Ewan Gleadow

Opinion Piece: Fear and Loathing in the Love Island Villa

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Copyright: ITV

“If being sexy was a crime, I would probably be in jail,” Mike says, crooning and morphing his face into the justifiably punchable tones only spice boys can make. Mike’s stagnant, self-interested and egomaniacal commentary on his own personality and style is more than enough to give unknowing audiences a glimpse into how Love Island operates. Like a well-oiled machine but instead of oil it’s tanning lotion and champagne, the crew responsible for ITV’s Love Island have committed a crime against television. 

Women are lined up like cars at an auction, and if one of them doesn’t step forward then the male counterpart gets to pick out his favourite bimbo regardless of whether or not she wants to couple up with a floppy blonde man that has the personality of a rock. A system that bares a closer resemblance to moving cattle than to dating, Love Island’s first episode is a disgusting portrayal of the “looks over logic” approach many have to dating in the modern world of trendsetting reality television. 

Maybe I’m a bit jealous. At the time of writing this, 60% of my face is entirely burnt after a mishap with my shower mixed with chemical burns from an allergic reaction to a face cream I’d started using. Seeing frolicking six packs and chiselled jaws on my television is a sad state of affairs, the screen operating as a flashlight for my darkened room; almost like a spotlight where you can see a man with half a burnt face and a takeaway balanced on his beer belly. I’m not the ideal candidate for Love Island, not just because of my repugnant physical stance, but also because I’m not an Instagram Influencer. Whatever that means. 

With the show’s first episode boiling down to casual racism made competent by “Instagram Influencers” who don’t have the brainpower to know any better, we’re already off to a great start for the first episode of the sixth season of the show. One of the suckers to appear on this show, Nas, is constantly referred to in passing as “Aladdin”, due to his complexion. It goes without saying that just because someone is a certain skin colour, it doesn’t make them identical to every other person of the same colour. He takes it on the sculpted chin rather well, either too stupid to realise what’s happening or too used to the comments. 

Posing for us like the world’s worst Street Fighter tag teams, we’re introduced to the final couples after a half hour of painstakingly drawn out television. Aladdin being the first to choose, it’s a consistently boring presentation of man picks woman, women looks moderately and briefly content, smile for the promo shots. For half an hour, it’s a stretch to make this work to say the least. Plucking ten of the most unlikeable monsters from the grim streets of Britain is one thing, but to check that they’re certifiable oxygen wasters is more than enough to create content that borders on torturous. It’s a visual waterboarding of hate fuelling stereotypes, and maybe that’s why so many people enjoy the show. 

Those that believe Love Island isn’t staged are, to put it bluntly, idiots. There’s no beating around the bush or nice way of saying it, you, the viewer, are tremendously stupid if you think the events of Love Island are genuine pieces of shocking television that haven’t been planned out by behind the scenes motifs. Much the same way Big Brother planted several condescending tones throughout; Love Island takes it to the extreme when it realises its premise is redundant and uninteresting. To keep people from switching off or using the show as background noise, a constant barrage of drama is thrown at the audience in the hopes of crafting something mildly entertaining.  

Love Island is a breeding ground for minor-celebrity TV presenters. We learn about our collection of characters over the course of twenty-five minutes and then re-hash the exact same information when these new couples begin to ask each other the most basic and pedestrian of questions. By far the most reprehensible out of this collection of smug looking cretins is Ollie, a posh boy wannabe Lord with a knack for killing defenceless animals with a shotgun. This gun toting lunatic makes a great first impression, instantly diving in with a cheesy compliment about Paige’s eyes, which she deflects about as well as a blind man playing tennis. I will admit that the two are well matched, but I base this on the hope that they will never breed. 

I don’t dislike the people on this show, I actively despise them. Even then, it dawns on me that these people aren’t worth hating, they’re barely worth the pity. Pity, for their only chance at success is through a reality show that will highlight them as dumb, subhuman fools that are looking to do nothing but pretend to fall in love for the chance to win fifty grand. I’d do worse for less, but the key difference is that nobody sees me as a role model. The danger of any reality television programming, especially Love Island, is that a small majority will watch the programme and end their viewing with “yes, that’s what I want to do.” 

After the first episode, the constant slew of morons drooling over other morons became a little too much. Each pair of characters equally as unlikeable as one another, with the personality traits you’d expect of people that shouldn’t be allowed to experience the outside world. Sianesse and Nas bonded over their love of Disney, and I assume Sophie and Connor bonded over their shared interest in breathing air, eating food and blinking. They bond over the most basic of things, presumably because none of them have anything interesting to say or do. One of the contestants said that her type was “plumbers”, to which I didn’t know if she was joking or not. I hope for the sake of plumbers globally, that she was joking. 

Perhaps my reason for hating the show is the reason I should be loving it. My consistent fear that I would ever have to interact with someone that displays their claim to fame as appearing on Love Island is perhaps the hook needed to become invested in the lives of tanned, expressionless reprobates. Seeing these lobotomised androids mull about a fancy looking villa trying to engage in speech like a live action version of The Sims is quite the sight to behold, but not for the reasons the programme would want you to be invested for.  

A show for the lowest common denominator of idiot. A beauty contest that seemingly has no end, yet no starting point either. You’re just watching people in a house talk to one another. You can do that with your own family and friends, just without the Grecian sculpted six packs and the thick lathers of fake tan. Love Island is proof that Ian Stirling isn’t as funny without a dog puppet sat next to him, his smarmy remarks about as funny as you’d expect from a man that’s only previous achievement to date is Help! My Supply Teacher is Magic. He’s funny if you don’t know what comedy is. If you’ve never experienced even a foundation level of humour, you’ll find Stirling’s tightly scripted “observations” an absolute riot. But to enjoy that you’d have to be on the same mental level as half of the contestants. 

I’m rather impressed at how painful Love Island is as an experience, with possibly the worst part of it being its glossy overtones of how looking good is the only way to get anywhere in the world of television. To give them credit, they’re not entirely wrong. As a television show, it holds no meritable factors aside from being water cooler moment television, the sort of show you can talk about for hours on end without really realising. Gossip sells, just look at the front page of any newspaper, and we as a people are rightly interested in such stories. Having a television show that deals solely in gossip is like turning the spotlight on the darkest recesses of human life. It sells, so it must be good.