Life and Style writer Alice Macfarlane questions Love Island’s representations of love, beauty and relationships
When I first stumbled across Love Island back in 2016, I was unsure of what to think of the whole concept of the show. The idea of watching a few good-looking boys and girls lounge about in a villa for seven weeks wasn’t all that exciting for me, I just didn’t quite get it. However, it turns out that in reality, I was completely unprepared for the obsession that quickly ensued.
Two years on, after audiences watching the villa love stories unfold in the outside world and with the trusty help of social media, Love Island is thriving more than ever, with a staggering 3.37 million fans tuning in to the first episode of this year’s series. The nation has become utterly captivated with the drama going on inside the villa, and with contestants leaving the show potentially finding love, perfecting a cracking tan and most definitely securing a sponsorship from boohoo.com, perhaps it’s unsurprising that more people applied to Love Island 2018 than to Oxbridge universities?
Amongst these millions of viewers, however, many have criticised the reality show for its somewhat ‘artificial’ representations of love, beauty and relationships. In particular, the show has suffered a backlash for its clearly formulaic requirements when it comes to appearance and body type. Across the board, disgruntled tweeters have been expressing their disdain for the lack of diversity amidst contestants, with one user exclaiming that ‘all this bringing in these Essex/Welsh white girls is becoming a JOKE’.
With Samira being the only coloured female in the whole competition, there is certainly a lot to be said about the programme’s shortcomings in terms of ethnic diversity. What’s more, with her struggle to find a match not receiving the same sympathies as fellow unlucky-in-love islander Alex, fans feel like she has often been overlooked, sparking controversial questions about her position as a ‘quota filler’ in the show.
Summer itself is often the season of comparison, and with many fans feeling intimidated by the seemingly flawless bodies of the male and female contestants alike, there is certainly potential for Love Island to have a damaging effect on perceptions of body confidence. A group made up of perfectly toned abs and slender waists, watchers feel that this reinforcement of societal concepts of beauty is arguably one of the most pressing issues of the programme.
However, despite these issues, the fact is that the sheer popularity of Love Island remains to flourish in its millions. So, what is really so special about watching a group of fit, tanned twenty-somethings mulling about in a villa? Well, the simple answer is that whether it be openly or secretly, we all enjoy a bit of reality TV. There is just something so fascinating about observing a group of people interact with one another. We get to sit back and relax whilst they live out the very dramas that we watch the show to escape from. Love Island is a bug that has well and truly bitten the nation. It may have divided opinions across the country, but one thing’s for certain: we’re all obsessed. And if you aren’t… well, what on earth are you doing?