By Poppy Cumming-Spain
In defence of Love Island
Love Island is trash. You know it, I know it, we all know it. But it’s enjoyable trash. I can watch it and do something else, maybe even two things, and still keep up with what’s going on. We could debate the morality of the show as a whole at length. I can’t work out whether I think the Love Islanders are being exploited. They signed up, after all. But did they know what was in store? Those on the first series were undoubtedly more in the dark than the current lot. In any case, I don’t plan to figure this out in this SCAB. But I do plan to defend it, just a little.
I watch Love Island from a relatively privileged position. I don’t idolise the contestants. I’m pretty much indifferent to them. The show doesn’t make me feel bad about myself (although it does make me want to go on holiday and get a tan). The same applies to other shows like TOWIE which I also watch. So I manage to keep a reasonable distance that, I believe, makes it acceptable. I’m not getting sucked into a warped way of viewing my body, the world, or Brexit.
As far as I see it, Love Island is an interesting social experiment. Something I’m particularly interested in because I’m fascinated by human behaviours and interactions. I also have a keen interest in the workings, success, and failure of relationships. So it’s good watching for me. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you throw a bunch of people in a villa and tell them to fall in love (lust)*. All sorts occur. Previous series’ have produced real, seemingly happy relationships. How mad is that?
What’s interesting is that we pick up on behaviours displayed by contestants which are present in the real world. Like eyes wondering when things aren’t serious, female promiscuity, emotional abuse, and mental instability. For this reason, I offer a small defense of Love Island. For all the bad it might do, and the warped expectations it might create for some, it also highlights some issues and forces them into public discussion.
Sadly, yesterday we heard the news that Sophie Gradon (a former contestant) has died. As with any premature death (she was only 32), this is terribly sad. But, fortunately, Sophie’s time in the villa was more positive. I think she represented something great. Something that many women could relate to. A strong woman who did and acted exactly as she wanted. Sophie was unashamedly sexual, and so she should be. In today’s world, women have as much right to be promiscuous as men, just as men have the right to feel less sexual.
Last year, Chris Hughes had a lot of emotional moments on camera. And this got viewers talking about men crying, male depression and suicide. This also happens to have resulted in this award-winning campaign by ex-SCAers. And now, with Niall’s early departure, a similar conversation is opened up again. In part amongst people who might otherwise continue believing in outdated, unreasonably macho stereotypes.
Finally, Adam’s poor behaviour in the villa caught the attention of Women’s Aid. And we’re talking about gaslighting. Something which happens all too often in relationships. I have at least one friend who was severely emotionally abused by an ex-partner and many more who’ve experienced lower levels. So I know what it is. But tonight I discussed it with various friends who hadn’t. They hadn’t heard of it and wouldn’t be able to recognize it. Scary, really. What if it happened to them? Would they know? Even having heard of gaslighting, I didn’t recognize it watching from my sofa. I just saw Adam like every other manipulative arsehole I’ve met. Typical, I thought. Because you forget that little things mount up. You forget that abuse isn’t always aggressive or violent. And you forget that the worst kind of emotional abuse goes unnoticed as it eats away at the victim. Fortunately, the concern from Women’s Aid brought back my memory. As I’m sure it did for others. More importantly, this situation has educated people. Now more people know that gaslighting happens. And they’ll think about their relationships, maybe even their own behaviour. They’ll watch out for their friends being gaslighted and protect them. And that can only be a good thing.
Love Island isn’t great telly. It’s not world-changing, or awe-inspiring. But it’s certainly not all bad. And it’s doing a little good.
* The producers might well have a plan, but I have no clue.