Love Island has become the zeitgeist of dating for Millennials and Post-Millennials in Britain. For a few years, I rejected the series; overtly judging my sisters for wasting so much of their week aimlessly watching obscenely buff guys pursue small, toned, big-breasted women who fawn over one guy and then the next. I couldn’t understand the attraction to the series, just like I couldn’t jump onboard the Big-Brother obsession in the early 2000s. Yet this rejection meant I couldn’t join in with social office discussions or spend time bonding with housemates in the evenings. So this year, I decided to watch the odd episode a week; ‘just to see’. And my, how I saw. What started out at light-hearted intrigue became an influx of stunned messages to my sisters about who said what and how they said it. And now, as the 2019 series draws to a close, I realise that by bedtime on Monday, I will have wasted eight hours over the past week watching ten people’s emotional turbulence on the TV.
But has watching Love Island been a complete waste of time?
Initially, I scoffed at the contestants’ remarks of how they’ve been ‘a couple for so long’ by week four and ‘through so much together’. But I remind myself ‘it is what it is’; reflecting a sped up, intensified version of dating whilst also obliterating all the real-life stresses of housework, bills and family gatherings. Much like Big Brother, Love Island is a social experiment, putting real people in unreal situations whilst simultaneously appealing to the masses. And once I shook off my skepticism, I realised we can learn a lot about human relationships from these seemingly-unlikely sources:
- What behaviour does ‘Girl Code’ deem unacceptable?
- Can we find answers to some of the mysteries in the dating world?
- Does everyone have insecurities? What happens if we talk about them?
- What value does loyalty have? Are relationships disposable? Could we be bette-off in our romances?
- And although popular opinion would have us believe all men are arseholes, Love Island shows us nice guys still remain.
1 – ‘Girl Code’
According to Urban Dictionary, there are 31 rules to abide by, some of which are explored in episodes of Love Island:
The core group of girls seem loyal to one another (Amber’s friends didn’t pursue Michael). The girls bitch amongst themselves when a girl talks with a boy (who isn’t her partner) alone. When arguments ensue, the girls always stay loyal to the girl’s point of view.
2 – Mysteries in the world of dating
Three people in the villa stuck out like a sore thumb to me. Chris, Ovie and Maura. Why are they single? Chris is a laugh (maybe he’s always ‘friend-zoned’). Ovie is funny and gorgeous (maybe girls take him for a ride because of his professional basketball abilities). And Maura is beautiful, funny and honest. Are some people just unlucky in love?
3 – Human insecurities
Every episode is rife with conversations of worries and concerns. Why did someone say that? What is that person doing talking to them? Why don’t people like me/ us? Will I ever fit in? Why has he chosen her over me? Have I made the right decision being with this person? Although we criticise parts of the show for being staged, some of the emotions shown are very real and it’s hard not to empathise with some of the contenders.
4 – Loyalty, disposability and better-offer-itus
We see loyalty (Tommy and Molly-Mae; Maura for Curtis), disloyalty (Michael to Amber; Curtis for Amy; Jordan to Anna; Anna to Jordan; Anna to Ovie), disposability (recouplings) and better-offer-itus (recouplings and villa cameras). These phenomena arise in all relationships, but not quite as explicitly as in the Love Island villa.
5 – The ratio of fuck-boys to nice guys
Michael and Jordan demonstrate some of the traits of ‘fuck boys’; they seem kind and loyal to their women but then dump them for another girl at the drop of a hat. Tommy (although he seems naive and immature) is considered the most genuine and kind guy in the villa, and Greg, Chris and Ovie all seem like pretty decent blokes too. Fuck-boys are discussed more than nice guys and probably provide higher ratings for ITV2, but there is a greater number of nice guys in the villa than fuck-boys and I hope this reflects the outside world.
But what about..?
As expected, the producers of Love Island have been vilified for the lack of diversity on the show as well as the unrealistic portrayals of body image. And I believe these are truly important criticisms to consider, yet it is the self-fulfilling capacity of this show that worries me. I’m concerned that young people watching this show will learn that loyalty is over-rated and this fine-tuned version of romance is laudable. With two series promised for next year, will Love Island aggravate the already challenging minefield of dating?
All the viewers have their favourites to win, and yet whomever wins and become the next big influencers is not the point.
How will the couples fare when allowed to roam free?
ITV2 have cashed-in on people’s romantic journeys fraught with love, lust, longing and insecurities, and these qualities never get boring. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll be interested to see who’s remained coupled and who opted for a recoupling when the cameras are switched off.
Just as I finished writing this post, I read Lena Dunham’s account of Love Island for any last-minute inspiration. It’s too amusing and insightful to attempt to develop any ideas she had about the show and so I implore you to read it.