I hate myself for watching Love Island – but I couldn’t not
I didn’t want to watch Island of love. I really didn’t – and before people crammed into the comments and said, with a predictable sneer, “why did you do it, then?” Nobody was forcing you! – thank you, I know my choices well. I could have watched sport – indeed the nation seemed divided last night between the holy trinity of Wimbledon, football and ITV2 – high stakes, surprise penalties and dramatic finishes, everything.
But there’s just something going on, isn’t there? I mean Fomo, I mean … playing with social media like it’s a game – and Twitter has to be the best example of a “live scroll”. I wasn’t sure which direction to look first: towards the TV screen or the tweets pouring into my stream – some serious, a lot sarcastic, a few (like Jason okundaye‘s) that left me absolutely screaming. “Sorry, I wouldn’t suck anyone’s earlobes, I’ll be going home the first night, it’s okay, I had a great time,” he said, with a perfectly comical (and disgusted) wit, afterward. a segment in which “Sharon” had to suck “Hugo’s lobe for a full 30 seconds. Never has something that lasts less than a minute been so long.”
Why didn’t I want to watch Island of love in the first place ? Well, like I wrote yesterday, I feel like it’s not quite healthy for all of us. It sounds like voyeurism in its most obvious and unbridled form; a way for us to passively “hate” another; laughing and making fun of those we think are more cheeky and cheekier and – sometimes – dumber than we think. I can’t help but fear that he taps into the lower parts of human nature that revel in schadenfreude and public humiliation.
Just look at the video extract that was shared (by the official Island of love Twitter account, nonetheless) in 2020, showing a heated discussion of how much contestant Jess Gale loved number 11. “It’s the freshest number… like, you know, when a number is so pure,” a- she declared. Responses ranged from affectionate teasing to utter mockery.
Island of love makes me uncomfortable because it seems to provide an excuse for us to be collectively snobbish, to point fingers at people’s flaws – not too different from how the nation laughed at Jade Goody, when she debuted in the Big Brother House in 2002, and found herself openly lambasted on the front pages of the tabloids for public mishaps such as admitting that she thought the city of Cambridge was in London; and for saying: “Rio de Janeiro, isn’t that a person?”. She has even been described as “dirty” by some media.
It also gives me deeper concerns, confirmed by the uncomfortable reality that Kaz Kamwi – currently the only black woman this year. Island of love line-up – was chosen last by the male competitors. Like Okundaye said: “4th year in a row, the black girl is chosen last. But BLM, right? “
If there is any motivation to watch programs like Island of love, so maybe it’s the foam of it – the escape brought on by seeing a group of beautiful young bodies frolicking shamelessly around each other; each claiming to have an ambitious and relevant reason for being there: to find love. Perhaps Island of love is the equivalent of a Disney romance these days.
We are also – thanks to Covid – all moored on this small island, unable to travel freely. So, watching a group of gorgeous young people in their twenties in bikinis in a tropical paradise can give us a moment of respite from the pessimism; help us imagine that we too could be young and sexy and stand on the precipice for the rest of our lives; rather than sitting on the couch eating leftover Friday night takeaways because we’re too tired to cook. Just me?
I don’t know if I’ll skip the first episode – that sounds like the funniest part, anyway; as we see who is coming (and making waves) in the Island of love Villa. But if everything else seems depressing – amid speculation about another winter lockdown, uncertainty over the July 19 reopening, and with the travel industry still stubbornly stifled – I could go on. And even if I don’t, I don’t think I could resist looking at Twitter to see who “wins” and who plays the game.