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Love Island Week 2: Is Love Island actually getting good?

After a soul-deadening week one, week two is beginning to deliver. Is there hope for Love Island 2019 yet?

This season of Love Island started slow – not just the expected Love Island first week slow, but “I swear to god if I have to watch one more episode of ten dead-eyed people chatting I will actually fly to Mallorca and remove them myself” slow. Finally, though the supposed bombshells seem to have, uh, actually become bombshells. We got an array of delicious twists, from That Text last night to Amy’s out-of-control face to every single thing that Maura did. We also got our first slew of genuinely terrible behaviour: jealous manipulation, girl-on-girl anti-feminism, and accusations of sexual harassment. We can now be cautiously optimistic that the sadists running this Hunger Games-style dating show are actually going to deliver.

 

May-oh dear god no

The Love Island villa is home to a lot of bad things: viewers regularly watch men emotionally manipulate women, lie, cheat, and have dreadful sex on national television. It’s a show built to be grotesque and, frankly, manages to be so with relative ease. So when I say this, I do not say it lightly.... That cheese “toastie” was the worst thing that’s ever happened on this cursed show and we should all be calling Ofcom to have it taken off the air.

If you missed this fine detail from Wednesday night, Tommy Fury, a 20-year-old man who could literally murder you with his thumb, whose shoulders look like watermelons, was tasked with making a starter for his date with newcomer Maura. Announcing to the other boys “I don’t know how to cook” and “my mum cooks everything for me” he decided the best he could do was toast some bread, melt some cheese on it, and cut a heart out of a cheese slice and place it in the middle.

Is that what he did? No.

He took untoasted bread and unmelted cheese and slapped it down on the plate and then inexplicably piled mayo and ketchup in a ring around the edges to serve to an extremely attractive woman whose eyes alone could crush strong men into a tiny pile of dust. I will be thinking about that ring of condiments on my death bed, recoiling at the thought of this poor woman forcing it into her mouth, and having to tell an adult man that it was, in fact, fine, and thanking him for his efforts.

Do Maura

There was a brilliant piece from VICE writer Emma Garland last year titled “In Defence of Megan Barton-Hanson”. The essay detailed how Love Island 2018’s most impressive contestant wasn’t just hot, but a “rare, disorienting kind of hot that interferes with your brain chemistry and temporarily warps your personality.” And that is what Megan did – she made viewers scream at her ability to do literally nothing and yet have every man. 

Maura is not Megan. The 28 –year-old Irish ring girl and Instagrammer cannot simply stand there, look good, and have men fall over themselves. What Maura is is far more devious, far more deliberate, and arguably going to deliver for viewers far more than Megan (god bless her) ever could. Maura is feeding boys in front of the other girls in her first hour, playfully borrowing love rival’s jackets and wearing them as they demand kisses from the boys they’re involved with, and suggestively sucking on ice lollies while locking eyes from across the villa in the cold light of four in the afternoon. And never will a line more iconic be uttered than, an hour into her first night: “Does she turn you on like I do?”

Maura has some questionable behaviour. Trying to plant a kiss on Tommy while he’s repeatedly said no is pretty flagrant sexual harassment. And Tommy’s choice of Molly-Mae instead of Maura in last night’s recoupling is a decisive blow. However, we can already rely on Maura to provide the chaotic evil content we’ve been lacking this season. And if she’s doing this in her first three days in the villa, we can be certain that her actions will become only more unhinged as she gets more comfortable with – and driven even madder by – her warped surroundings.

We need to talk about Sherif

When it was announced on Wednesday that Sherif had left Mallorca, unfounded theories spread over Twitter and the tabloids. Popular explanations for why he had to leave included masturbating in the hot tub, breaking Anton’s wrist over racism and sneaking a phone into the villa.  

Turns out, none of these were true. Insider gossip delivered to the New Statesman got us the early news that Sherif had kicked Molly-Mae in a play fight and the language he used after the kick is what got him booted. In an interview with The Sun on Saturday, Sherif said that after he kicked Molly-Mae in the groin, he said he had “cunt-punted” her and that the and the show's producers had agreed that the use of this “sexist” language meant he should leave the show.

However, Sherif repeatedly suggested that racism had contributed to his departure, saying “I was the only black man in the villa and I was kicked out after ten days. In my opinion, what happened was unconscious racism.”

He also noted in the interview that an unnamed other islander had been using the N-word when singing songs in the villa. “He said it two or three times and he was not pulled aside even though the code forbids racist language. The same rules did not seem to apply to the other contestants.” He also appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show to voice similar concerns over racism on the show, saying that beyond other contestants getting away with equally bad (if not worse) language, black contestants historically get far less airtime than white ones, a consistent complaint from viewers over the last several seasons.

It’s easy to joke about Sherif’s departure, but racism on Love Island appears to be a major problem, and we should be loudly applauding him for having the guts to talk about it while under such extreme public scrutiny.

RIP the female friendship

- Emily Bootle

Never has John Berger’s idea that “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” been more relevant than in the age of Love Island.

It has always been true of the show, which seems to run on some sort of vaporised male gaze. But this week, the women have been antagonised to provoke the sort of jealousy and bitchiness that supposedly creates good TV. They are hyperconscious of themselves and each other and it has thrown into stark light the ways in which women’s relationships can be both remarkably supportive and scarily unkind.

Wednesday night saw the arrival of two new women, Maura and Elma. Feeling threatened by the imminent entrance of the new girls, Molly Mae solemnly testified that she had “never seen a hot girl called Maura and never seen a hot girl called Elma”. Later, Amber derisively declared them “confident shits”.

This week has also seen some representation of the support women provide for each other. When Amy ended up in anxious tears about her own behaviour with partner Curtis, the girls rallied round her on the terrace in a sort of pathetically playground-esque but nonetheless touching display of concern. She was assured she was “overthinking” and brought back to a state of relative calm.

All this and I haven’t even started on The Tale of Molly Mae’s White Leather Jacket Which Is at the Time of Writing Still on Loan to Love Rival and Subject of Aforementioned Cattiness Maura. That particular tale could comprise a whole novel; readers in-the-know might appreciate its significance as a symbol of girl-to-girl camaraderie even among the fierce jealousy. This is also being written in the midst of the Amy v Lucie “girls’ girl” standoff, which has been technically “ended” three different times now but will inevitably rage on until we’re all long in our graves.

In sum: stop making women hate each other when they actually just want to be kind and supportive. Let women look at men for a change.

I've got a twist

Longtime Love Island viewers will be familiar with the rhythm the show normally follows. Couplings on a weekly basis, people being “left vulnerable” and “unsure of their place in the villa” mean that, whenever a recoupling does come around, it’s easy to predict what’s going to happen. Sunday night's episode was no different. The “TEXT!!!” from the producers announcing recoupling didn't say anyone would be dumped, leading seasoned viewers to know that it was likely that at least one new boy would enter to give the remaining girls a chance to crack on with someone new. So when Maura and Anna were immediately sent out on dates, it was a nice, but expected outcome to two girls being left single.

However, what came next was not. Giving the coupled-up islanders a sense of calm and relief at their newfound relationship status is the reward given to Love Island contestants who are able to find a romantic connection in the villa. To give them that fleeting sense of assurance, to only then have it violently ripped away (and to pit the happy islanders against each other) by forcing them to vote each other our was a work of reality television art.

To add to that, this was the first time on Love Island history where a twist of this kind has occurred; showing us that these producers are prepared to go a long way to spice up the show. Is there a chance that this year’s slow start could have merely lulled us into a false sense of security. That the season could, actually be good?

Sarah Manavis is the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer.