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The problem with Love Island…

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a Love Island fan. Every year I say I won’t watch it and then I get sucked in and end up watching it all the way to the end. Some highlights from this year for me included the amazingness that was Kaz (I want to be her best friend!), Liberty finding self-love and watching Millie and Liam patch things up after the dreaded Casa Amor.

However, there are some glaringly obvious issues with the show. The lack of diversity in terms of race, sexuality and body shape is clear for all to see, with many contestants added as ‘tokens’ to the format – and often being booted from the show early on or not progressing to the latter stages.

There of course have been some exceptions – but isn’t it time we started mixing it up and providing a much ‘realer’ view of what the people in the UK look like and making it clear that it’s more than okay to not fit the old ‘Love Island ideal?”

83 per cent of people agree that Love Island doesn’t show enough body diversity

The Tab

Plus Size / Body Positivity

The shows producers have been pushed for comment on this in the past. Recently they said in the press that;

“The only stipulation to applicants is they must be over 18, single and looking for love. This year’s Love Islanders come from a diverse range of backgrounds with a mix of personalities and have a healthy BMI.”

Digital Spy

However, have we not already broken down why BMI shouldn’t be used as a way to determine wether someone is healthy? That it’s outdated and perhaps discriminatory?

Love Island receives over 100,000 applications for each series and yet they can’t seem to cast a diverse set of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexuality or body type? It’s easy to forget – when watching the show – that the average body size in the UK is a size 16… and yet every single contestant on the show is at least four or five dress sizes smaller than this.

And more than that, they should take into account the impressionable young people who will be tuning in day in, day out, for the next two months. The millions of us who will be bombarded with impossibly beautiful, toned, tanned, slim, gorgeous people every night, who don’t look like the vast majority.

Cosmo

It would be easy to think when watching Love Island that your body type is not accepted by society and doesn’t fit with the ‘ideals.’ In fact, many women have reported that watching Love Island makes them feel inherently badly about themselves.

Those of us who get chub rub, and wobble, and have hip dips and tummy rolls and don’t look anything like the ladies of Love Island when we’re in a bikini, who will be constantly faced with the ‘ideal’ of what we should be. Where are the back rolls? The thick thighs? The figure that doesn’t look completely impossible to attain?

Cosmo

When asked why there isn’t better representation in the villa in the form of plus size men and women, ITV bosses said: “We want contestants to be attracted to one another.” (The Independent.)

Need we say more?

Sexuality

ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri said in an interview with Radio Times earlier this year that ‘bringing in contestants of different sexualities presented a “logistical difficulty” as they need to have an equal choice when coupling up.’ Some of the LGBTQI+ community embraced this description – finding it amusing, however others felt angry and excluded. We often see hetero contestants couple up in ‘friendship’ couples so would that not solve the imbalance? We feel as though the excuses from the producers simply do not stand up to critique.

Some feel as though the format needs freshening up, including ex contestant Megan Barton Hanson who talked about her bisexuality when she came out of the villa. She said that the show had become predictable and a way of changing this would be to include other sexualities and allow them to ‘couple up.’

However, others have expressed reasons why the UK isn’t ready for something so ‘progressive.’

It’s no wonder we still live in a country that supports same-sex rights on paper, that’s hooked on Drag Race and cherishes its LGBTQ+ pop stars but which is still prickly when it comes to seeing actual LGBTQ+ romance or affection. We know this because people complained about CBBC depicting a same-sex kiss, despite the channel airing many straight ones. We know this because two thirds of British LGBTQ+ people say they don’t feel safe holding hands with a same-sex partner while walking down the street. We know this because, anecdotally, so many LGBTQ+ people – including myself – have been heckled or attacked specifically for kissing the person they love in public.

Refinery 29

Isn’t this a reason why minority groups should be given a platform on the show though? Should we not get used to seeing diversity – in all it’s glory – on our screens and isn’t it time to normalise it? We think so.

ITV boss, Kevin Lygo, has recently said including queer people in Love Island “wouldn’t be suitable for the show.” His statement came only three months after Love Island producers said including queer contestants presents a “logistical identity”.

The Tab

Race

Whilst not all contestants are caucasian, Love Island haven’t done enough to reflect the diversity of the UK’s population. And we for one feel as though the young women and men that make up the bulk of the viewing numbers should be watching people that look like them, that represent them and that make them feel seen.

Sharon Gaffka, a mixed-race contestant from this season, told Insider earlier this year that she struggled during her time at the villa due to lack of diversity, which caused her to ask: “Whose type was I?”

Insider

Whilst other shows have been much better at representing a range of skin colours, ethnicities and backgrounds, (Too Hot to Handle / Love is Blind etc etc) Love Island has failed time and time again at providing real diversity and inclusion.

When the producers have selected women with dark skin it has often been in the form of a ‘token’ black/dark skinned woman, except for the first season that had no black contestants at all. In season 2 there was Malin, season 3 Montana, season 4 Samira, season 5 Yewande and season 6 Leanne in the winter version of the show. This season we had Kaz.

It’s a hard watch seeing Black people in every single ‘coupling’ ceremony over the past six seasons, being picked last. It’s no secret that western society often idolises Eurocentric beauty ideals above all, which serves as a reminder that as the dark skin Black girl, you won’t often be seen as attractive compared to the other gorgeous women on the show.

Glamour

People with disabilities

Whilst Hugo Hammond from this years series is the first contestant with a physical disability, there hasn’t been any representation for the disabled community until this year. And many felt as though his disability (clubfoot that has been operated on throughout his childhood) was swept under the carpet and not provided with the airtime it deserved.

Emily Clarkson said in a recent article:

In order to give it the diversity it so desperately needs, there will first need to be a woman that doesn’t look as good in a bikini as the others, a man who’s balding, someone in a wheelchair, a person with a scar. And who wants to be the first to make that change?

The Sun

But do the disabled community even want to be represented on a show like Love Island? Many feel as though including people with different skin colours, body types, sexualities and disabilities would either see them become the token contestant, with their difference being highlighted rather than accepted as the norm. And whilst the issue of diversity and inclusion doesn’t solely rest on Love Island’s shoulders… there is more work to be done outside of the media and television first.

The discourse around disabilities must change before any real progress can be made. What we need to realise is that people with disabilities are not some sub-category of human beings that we must make an effort not to ignore. They are people who deserve to be praised and criticised just as anyone else.

Shout Out UK

In Summary

The UK’s version of Love Island risks losing its popularity and standing if it isn’t able to adapt. It needs to make a much better and true effort toward diversity and inclusion. Perhaps the producers are too scared to rock the boat and make changes they don’t feel the British public are ready for, but in order for the change to happen at all, someone needs to take the plunge and make that change in the first place.

With the amount of trolling and bullying that contestants are subjected to across social media and the media, the tired format with predictable games and tasks, the manipulative tactics undertaken by the producers to shake things up and to attract viewers… it feels like the perfect time to make a big change or two.

What do you think?

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