I have never been that into reality television, but for some reason the summer of 2017 saw me hopelessly devoted to this slightly indie, underground show called Love Island. Over the last two and a half years, it has become part of the nation’s identity, whether we wanted it to be or not – words like ‘graft’, ‘sauce’, ‘mug’ and ‘pie’ have broken free from their confines in the Urban Dictionary and into our main vocabulary (or mine, at least).
But with anything people enjoy, there are always the few who will remind you at every corner that they hate it, as if their life depends on it. And now that ITV’s flagship reality show is on twice a year, those who love to hate it are out in full force not just seasonally, but all year round. “Don’t match with me if you watch Love Island!” say the intellectual boys on dating apps,” If you want to kill brain cells you know what to do” says the #edgy legend and fount of all cultural knowledge Piers Morgan.
“Maybe I should be doing some meditation or mindfulness but let’s be honest, that’s not nearly as fun”
But I’ve got some breaking news for you: hating Love Island doesn’t give you a personality! It also doesn’t make you more intelligent – in fact, some studies suggest otherwise, saying that reality TV actually means you’re more likely to have a higher level of intelligence (Google it, I promise).
I can understand why people with ‘worse problems’ and ‘real concerns’ don’t want to watch a relatively vacuous show filled with contrived storylines and more lip fillers than I’ll ever afford. I would normally expect to turn my nose up at a show full of impossibly attractive people lounging around in the sun while I’m stressed over exams.
Yet, the winter instalment of the reality show has quickly become a welcome break from bleak mornings and relentless assignments. In short: Love Island has become a bit of a comfort blanket for me. No matter how intense or stressful my day has been, I let myself switch off for that hour. Maybe I should be doing some meditation or mindfulness but let’s be honest, that’s not nearly as fun. It’s not just the hour-long episodes, it’s the memes, the discussions with your friends and scrolling through hilarious tweets during ad-breaks. Unfortunately, you don’t really get that with yoga.
Just because I watch Love Island doesn’t mean I am a soulless gossip obsessed with drama and watching people cry. The show can actually be hilarious and emotional aside from the expected entertainment of watching people shamelessly pursuing romance – it’s not all just ‘pulling people for chats’ and grafting. No offence to some of my past flames, but Shaughna saying “I came here for a boyfriend not a son” is probably the most relatable thing I’ve heard in a while. It’s these moments of humanity that really bring the show to life for me; knowing that your dating and friendship experiences aren’t personal blunders but universal truths of sorts, that even seemingly perfectly polished people have to go through as well.
I’m not saying that Love Island is without its flaws. Its blatant lack of body diversity is undoubtedly harmful by feeding beauty standards, what is perceived as manipulative behaviour by islanders can go unpunished and the accompanying internet commentary can be damaging – and even fatal – for the contestants when they come out of the villa. But especially in the last case, it is improving – a series that blew up pretty much overnight is not going to be perfect, but I’d like to think those working on it are striving every day to make it better.
Give Love Island a try, you’ll probably be a convert before you know it.