The BAFTA award-winning reality TV show ‘Love Island’ is one of the most controversial conversations that has been happening this year so far, and I have been building up to this point to have my input on this topical debate.
A record-breaking 3.4 million viewers watched the first 11 contestants enter the villa on the island in Majorca this year, and I was not one of them.
There are many reasons why I choose not to watch ‘Love Island’, but the top and bottom of it is that it is not promoting the best messages its viewers. Sure the drama must be very entertaining, as it can be seen as a bit of ‘light-hearted telly’ to help us unwind after a busy day (which cannot be argued by the high ratings). However, there are some major statements being made about how we ought to aspire to look, act and behave in order to find love in life.
The show is set up to have 11 Contestants take part in an attempt to find ‘love’ on an island in front of millions of people. They are initially coupled up, meaning there is one person left without a partner. This leaves scope for that person to try and break up a couple to gain a chance of staying on the island and being voted the best couple. To through twist and turns into the mix, couples are split up through a process called ‘re-coupling’, which is implemented by the producing team.
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Psychologist David Wilson, an emeritus professor at Birmingham City University, spoke about the reality TV makers are driven to making shows that ever-increase to the extremes for their audience…
“There has to be drama, controversy, and action to generate an audience. The more tears, humiliation, conflict and embarrassment, the more the public loves it.” (1)
He went on to suggest that contestants of such shows as ‘Love Island’ ought to be given the same ethical guidelines within standard scientific research. For me, this raises the point of what reality tv shows are actually about; public social experimentation. We are watching real people being subjected to isolated conditions, where they are ruled by the instructions, terms, and challenges that come with the staged format of a show. Putting people in these sort of positions is immoral. It is undermining them as individuals, playing on their insecurities and vulnerabilities for others entertainment as the drama unfolds between clashing contestants.
Though contestants are given a contract and description of what they are signing up for, they are not truly made aware or will not have a real idea of the impact that it could have on them when they are actually in the thick of it. Yet producers are aware of this and they continue to recruit willing participants providing them with a chance for fame, and fortune.
As I did research for this particular topic, I was not surprised to discover the lack of psychological support that is being offered to the contestants before, during and after the show. The impact of emotional turmoil and rejection and public exposure can have severe consequences, which unfortunately proved fatal for one former contestant Sophie Grandon.
I just want to express how deeply saddened I was to read of Sophie’s death, even though I knew nothing of her beforehand. The fact that she felt that her life was not worth living is truly heart-breaking, as she deserved to be happy, loved and accepted for who she was. This is the most extreme example of how damaging reality shows can be.
Another important point to be raised is over the lack of diversity among contestants. Whether it is race, religion, sexuality, age or appearance, Love Island appears to be lacking in having a diverse range of contestants, which has caused a vast amount of criticism against this type of show for promotion a ‘social ideal’ for attractiveness.
Liam Preston, head of the Be Real campaign said that:
“Love Island continues to glorify the male and female body in a way which only promotes one stereotypical look,” (..)
Just by taking a look at the line up of this year’s contestants there are notable similarities amongst them based on their aesthetical appearances. For as beautiful and handsome as each one of them is, they all fit in with social stereotypes of what is deemed to be attractive.
In the 21st century, it is surprising to see that this sort of message is still being so widely accepted in the media when there is a rise in mental health cases, in particular, that relating to self-esteem and body confidence. Placing further emphasis on the already enforced stereotype of how men and women ought to look like in order to be seen as sexually attractive, is not going to be helpful to the young audience that is captivated by the unfolding drama. These people are at a very impressionable stage in their lives, as they are beginning to learn more about themselves, their developing bodies and the world around them.
Also, there is a misrepresentation of ethnic groups which is not helping to create a society that sees everyone as equals without judgment. Beauty comes in many different forms, and all of which should be celebrated. No matter what skin colour, shape or size we all deserve to be loved and respected by others.
Reality shows like Love Island have the platform to make a huge difference in the way we all view and behave with one another. I do strongly believe that there is a need for change for how reality tv is produced so it can start to send a positive message out there, to help combat the problems that we are facing in society as a whole.
These are my own personal views and thoughts and do not want to suggest that any other opinion on this topic is in the wrong as we are all allowed to have our say. I wanted to share my views because I am so passionate about raising awareness for the wellbeing of others, in particular, that of the younger generations who are growing up into a world flooded with social pressures and ideals. This was not written in an attempt to slate anyone who watches it or takes part in such shows, just that we ought to be aware of the psychological implications it could have.