“True” Romance | Is Love Island Really That Bad?

So you watch Love Island? Flaming garbage. The complete and utter nonsense that is to blame for the degeneration of society. The cultural choir of “Aw you don’t watch that shite, do you?” sings. The almighty clash between Low-Brow and High-Brow culture thunders when it comes to ITV’s Love Island. Blasting its way into domestic pop culture in 2016, it has now arguably gone A-List, reaching the Hollywood heights of Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham’s Instagram posts.

The show is inarguably lumped in the “trash TV” bin along with other items of flaming garbage such as Big Brother, The X-Factor and Keeping up with the Kardashians. “This is what’s wrong with today’s society,” sings the choir. Sitting in the very broad genre of reality TV, these are among the highest offenders. But reality TV has been around for decades, so why are we still trying to stamp out its existence? As it certainly doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Being so widely watched, Love Island has become the latest in a long line of shows dissected around the office water-cooler. To not watch it, is to be excluded.

Someone who doesn’t watch Love Island

It’s Fake

So why do people hate it so much? Overarchingly, the argument seems to be that the the the whole thing is negated because it’s “fake.” The people are told what’s going to happen, and we can’t learn anything authentic about the nature of sex and relationships because the villa is not real life, but a counterfeit version of it. Curated to harness the seemingly “ideal” conditions in which love may flourish (lots of bikinis, apparently).

But while the constructed nature of a reality show utilises the implementation of very salient tools to consciously affect contestant behaviour, the people reacting to these conditions are not actors. If acting and being “in on it” was what reality TV was based on, as a genre, it would have imploded long ago – exposed as an actual counterfeit. Hoping that an untrained contestant will just do whatever a producer says is an extraordinarily high risk to take in an industry so famously renowned for sticking to well known and financially pathed ways to promise investors big return. Love Island is disregarded as nothing but nonsense and pretense, on the basis of this. So does that mean everything else on TV is “real,” apart from reality television?

First, we’d have to start with the semantics of what constitutes “reality” at all. Which is a philosophical rabbit hole. Actually, it’s not really. It generally boils down to one point: you reading this right now is real. And that’s about it. You telling the story afterwards about reading it – is interpretation. And thus organic “reality” is lost – the present moment. And on and so forth unto we lose all meaning of reality entirely and implode in existential overload.

Remember the Lorraine Kelly debacle? To “get out” of paying taxes, Lorraine Kelly argued that the Lorraine Kelly we saw on television – was not actually Lorraine Kelly. But an edited, cleaner more passive version of Lorraine Kelly. Taken to court, the judge ruled in her favour. Lorraine Kelly was acting out a more palatable version of Lorraine Kelly while on-screen, pretending to like things and not swear to the telly. So the “real” Lorraine Kelly probably went home to give out about whoever Lorraine-Kelly-the-Social-Construct interviewed, and probably swore and farted a bit, presumably.

Love Island | HeadStuff.org
Lorraine Kelly (Not Pictured)

But it begs the question – are we not all Lorraine Kelly, playing versions of ourselves? When we go to work? Interview for a job? Meet your partner’s parents for the first time? So are we still trying to point at these people, shouting “FAKE! FAKE!” when all they are merely doing, is presenting us the “public” versions of themselves?

It seems the younger generation have an affinity for recognising the Shakespearian ideal that life is a stage, and all of us players. And acknowledging the game-playing while we place people on these stages, in whatever situation, makes it a lot more exciting and honest to watch. How do you win? What’s your niche? We’re obsessed with originality and authenticity because nobody seems to have it. We apparently love perfect looking people, yet the likes of Lewis Capaldi rise to fame purely because of how fucking sound they are. Which speaks volumes about where the “moral fabric” of today’s generation lies. There is an antidote. There is always an antidote.

