official’ with Gabby and received little to no comment about it, despite Gabby breaking down in tears on the show about it. As for the turbulent relationship of Kem and Amber – the eventual winners – Amber was constantly portrayed in a more negative way to Kem online, again despite him being the one who ‘kissed-around’. Both Marcel and Kem won the publics love with their cheeky sense of humour and unique personalities, which meant their misdemeanours were hugely overlooked. Instead their female partners were targeted, tarnished with a villain-like status.
3. Reality TV is now a platform for sensitive males
The online response wasn’t always damaging though; in fact, we saw a huge support for the sensitive personalities and emotional breakdowns that the males had on the shows, showcasing a changing perception about the modern male. Contestants like Chris and Kem were massively open with their emotions, and cried countless times on-screen about arguments with their partners. They were big personalities and came across as more likable and genuine than any of the other men. Chris in particular was a perfect example of why it’s OK not to be ultra-masculine anymore; he was taken ill one day in the villa, and whilst it was never clear what exactly was wrong with him, it is speculated that it was something to do with his mental wellbeing (the press later reported that he suffered with anxiety attacks as a teen), as it came at a time when tensions between partner Olivia were particularly high. In fact, Olivia assumed the role of the ‘abuser’ in their relationship, with some domestic violence charities even saying that her behaviour was borderline emotional abuse. She told Chris to ‘stop crying, be a man’ when he broke down again one evening, but that only made the public love, and respect, him more.
4. BUT men like Jonny still exist
Oh Jonny, just when we thought we’d seen a new, revolutionary model for a male, Jonny bought us back to reality. His anti-feminist views and controlling ways with women made him Love Island’s most hated contestant of 2017, perhaps even ever. He told then partner Camilla – who is hugely intelligent and works with refugees –that he didn’t believe women’s rights were still an issue in the UK, as ‘we have a female Prime Minister.’ Dear Jonny, how much you have to learn. Camilla, clearly exasperated after the conversation, broke down in tears and actually ended their coupling for a bit. But, because of Jonny’s controlling nature, she eventually felt guilty (guilty?!) for being offended, as they ‘are just his views’ after all, and ended up apologising to him. When the coupling eventually broke down altogether and he started pursuing another girl, he acted like she was his property; when another guy came in and was interested, he demanded that the newbie ‘speak to him’ before attempting a conversation with his new partner, Tyla. It was embarrassing, cringe-worthy, but sadly, something that we’re all too well familiar with.
5. We’re obsessed with love…
… And apparently seven weeks is long enough to find it. This obsession was highlighted best in the lie detector test which the couples took towards the end of the series. Every couple asked each other if they love the other, even if they themselves weren’t yet ‘in love’ or didn’t like the question themselves. It seemed that they felt as though if they hadn’t found love within those seven weeks they would have failed, or lost the game. Couples also judged one another on whether or not they had declared their love for each other yet, and saw this as the basis for a realistic and suitable pairing. The prize money didn’t even matter too badly for the contestants, with the phrase ‘it doesn’t matter if we don’t win, if I walk out with a girl/boy on my arm’ being said multiple times. Although, perhaps for them, more seemingly genuine love did also mean more votes, more exposure, and therefore more fame in the outside world.
As you can see, reality TV shows like Love Island can show a lot about a society, and we can actually end up learning a thing or two our own nation. Whilst they’re not always perfect, and definitely don’t reflect the best of a society, they’re nonetheless highly entertaining and arguably an essential part of our viewing. Roll on Love Island 2018!