Before yesterday evening, I had never watched “Love Island” before. In fact, the only reason I really knew of its existence was through articles like “Why is Love Island so Tory?” in the New Statesman. But my wife’s younger sister is in town, and she wanted to watch it last night, so there we all found ourselves, in front of ITV at nine PM.
I haven’t watched reality TV in some time – as a result, “Love Island” came as a bit of a shock to me. A few years back, reality TV was all about people essentially using each other over the course of several weeks in order to become the winner. As a sidebar to this, it also offered entry into Z-list celebrity for those who could stick around on the show long enough to become semi-famous. That was pretty much it. “Love Island”, however, demonstrates a sad progression for the genre. It seems like the contestants on the show actually want to fall in love for real – in other words, their primary motivation seems to be to find a life partner of a calibre in terms of looks (this seems to be the only main variable that concerns them) that they would struggle to meet outside the confines of reality television.
I suppose the reason I find this sad is for the same reason that I find the girl next door softcore pornographic style depressing: what was once considered completely commonplace has become so out of reach, it is now fetishised. Are people finding it so hard to simply meet sexual partners they find compelling that they need to go on a reality TV show to have any chance of it? Even if the contestants are faking it at the behest of the producers, or at least loving it up a bit more than they really feel, this still says something about society and its inherent loneliness. At the start of this century, everyone was so comfortable with the way the world worked that they wanted conflict and strife out of their reality TV. Now, they want everyone to fall in love, seemingly because love in the real world doesn’t seem plentiful enough.
All of the “Love Island” contestants seem to be vocationally confused. “Something with hair” was what one of the blokes on the programme said when asked by the prospective love of his life what he wanted to do with his life. The scenes on the beach with lobster in front of them while string quartets play in the background seem to be little more than the precursor to a life of hard struggle. “How do you fall in love in only a couple of weeks?” one of the girls very sensibly asks another. One woman tells her love interest that she wants to spend her life working in refugee camps – he retorts that he wants to party in Ibiza nightclubs. Yet they don’t seem to work out that these two life plans might not be compatible with each other, even for a moment. The string quartet plays a version of Toto’s “Africa” as the backdrop to their obliviousness.
On that note, what certainly hasn’t changed in the reality TV genre is the love of trashiness and the need to exploit the contestants’ bad taste in, well, everything. They were asked near the close of the episode to contribute to a sort of talent show, and it was as hideous as you can possibly imagine; the whole thing meant to remind us, cruelly, of the utter lack of talent they all seem to have. The low point was a speech about saving the world given by the refugee-focused lady, a shudder inducing display that would have seemed cheesy coming from the mouth of beauty pageant contestant.
I suppose I have to give “Love Island” a thumbs up, as far as reality TV goes. While I didn’t really care about any of the “characters”, I did find all of the above to say about it. And I might even watch it again sometime. Maybe.