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New Thinking.

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2 August 2019

What watching Love Island feels like

By Anna Leszkiewicz

August is here. Summer is halfway over. And here I am again, left reflecting on why I spent yet another eight weeks of my summer watching a show I’m not sure I particularly like. The ritual of settling in each weeknight at 9pm is reassuring to me – at least in the abstract. It’s a calming routine in every hour but the hour I spend actually watching the show, which is often either extremely boring or extremely stressful.

Why do I keep coming back? I’m fairly sure no answer can be found in the details of the show itself – the specific plots, games, heartbreaks, betrayals, outfits, and bone structures on display are irrelevant to the show’s cosmic pull. It has simply gained enough mass to have its own gravity. Fortunately, it has a surface of gratifying textures. Here, there is only strict, alien beauty, and the knowledge that it is watched. You could watch it too.

The sounds that define Love Island, for me, are not the sounds of rustling bedsheets or wet kisses. It’s the tapping of acrylic nails on the hard, clear plastic of a monogrammed water bottle; the clack of its straw on the back of white teeth. It’s the heavy staccato of high heels on wooden decking, and the dull non-clink of fake champagne glasses. It’s the sound of a human mouth forming the word hashtag, pronouncing each syllable a little too deliberately. Hash-tag –.

Watching Love Island is like walking into a vast, brightly-lit Sainsbury’s, gazing blankly at the well-stocked baking aisle. There is no ingredient so niche you couldn’t find it here. The limitless recipe possibilities open up before you. You will cook pasta, but maybe also buy a small jar of olive tapenade for £3.

Watching Love Island is like going to a swimming pool in the middle of a city on a hot day. The pool is too crowded, too dirty and too warm to be truly refreshing, but the mere act of having following the recommended instructions for cooling yourself down brings a sense of mild relief. You went to the pool. Tick.

Watching Love Island is like desperately wanting to eat a particularly sweet-smelling bath product. It is named after a crème brûlée, and is the colour and consistency of honey. It looks so much more delicious than it can ever possibly taste. You want to lick it, just to see what it tastes like. But you never find out, because you never do.

Watching Love Island is like going to a beautiful aquarium with a toddler too young to appreciate the beauty of seahorses. Coral pulsates pleasingly. The toddler pokes the tank with a sticky finger, and the seahorses lurch back from the glass.

Watching Love Island is like diving into an hour-long YouTube rabbit hole full of videos called “The Most Satisfying Crunchy Slime ASMR Video EVER”, except every supposedly new video is exactly the same.

Watching Love Island is like taking a long train journey. How will you manage to sit still for three hours? You will the minutes away. Only two hours to go, only 75 minutes to go, only 43 minutes to go. Then suddenly you’re pulling into a station and you find yourself wish the journey was just a little bit longer. You’re not ready to get up.

Watching Love Island is listening to 13 different regional accents wrap themselves around the same flat slang. You hear “It Is What It Is” said with constantly varying emphasis and vowels, and yet somehow it sounds exactly the same every time. You start to believe that there is only one accent, and the accent is “regional”.

Watching Love Island is like getting tipsy off a beer no one has told you is non-alcoholic. And you still get a hangover.

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