The end of exams, glimpses of sunshine and the revival of t-shirts and shorts can only mean one thing. While many of you may confidently jump to the logical conclusion of ‘summer’, you would be wrong. I am, of course, talking about the return of Love Island to my television screen. Although frequently shunned for it, I have no shame in admitting I am a reality TV show addict. TOWIE, Geordie Shore, Jersey Shore, Big Brother, the Real Housewives – you name it, I’ve watched it. However, while many of you, whether you watch the show or not, may have written off Love Island as entertaining but fundamentally trash, the show has more importance than it appears.
While many reality TV shows are scripted or influenced, they fall under the bracket of real life and as such their audience is lead to believe that what they see is not just possible, but also part of life. The depiction of toxic relationships, borderline abusive behaviour and outright misogyny found ubiquitously in many reality TV shows is astounding. While I believe that there is value in exposing the harsh truths of society, normalising them by failing to properly criticise and condemn them is likely to perpetuate their growing presence and acceptance. Love Island, however, has the potential to change this. With the aim of the show being to match up couples, romance is at its core. As such, the show has the potential to explore good, healthy relationships. For example, the sensitivity and emotional vulnerability of 2017’s Marcel – yes, a man – is what caused the audience to support him.
Of course, as with any successful reality TV show, Love Island is not without conflict. Just like in real life, but more so in this intense environment, couples, ex’s and friends argue. However, this may be even more significant than when couples are getting on. During times of conflict, as viewers we are exposed to honest and real reactions, emotions and often pain and as such we can learn about other people and also ourselves. It cannot be understated how important it is to witness other people in certain situations so that we can recognise our own faults and learn from them. While their behaviour could range between exemplary and deplorable, actively watching either end of the spectrum from an outside perspective could greatly alter the behaviour of its audience in the future.
Further to this, as a woman and a feminist the show has earned my praise. The structure of the show is underpinned by equality between the men and women. The two alternate between being in charge, with men picking their partners one week and women the next. This is important as it eliminates the hyper-masculine and sexist tones which define so many reality TV shows. Further to this, open discussions have occurred in previous seasons during which sexist behaviour has been slated and the concept of feminism discussed. While I condemn several aspects of the show, including the lack of diversity in the contestants, I feel the show overall has much to offer. It may look from the surface like yet another trashy reality TV show, but Love Island has the potential to open the door to new conversations and teach us about society’s, and our own, behaviour.