Like most people in this country I have been watching Love Island. This show has blown up to huge proportions – so much so that British MPs have a Whatsapp group discussing it. However, as of this week I am boycotting it.
The immense popularity of this show makes it clear that it holds an influence over both society, and more importantly over young people. This influence could have dangerous consequences when you look at what it preaches, such as size 8 bodies and a lack of diversity in the cast. You only have to look at the suicide of Sophie Gradon to see that appearing on this show creates a massive mental health deficit in its stars. It suggests that reality show producers are only in it for the money, and do not care about looking after the stars when their 15 minutes of fame are up. It is unethical. So why can’t producers put money aside for the sake of mental health and diversity?
Since Love Island began, the only types of women on there have been could-be models with extremely petite figures, and men who appear to go to the gym everyday. Whilst their body types should be respected, you see no plus size women in the villa, the only male star currently without a six pack is Jack Fincham. There is currently only one black woman, and two black men in the villa, and no Asian people at all. This is not diversity – this suggests to young viewers that you can only be famous if you are white, and have a certain figure. This not only isolates a majority of the population, but can also cause body dysmorphia and eating disorders.
Chatting to a friend of mine the other week she stated that she had to turn off Love Island last year because she was not prepared to feel so inadequate about her body, and I have felt the same watching it. When society projects a certain view of what you must look like it is hard to feel adequate if you do not look like that at all, it is especially hard when you buy clothes that you see the stars of Love Island wearing, and they do not suit you. I am lucky, and can easily switch the part of my brain saying my body is inadequate off, however many can’t, and this could cause young people to go down a slippery slope to eating disorders. The show suggests that people above a size 8 cannot be loved, but this is not the case. I do not understand why it cannot have a variety of sizes (for both genders) in the villa. It would certainly make many people feel less isolated, and will prevent eating disorders.
The villa does not have the best racial diversity. This is wrong, once again the show has been made predominantly for white people, featuring white people. Yet there is a whole population of ethnic minorities who are ignored by the show. Yes Wes, Josh and Samira feature in the show, but it is easy to feel like they are there to get the diversity ratio up – there have been 7 newbies so far who have not been black or Asian, compared to 1 black person. None of the new people have stated that they are attracted to Samira; not to mention the girls saying their type is mixed race, which means ethnic minorities are once again fetishised. (For more on this I highly recommend this article). This is wrong. Why shouldn’t ethnic minorities be given the chance to find love on their own accord? Why can’t they feature in the show properly, instead of only being used to increase diversity? They will be showing millions of young ethnic minorities that society values them, and that they are lovable.
The lack of diversity is one reason why I am fed up of this show. There is no reason to suggest that a more diverse villa could not create the same amount of drama as the current villa, if not more. Yet the final tipping point for me was the lack of respect that the producers had after Sophie Gradon’s death. Sophie Gradon’s suicide highlighted the many issues with the system once leaving the villa. It appears that there was no access to mental health support for her available from the Love Island team. This is wrong, despite psychologists within the villa being available, the lack of support outside of the villa needs to change. It shows that the producers do not care for these contestants as much as they say they do, and that they are easily discarded.
Her death shows how deceiving depression can be, but it also shows an issue with the wider world of reality TV. These celebrities are given all the brand deals, all the TV appearances for a while, yet as soon as they’re not as popular it disappears, as does the support. Yet mental health needs to be supported and looked after, however it is harder for many people to speak about because help is harder to access. Love Island, with all its influence, should not pretend everything is ok, it should talk about mental health instead of, it should make it easier to access help, because it could save lives.
Love Island’s treatment of Sophie Gradon’s death was wrong. Whilst it put out a small statement on Twitter, it did not put a tribute on the that night’s episode, it still showed the episode that night – despite calls from the public and former islanders. It suggests that they have no respect for old islanders, that they are not seen as actual humans but more like cattle being herded in and out of the villa. There was no respect there, and it really highlighted for me what is wrong with Love Island and reality show in general. Reality stars are not treated like humans, they’re treated as money making objects, and we should not support that.
Love Island may make addictive TV, but its practices are unethical, and its lack of diversity in many ways is wrong. It lacks respect for its stars, and does not support them – despite the fact love Island has ruined some of their previous careers. Love Island has a huge amount of influence, and currently it is only using it to show the media ideal of what we should look like. Instead why can’t it send a signal for us to embrace our true body types, to not starve ourselves, and more to the point why can’t it be an anomaly and actually value ethnic minorities. We should stop glamorising the show, and start campaigning for it to be more diverse and for it to use its influence for good. Until that happens, I will not be watching it, even if Jack and Dani should win.
Photo Credit: London Evening Standard.