New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. The Staggers
16 June 2022

You said you’d stop watching Love Island. Now’s the time to stick to your word

Love Island knows to appear more progressive than Big Brother or There’s Something About Miriam – but it’s got the same rotten core.

By Amelia Tait

There is no greater, more frequent lie than a morning mutter of, “I’m never drinking again.” We’ve all said it – head throbbing, mouth carpeted with fuzz, bile stinging the deep, dark chambers of our nostrils – and we’ve all meant it, too. It’s easy to mean it in the morning. But by the time night comes around… well. Obviously we didn’t literally mean it. Obviously we are going to drink again.

This same cycle seems to be playing out with ITV’s Love Island, the reality dating show that has been running for seven years. Last year the media regulator Ofcom received almost 25,000 complaints after a vicious argument on the show; viewers found it alarming and were troubled that producers did not separate the quarrelling contestants. On Twitter, where a single episode of Love Island can generate as many as 320,000 posts, people began to claim that they would never watch the show again. They would – they said – refuse to tune in next year.

And now next year is here, and Love Island’s launch episode peaked at three million viewers, half a million more than 2021’s premiere.

We all do things that we know we shouldn’t – things that would be extremely hard to justify if scrutinised by someone with a gavel and a wig. We eat sausages despite the horrors of factory farming, and buy clothes without checking whether they were made by exploited workers. But if you’re not ready to give up cheap meat and cheaper mini-skirts, then I implore you: give up Love Island. Turn the telly off. 

In recent years we have reassessed the disturbed, twisted nature of early 2000s reality television. Most recently, the journalists Sirin Kale and Pandora Sykes released a hit BBC podcast Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV. But it is wrong to assume that unethical reality TV is a thing of the past. Love Island knows how to appear more progressive than the out-and-out bear-baiting of Big Brother, The X Factor or There’s Something About Miriam, but it’s still got the same rotten core. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

The cast of Love Island are routinely misled by producers (in a separate incident last year, 5,000 people complained to Ofcom after contestants were shown out-of-context pictures of their partners seemingly being unfaithful). People who take part in the show have to quit their jobs for what is thought to be just £250 a week – indeed, some struggle financially after their series ends. On top of this, contestants are exposed to some of the most hate-filled comments on the internet: about their bodies, faces, accents, dreams and desires. Two former contestants and one former host have killed themselves. And yet you continue to watch. 

I myself – in this very publication – have sung the praises of the Love Island in the past. Once upon a time, I considered it a vehicle for mainstream discussion of thorny issues such as masculinity, sexism and consent. That was before anyone died. The mother of Sophie Gradon, a former contestant who killed herself 2018, has called the show “a misuse of the vulnerable”. And yet you continue to watch. 

By tuning in to Love Island you are directly contributing to the exploitation of young people – and for what? The show is dull, with 30-second snippets of drama stuck on the end of stretched-out episodes. There is no possible way Love Island could ever be worth the risk it poses to its contestants’ mental health, but it doesn’t even come close. If twelve months ago you said you would never watch again, then I implore you to stick to your word. 

[See also: Down with body positivity. Why do only men get to be body neutral?]

Content from our partners
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty – with British Gas Energy Trust

Topics in this article : , ,