Yes, Maura Higgins (the brassy islander from Longford) is probably different at home. The on-screen Maura’s perceived typicality was mouthy and arguably feminist in terms of body image and sexual agency. But it’s an edited version of Maura. And one that will likely earn her a lot of money, which is true in many careers. But that doesn’t mean she can’t happen to actually meet a person she likes. (In all fairness, it does seems an…unlikely match). But relationships from Love Island, despite popular opinion, have lasted. Even produced children. Most don’t. But most relationships in life don’t last either. It’s only the lucky ones. Which leads us to the beauty of the show’s format.

Meme Culture and Our Digital Selves

The show’s reliance on meme-culture and minute-by-minute social media engagement is paramount. Perhaps what has fans on tenterhooks every second is that the show seems to have completely captured the zeitgeist: the quick turnover rates in dating today. It’s like televised Tinder. Meet a guy? Not into him? Grand. Next.

It’s like business, and is arguably efficient in finding a partner. The show is very rewarding towards this performative “best version self” we have on our Tinder profiles or Instagram feeds. Translating to the real-time TV screen – the show acts as a celebrity making machine. Producers pluck these already semi-famous Instagram influencers and with the holy hand of the Love Island platform, transform their earnings from thousands to millions.

And the ideal cherry on top to all of this mindless capitalist vapidity – is real romance. Couples who win are couples who pass the authenticity tests and trials put on them by producers. In this originality obsessed generation, who is the realest? Love is the base human need. To see someone fall in love, we are vicariously living our own dreams. Many have slighted those who watch it inferring low intelligence, but no support has been found to support this. Indeed the academic research surrounding it increases.

Psychological and Relational

It’s really not very often the public are given access to scenes of intimate conversations between real-life men where pretty much all they talk about – are their feelings. These guys talk about their feelings every five minutes. It’s brilliant.

Love Island | HeadStuff.org
The Gang Gets To The Bottom Of The Feelings Situation

“So…have you opened up to any other girls in here?” Distracting-Eyebrows says to Self-Involved-But-Nice. Self-Involved-But-Nice says yeah he has, he really likes Doe-Eyes. Unfortunately Doe-Eyes gets voted off but not before Self-Involved-But-Nice drapes her in a skill-fully weaved red flag where he essentially told her to not talk “to the boys” anymore. The nation was up in arms. Controlling, gaslighting, and general red-flag behaviour have all been called out numerous times on the show.

Famous for Being Famous

The “they don’t do anything” argument is very much in the vein of famous for being famous. But famous for being famous is not a novel phenomenon. When you really categorise these people, they are essentially socialites. Birthed into a reality TV version of themselves starting with Paris Hilton – the reality TV Queen and original millennial socialite. Our contemporary version, now that we no longer have the aristocracy to admire and emulate. Society has always picked people financially above us to idolise over.

The Beale family, who we still fawn over for essentially nothing more than their eccentricities in Grey Gardens. Or Edie Sedgewick for the role she played as Andy Warhol’s muse. But – just that. Being. Not actually doing anything. But we loved her for it. We obsessed over it. We prodded and poked to get all we could from her until she couldn’t take anymore. A lot of affluent and successful people throughout history didn’t “do” anything, and are only referenced in because they had enough money to be relevant. And those that “did” anything intellectual, did so because they could afford to.

Kim Kardashian - HeadStuff.org

The go-to reference for “famous for being famous,” is Kim Kardashian. An old favourite and safe target, utterly indefensible because her fame started with a sex tape. Anything she does after that – a poor attempt at redemption. But Kim capitalised on that infamy and transformed it into actual fame and a billion-dollar matriarchy. Even though the Kardashians come under fire for being “double agents for the patriarchy,” (they kind of are), Kim Kardashian, is simply thriving in a society in which she did not create. Even when she does try and do something altruistic like becoming a lawyer, sneering starts about how this woman – who millions of people have seen suck dick – is getting ideas above her station.

The Kardashians, or indeed Love Island, are not the cause of “unrealistic beauty standard,” they are the product of it. They are reacting to and producing the right expectations society implements on them. And we rewarded them. And off they go laughing all the way to the bank.

So as the old adage goes; don’t hate the player, hate the game.

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