Deputy Editor Kat Smith reviews Vox Media's Explained and praises its short, snappy episodes for educating viewers on complex topicsWritten by Kat Smith on 24th September 2018
Love Island: Charlie Brooker’s Vision?
Deputy Editor Kat Smith examines the similarities between the Love Island phenomenon sweeping the nation and Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror
With only a few days left of the nation’s favourite BAFTA-winning reality show, I’ve begun to question my fascination with watching a bunch of (predominantly) white people I don’t know in a villa, scantily clad in bikinis and heels, trying to find ‘love’.
2017 saw ITV2’s Love Island explode in popularity. Though it had been running before that, this was the year it continually made headlines, pervaded social media and our coffee break conversations. It’s the one reality TV show that I would say has reached people from all backgrounds and interests, drawing people in from the minute they watch it.
But as much as I support flourishing relationships and wholesome friendships, I find myself getting bored when there is no drama. I’m bored when there are no breakups. I’m bored when the catfights end. In short, I’m bored when everyone’s happy for too long. And I’m not alone: we love to hate certain cast members, calling for them to be kicked out but despairing when they take their entertaining drama with them. What does this make us? Why is a programme that broadcasts pain and drama so popular? How can I question it and still sit and watch it religiously?
“It’s like a mash of Black Mirror episodes with a sprinkle of The Hunger Games on top.
It’s like a mash of Black Mirror episodes with a sprinkle of The Hunger Games on top. We get glued to the TV watching people suffer and call for revenge for those who have wronged others. It reminds me of elements of ‘White Bear’, ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ and ‘Hated In the Nation’ and I’m sure I could find similarities in other episodes. The show and the commentary that accompanies it through social media could easily be the basis of a dystopian storyline or an elaborate Derren Brown social experiment.
The Love Island phenomenon exposes a fickle and unforgiving nature in its viewers, myself included. Certain people are loved one second then despised the next. Take Georgia Steel as an example: she was showered in support and praise for how she handled her heartbreak. However, when she kissed Jack it was a different story. And when Josh ‘betrayed’ Georgia, InTheStyle issued a ‘WeHateJosh’ discount code. And Laura continually gets slammed for being insecure and bitter when she’s careful about a new relationship.
However, it’s not as though we root for those hurting others on the show. A lot of the time we’re angry at those who have been hurtful or unfair rather than grateful that it’s given us a bit of entertaining escapism. The popular people are generally popular because they’re nice, and not because they’ve caused drama. We still ‘awww’ at, and celebrate, the kind and genuine Jack and Dani; and empathised when Rosie was being screwed over.
But for the most part, it’s like everything we’ve been taught as we grow up goes out the window when the people we’re talking about are in the confines of a television screen. Those who preach about being kind to others and refraining from making assumptions about other people’s lives do exactly what they resent when it comes to reality TV. Perhaps it’s better to have an outlet for such unforgiving judgements, to get it out of our system so we can be kinder to those around us. But if I’m being honest, it probably just encourages it more.
It reveals what we say about others when given the green light to do so. The relentless stream of tweets about Love Island demonstrate how powerful this instinct, combined with the anonymity that accompanies a phone or computer screen, can be. The #LoveIsland hashtag is filled with cruel memes, insulting jokes and generally nasty statements about those on the show. It’s easy to forget that those on the programme will inevitably find out what’s been said about them, as well as the impact of calling a woman who knows what she wants a ‘slut’ or women under 30 ‘old’ can have on another person’s self-esteem as well. When a group of very conventionally attractive people are being criticised for the way they look, it’s easy to doubt yourself. Also, if 29 is old, then we’re all running out of time.
“It makes us judge and comment on people in a way we never would in our day-to-day lives.
The obsession with Love Island uncovers a nasty side of society. I like to call it light-hearted entertainment, but I do worry what our nation’s love for it means. It makes us judge and comment on people in a way we never would in our day-to-day lives, making us feel like we’re immune from being horrible people because those we’re targeting are ‘just on TV’.
Though I know it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, I hope we realise what it’s revealing about modern day society and leads us to question our negative inclinations, rather than encourage it. If Charlie Brooker was looking for more reality TV inspiration for the fifth season of Black Mirror, it’s safe to say he’s found it.