L'Oréal Blackett's "invested" in ITV's trash tele gold
My favourite Love Island scene so far?
It went a bit like this:
“So what do you think about Brexit?”
“What’s tha’ mean?” says 21-year-old Liverpudlian, Hayley Hughes.
“UK leaving the European Union.”
“Does tha’ mean we won’t have any trees?”
It was precisely at this beautifully unscripted moment I was suckered in to six more weeks of Love Island.
I see you over there, judging me...
I bet you watch highbrow programming like Swedish crime dramas and antique roadshows. You’re well into Wimbledon.
So Love Island isn’t your average Channel 4 exposé. Understood. But I am joined by 3.4 million others gripped by what is by all accounts trashy television - trashy television with a BAFTA award. In truth, I’ve not been so entertained by people doing nothing in a house since Big Brother’s Nikki Graham screamed “WHO IS SHE?!” like a teeny-tiny banshee woman.
When I think of Love Island I think of Nandos, Fiat 500s, a pompadour hair cut and get a whiff of Paco Rabanne
This is my first summer stint watching Love Island and I’ve taken an 'anthropological' approach to viewing (makes it sound less like time-wasting). After all, inside the Spanish villa is a microcosm of modern dating life as an attractive twenty-something – something I’ve never entirely understood (late-bloomer).
You have your big predatory males such as Adam Collard, underdogs such as gentile Dr Alex George, doe-eyed romantics Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham, and Megan Barton Hanson - with her pouty lips and big, beautiful evil teeth - is a man-eating Widow spider. In a world where everyone is attractive the most favoured contestants seem to be the most cunning. If you watch the show, you get the picture.
Essentially, it is young, attractive people doing young attractive people things like ‘cracking on’ and ‘getting mugged off’. Love Island is televised club ‘18-30’ and above all, a game; the Machiavellian ITV producers have ultimate control of the chess pieces before someone makes checkmate and £50,000. No relationship in this house is really real – even if the contestants believe it themselves. Except the sex, they really do have sex in there.
But there are glimmers of gritty ‘real life’ stuff in Love Island too.
When newly deemed ‘Muggy Megan' was called a “slag!” for enticing Wes Nelson from his happy-ish coupling with Laura, Twitter bemoaned of classic gender double standards. Then there was Adam’s manipulative handling of Rosie which was called emotional abuse and some viewers officially complained.
Many were troubled when Samira Mighty – an insanely beautiful West End performer –became an uncomfortable subject of race and relationships after she was continually left on the shelf. It’s been the subject of countless think pieces.
So Love Island has its obvious issues. Its casting is as diverse as a multi-pack of Walkers ready salted - you know exactly what you're going to get. The show is very straight, cis-gendered and the ultimate Pretty Little Thing advert. When I think of Love Island I think of Nandos, Fiat 500s, a pompadour hair cut and get a strong whiff of Paco Rabanne. Granted, it is easy to join the likes of Piers Morgan who called the Love Island contestants "thick" (there’s an actual doctor in there, guys) but that would make us as pompous, elitist and patronising as he is.
Sure, it’s loud, it’s vapid and a little lewd but Love Island knows exactly what it is: trash TV executed brilliantly.
Everyone from Caitlin Moran to Liam Gallagher have been known to watch this show, proving the joys of reality TV voyeurism is universally shared.
Gallagher puts it perfectly: "I’m just into the fact that it’s shit, you know what I mean? It’s just stupid. I’m not getting anything out of it. I’m not learning anything out of it, it’s just on."
On a deeply human level, people just want to watch young romances blossom even if contrived. While not all love stories feature perfect bodies or hilarious narration by Iain Stirling, the intensity of the new relationships on the show is entirely relatable, as is the heartbreak and drunken snogs by the pool. So no different from your average Mills and Boon, then.
And yes, it's escapism. Life offers us very few moments to switch off our brains (and high-functioning anxiety). While your documentaries may provide you with nutritional value, Love Island is a junk food; not good for you in the long run but wholly satisfying once in a while.
And I’m still watching. As are a lot of people. The constant cliff-hangers, presenter Caroline Flack's strut before a plot-twist and the promise of a happy ending with Dani Dyer and Jack keep us tuned in (as does the fear of dad Dyer whipping up a shit-storm if the two actually "do bits" on national television).
Overall, it is a thriving time for terrestrial TV – I haven’t binged Netflix in weeks. With the World Cup and Love Island competing for prime time slots, we’ve been gathering around the telly-box like the old days - jabbering, shouting, sharing and swearing. There’s no passive viewing here. We’re all “invested”.