Response: Love Island is a lesson in the irresponsible behaviours of reality TV producers

In response to an article recently published by Epigram arguing that Love Island provides an important social critique, an anonymous student asserts that it rather exposes the perilous consequences of reality TV producers.

During the latest season of Love Island, people have questioned whether it’s more than just trash TV, given the valuable conversations it has sparked about unhealthy relationships. As an unfortunately avid viewer I would argue that, if anything, Love Island is worse than trash: it’s a social experiment gone wrong in which emotions are heightened for the purpose of exploitation.

Any viewer of this season will be familiar with the infamous Adam. Is he dangerous? Is he just a typical ‘lad’? As viewers we don’t really have enough data to make a definitive judgment. There is, however, a judgment to be made about the producers for portraying serious psychological distress - particularly that of women - on national TV, nauseatingly intended to illicit emotional reactions to maintain viewing figures.

If anything, Love Island is worse than trash: it’s a social experiment gone wrong

Through watching footage of Adam belittling the feelings of former contestants Kendall and Rosie, I was vicariously reliving old pains, namely the torment of doubting my own sanity and sense of morality. My head was flooded with thoughts: ‘I am crazy, I am too emotional, I am Kendall, I am Rosie’. I did not identify problematic behaviours in a tick-box fashion; I bought the narrative. What viewers might not see is that it is not simply a case of being unable to identify red flags.

Moreover, what has not really been addressed is that nobody seems to have taught Adam that his behaviour is unacceptable, and the Love Island producers do not escape blame for this. While watching him on TV disgusted me, I cannot help but think how it may be unhelpful to just label him and have that be that.

I am talking about the producers doing nothing more than asking Adam to give Rosie a pathetic apology, in which he led with ‘things with me and you probably haven’t worked out for the best’. You think, Adam? I’ll admit I’m making assumptions here, but after a severe lack of empathy displayed when Rosie was in emotional distress, I doubt he spontaneously felt guilty three days later. Not to mention him latching onto the almost-comical defence that he just had to meet a girl like Zara in order to ‘change’.

We all know producers manipulate the progression of reality TV shows, but if they were concerned enough to broadcast Adam’s apology then why did they not manoeuvre a way for him leave the island? Why was the public tweeting about feeling surprisingly sad when he left? Not only was this baffling because, frankly, he is a boring human who makes for boring TV, but it seemed to suggest that his behaviour was bad- but not bad enough to be remembered. Yet has anyone forgotten that Megan had plastic surgery? God forbid.

Through watching footage of Adam belittling the feelings of former contestants, I was vicariously reliving old pains

This reaction to his departure was an implicit acceptance of Adam’s behaviour towards women, not only those he dated but also towards those who challenged his behaviours. When one contestant tried to do just that, he merely brushed it off as something she needed to get off her chest (classic woman behaviour – too many irrational emotions). It seems Love Island not only normalizes unhealthy relationships but also subtly perpetuates misogyny.

Out of an abundance of applicants even their token ‘nice guy,’ Dr Alex, became so taken in by the lad culture of the villa that he referred to putting a girl on the ‘subs bench’ having invited another girl to sleep in his bed. Whilst his behaviour received some criticism, Megan was deemed a slut by the entire nation for rejecting Dean, despite displaying some level of remorse. It seems that while the men are allowed to be human, the women are allowed to be saints and nothing less.

It seems Love Island not only normalizes unhealthy relationships but also subtly perpetuates misogyny

Meanwhile a provocative video of Casa Amor was sent to the girls, with its unwarranted fear-inducing treatment of the nation’s beloved Dani Dyer raking in over 2,500 complaints. Why did they not send an inflammatory video to the boys? Why did the producers not endeavour to make the men feel paranoid or insecure as well?

Some of the contestants have been cooped up in that villa for five weeks now and we have yet to see any of the men be truly vulnerable with their emotions. On the other hand the producers seem to have no problem showing footage for which the women are slandered on Twitter for being ‘an absolute psycho’, ‘crazy’, or ‘a lunatic’. The Love Island producers are doing whatever they can to draw in more viewers and make more money, and the reality that they play with internalized misogyny and emotional distress to do so should not be overlooked.

Featured Image: Twitter / @LoveIsland

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